A recent poll found that the majority of Christians think smoking pot is morally acceptable, and a group of pastors recently had a conference focusing on the decriminalization of drugs.
Not only is marijuana becoming more acceptable legally, it’s becoming more acceptable dogmatically, as well. A recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that only 23% of Christians think that smoking pot is a sin, a dramatic change in thinking from just a few years ago. However, while the majority of Christians think that it is morally acceptable to smoke pot, not everyone is sold on the idea of wholesale legalization. Forty-five percent of Christians support the legalization of marijuana, 49% do not support it, and 7% are indifferent. White, evangelical Protestants comprise the largest religious group to oppose the legalization of marijuana; 60% of them feel that the legal use of the drug is a sign of moral decline in America. In contrast, 49% of mainline Protestants, 40% of Catholics, and 40% of minority Christians support the drug’s legalization. Even among those who oppose the legalization of marijuana, the issue is just not that important. Though opponents feel that the drug is sinful, pot simply takes a back burner to other social and moral issues. Daniel Cox, the PRRI Research Director, said, “Opposition has not been strong to marijuana legalization, and I think it’s particularly not as strong in comparison to views on gay and lesbian issues, where you have a concrete core of religious folks who remain vociferously opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage.”
On the other hand, religious supporters of pot legalization are an outspoken group. In fact, in June 2013, more than two dozen pastors held a conference at the American Baptist College in Nashville, TN. The conference was entitled “View from the Pulpit: Faith Leaders and Drug Decriminalization.” The conference focused on the racial profiling involved on the war on drugs, rather than on the morality of the issue. In a press release, conference leaders stated that African-Americans comprise 13% of the U.S. population, and 13% of drug users in this country. However, they make up 38% of those arrested for drug charges and 59% of those convicted.
At the same time, however, several of the pastors stated their view that if pot is sinful, it is a very minor sin. Revered John Jackson of the Trinity United Church Christ in Gary, Indiana said, “I have had several people share with me privately, ‘Reverend, I smoke weed and I know I shouldn’t.’ I say, ‘Let me stop you right there. I don’t believe the God we serve is that small or petty to be concerned about you smoking weed. I don’t think God cares about that.’ I let them know that our God is too big to be concerned about somebody smoking a joint.”
Another pastor, Reverend Edwin Sanders of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, gave his view that drug users are not sinners but addicts, and, like anyone with a disease, they deserve compassion and treatment.
Of course, for every group of rational, well-spoken advocates, there are always a few odd individuals. Consider THC Ministry, an organized religion that uses cannabis as the center of its religious ceremonies. The movement was started in Hilo, HI by Roger Christie, and has centers in Los Angeles, Bozeman, MT, and Boulder, CO. Reverend James Marks is head of THC Ministry in Boulder and refers to himself as a “canna-theist.” Marks says that he worships Jesus Christ, but that THC Ministry is for everyone of all religions. Hemp is an integral part of the movement and is consumed in religious ceremonies and used for anointing.
THC-ites and other cults aside, it is irrefutable that pot use is becoming more and more widely accepted. As traditionally conservative religious groups become more accepting of the drug, it seems only a matter of time before civic leaders recognize the public’s wish to decriminalize marijuana.
Andrew M. Weisberg, solo practitioner at the Law Offices of Andrew M. Weisberg, is a criminal defense attorney in Chicago. A former Cook County prosecutor, Mr. Weisberg is a member of the Capital Litigation Trial Bar, an elite group of criminal attorneys who are certified by the Illinois Supreme Court to try death penalty cases. He is also a member of the Federal Trial Bar.
Photo credit: Marijuana Ambulance by Hammerin’ Man