Clergy Condemn Cannabis Criminalization


Somehow I missed this last week [and also missed Brian Doherty's post about it on Friday], but the Drug War Chronicle notes that the campaign for Question 7, Nevada's marijuana legalization initiative, has managed to enlist the public support of 33 local religious leaders. A press conference featuring several of them attracted substantial news media attention. In addition to the predictable (Unitarian Universalist ministers, Reform rabbis), the list includes several harder targets (such as Methodists, Lutherans, and a Southern Baptist) who were initially skeptical but ultimately persuaded that if people are going to smoke pot, it's better that they buy it in a legal market.

"Make no mistake," said the Rev. William C. Webb, senior pastor of Reno's Second Baptist Church. "I don't think using marijuana is a wise choice for anyone. Drugs ruin enough lives. But we don't need our laws ruining more lives. If there has to be a market in marijuana, I'd rather it be regulated with sensible safeguards than run by violent gangs and dangerous drug dealers."

Troy Dayton of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, who was largely responsible for bringing Webb and the other religious leaders on board, explains the political significance of their support:

This became a big story because most people think that the religious community is the last place on earth to find support for ending marijuana prohibition. It is making such a difference because by its very nature it reframes the debate. This marijuana issue is up against a lot of cultural baggage, decades of a government misinformation campaign, and a strong puritan ethic which embraces a spirit of punishment. In addition, many voters think they are voting on whether or not they think marijuana is good or not; not what the best policy regarding marijuana best serves the community.