Christians, Conservatives and Cannabis
By Angus McBride
Recent polls show that marijuana is increasingly becoming more acceptable among the general population of America. Four states and DC have now legalized recreational marijuana, and the majority of all states now have some form of medical cannabis legislation in place. Legislation is pending in several states to broaden medical marijuana policies as the healing benefits of cannabis become more well-known through the well-oiled social media machine and the main stream media.
This is all happening much to the dismay of many who identify themselves as Christians, or politically as conservatives. While a significant number of Christians and conservatives have changed their positions on medical marijuana and now support it, the majority of these groups appear to remain staunchly opposed to the use of marijuana in any form, even for medical purposes.
This fundamental opposition is deeply ingrained and finds its roots in a lifetime of stigma associated with marijuana, which has been continually reinforced by the federal government’s Schedule 1 classification of marijuana as a dangerous, addictive drug with no proven medical benefits. Additionally, anyone trained in the field of law enforcement is well schooled in the dangers of “the devil’s weed” and conditioned to consider it a societal menace. Whenever the issue of legalizing medical marijuana comes up, the standard response by the chorus of anti-marijuana voices in the law enforcement and government communities is to simply point back to the Schedule 1 classification as proof that marijuana remains dangerous, without offering any scientific evidence to support this claim.
The debate regarding the safety of cannabis as medicine is becoming front-page news across our country. Serious questions are being raised about the claims made by our government for decades:
- Is marijuana actually dangerous?
- If so, is it dangerous enough to warrant the same strict prohibition as LSD, heroin and meth?
- Is it even more dangerous than cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone (all Schedule 2 drugs) as the federal government maintains?
- Is it really a gateway drug that leads people to try more dangerous and highly addictive drugs, as many people believe?
- And finally, does it truly have no proven, accepted medical use?
Apparently a significant percentage of conservative/Christian individuals believe some or all of the above-alleged dangers to be true. In reading various comments on the ongoing public debate over proposed changes in medical marijuana laws one quickly discovers that the fear of marijuana legalization in any form is alive and well today in the minds of many conservatives today. Indeed, fear rules the day on this subject, buttressed by a high degree of trust in the federal government’s assessment on the issue.
This fear plays out often these days in regards to public policy changes. Earlier this year, the Kentucky Southern Baptist Convention took a strong public stand against a medical marijuana bill that would have allowed physicians to prescribe cannabis to treat their patients.
“The very idea of thwarting the authority of the Food and Drug Administration and allowing Kentuckians to smoke marijuana under the guise that it is somehow medically beneficial is absurd,” said Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention.
“Just because other states have taken this step doesn’t mean we should legalize another intoxicant, especially one that has been proven to be the first step toward abusing the hard drugs that are claiming so many lives through overdoses,” Chitwood said.
“…Chitwood had called on lawmakers to reject the proposal, saying Kentucky shouldn’t follow the lead of other states that have legalized marijuana. The KBC, the state’s largest religious organization, has a powerful voice in Kentucky, where 1 million of the state’s 4.4 million residents identify themselves as Southern Baptists. Those demographics filter into the state legislature, where almost half the Senate and a third of the House identify themselves as Baptists.”
– The Independent Online 3/25/15
More recently, the Alabama Senate was poised to pass its first medical marijuana law. The Senate Judiciary Committee gave Sen. Bobby Singleton’s bill a favorable report on a 4-3 vote after little debate.
While this opened the way for the “Medical Marijuana Patient Safe Access Act” to be considered on the Senate floor, it was unceremoniously crushed by Sen. Jabo Waggoner, Rules Committee chairman, stating that Alabama isn’t ready for legislation that would allow patients with some chronic medical issues to purchase medical marijuana. “It is bad legislation,” he said. “We don’t need that in Alabama.”
Waggoner, who has served in the Alabama Legislature for 49 years, says he doesn’t think anything would change his mind on it this year. Another senator, Phil Williams said he has seen too many teen drug addicts to ever support marijuana legislation. He sees marijuana as “a gateway to other drug usage.”
We see this opposition being played out over and over again this year as more people are becoming aware of the medical benefits of marijuana. There is an increased demand across the country that state representatives pass medical marijuana legislation that would allow patients who could benefit from medical cannabis to gain safe and legal access to it within their state. Yet over and over again, we see this needed legislation blocked from making to a full vote by conservative/Christian lawmakers/gatekeepers, mostly Republicans.
Let’s take a moment to dispel some of these fundamental myths about marijuana (or more appropriately, cannabis) before we tackle the philosophical side of the issue.