A Surprising Number of Mormons Are Getting High

In the leadup to Utah’s citizens voting on Proposition 2 this fall, which would allow people in the state to legally acquire and use marijuana for medicinal purposes, a guest writer for RNS asks, “How many Mormons use marijuana anyway?”

His answer surprised me. In other words, more Mormons get high than I would’ve guessed. I mean, all the Mormons I’ve known and worked with have been connected to the LDS church’s teaching in robust ways that many of my Christian friends are not to their church’s teachings. And as Benjamin Knoll explains in his guest editorial, “The Church has also recently announced that the use of marijuana recreationally would violate the Word of Wisdom, the Church’s dietary law, and thus disqualify a member from being able to hold a recommend to enter church temples.”

If asked, I would’ve probably guessed that less than 5 percent of Mormons use marijuana. And I would’ve been guessing high (no pun intended). And I would’ve also been wrong.

That announcement combined with the LDS church’s announcement “that it does not formally object to the use of marijuana in select medical cases per se” prompted Knoll’s curiosity about the number of Mormons who use marijuana recreationally. He also wondered, “How might the legalization of medical marijuana affect Mormons’ likelihood to use it?”

Answering his own question, Knoll reports:

The 2016 Next Mormons Survey asked both current and former Mormons whether they had used marijuana sometime in the last six months. (See here for more about the survey’s sample size and methodology.)

At that time, about one in ten (9.5%) self-identified Mormons in the United States said “yes.” Those more likely to have used marijuana included:

  • Younger people (17% of Millennials compared to 7% of GenXers and 4% of the combined Baby Boomer/Silent generation).

  • Men (14% of men compared to 6% of women).

  • Poorer members (12% of those who earn less than $50K/year compared to 8% among those who earn over $100K/year).

  • Those with less formal education (12% of those without a college degree compared to 6% of those who have earned a college degree).

  • Racial minorities (14% of nonwhite Mormons compared to 9% of white Mormons).

  • Those who are less active in the Church. Only about 7% of those who attend church at least once a month said that they had used it in the last six months compared to one in five (20%) of those who attend only sporadically or never.

However, in answer to his second question, Knoll discovered that:

Further analysis shows that the legal status of marijuana in the state where the respondent lived in 2016 made almost no difference. About 11% of those who lived in states where it was either medically or recreationally legal in 2016 said that they had used marijuana recently, compared to 9% in the states where it was illegal, a statistically insignificant difference.

He concludes his article by asserting that no matter what happens with Proposition 2 this fall, neither outcome will affect the use of marijuana by members of the LDS church.

If 10 percent of Mormons are willing to buck their church’s teaching on marijuana use, I’m going to assume that more Mormons drink coffee than I would guess, too.

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