As cannabis legalization gains more and more support across the United States, it is becoming more clear which demographics and which regions are still our “swing vote”. The Southern United States, which include many faith based or Christian groups, may certainly be that. During my career in cannabis, I have met many people from Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and even Tennessee and Kentucky who are working hard to pioneer cannabis law reform in their states. In fact, a few years ago we found that over half of younger Christians back legalizing marijuana. And, with the recent big wins in Florida and Arkansas this past election cycle, perhaps we are on our way to changing the paradigm of thought.
Most recently, Buzzfeed addressed this exact topic….
The South is the last frontier for cannabis law reform. And it is no coincidence that it is also the most religious region in the country, according to Pew Research. It’s a place where interpretations of God’s word can be as powerful as law, and where preachers have long proclaimed the evils of marijuana. So as pot takes hold for medical use in more than half the country, and for recreational use in eight states and Washington, DC, both are nonstarters in much of the South. Only Arkansas, Florida, and West Virginia have full medical marijuana programs, and recreational use is not even on the horizon.
The president of the organization that represents the largest evangelical group in the US won’t budge on this, calling marijuana a sin.
“The scripture speaks against drunkenness, and marijuana is a mind-altering substance with the purpose of achieving, essentially, what the Bible would describe as drunkenness,” said Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
To get the votes they need, pro-legalization groups can’t just preach to nonbelievers; they also need to court people of faith, says Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, a lobbying group that is behind most of the cannabis laws in the country. Support from religious groups has become as key as support from law enforcement groups, addiction specialists, and parent groups. “I know that most of the major policy reform organizations are working on that right now — trying to build coalitions with faith-based groups,” Fox said.
There ARE groups who are working towards cannabis law reform in the Christian sector. One group, mentioned in the article above, is call Genesis 1:29. Another organization that I am familiar with is called Clergy for a New Drug Policy. I would encourage anyone who is Christian and supports cannabis law reform and medical marijuana to get involved with either (or both!) of these!