In Saturday’s Washington Post:
Blessing Marijuana for Mercy’s Sake
The United Methodist Church, the Union for Reform Judaism, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ have made statements supporting the controlled use of marijuana for medical reasons.
“According to our tradition, a physician is obligated to heal the sick,” begins a resolution adopted in November by the Union for Reform Judaism. The statement acknowledges the medical use of marijuana as a 5,000-year-old tradition and encourages the federal government to change marijuana’s status from a prohibited substance to a prescription drug.
The denominations have called for a reassessment of penalties for marijuana users trying to increase their appetites during chemotherapy or alleviate chronic pain. “We believe that seriously ill people should not be subject to arrest and imprisonment for using medical marijuana with their doctors’ approval,” asserted a Coalition for Compassionate Access statement endorsed in 2002 by the United Church of Christ.
I understand just how big this is, considering I was raised in the home of a United Methodist minister. My dad’s has always been strongly against any mind-altering substance, including marijuana, alcohol, and other drugs. Not all Methodist ministers have felt as strongly, but that sense has still been a strong part of the church (Historically, the Methodist church was heavily involved with the temperance movement.) Yet, at the same time, my dad and the church have always emphasized compassion, and current drug laws simply do not work with core church values. So it’s perhaps not such a surprise that the United Methodist delegates voted a whopping 877 to 19 in favor of an amendment to drug-use guidelines that supports the drug’s medical use in states that allow it.
Now the churches are doing more than just voting on resolutions within their own confines:
Religious activism on Capitol Hill began heating up in November with the founding of the Silver Spring-based Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, whose purpose is to advocate “more just and compassionate drug policies,” according to executive director Charles Thomas.
This week, the initiative faxed letters to members of the House of Representatives asking support for an appropriations bill amendment coming up for a House vote after the Fourth of July break.
The amendment, introduced by Rep. Maurice D. Hinchey (D-N.Y.) and co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), would prohibit federal funds from being used to arrest and prosecute approved medical marijuana users and caregivers in states that allow such use. A similar amendment introduced last summer was rejected by a vote of 273 to 152.
…Hinchey welcomes the support of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative and the denominations whose leaders have signed a statement endorsing the House amendment — the United Methodist Church, the National Progressive Baptist Convention, the Union of Reform Judaism and the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The statement reads: “Licensed medical doctors should not be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill people, and seriously ill people should not be subject to criminal actions for using marijuana if the patient’s physician has told the patient that such use is likely to be beneficial.”
In its letter-writing campaign, the initiative targeted members of Congress who are members of those and other religious groups that have taken a supportive position on medical marijuana. Letters included a subject line that began with the name of the denomination, as in: “United Methodist Church supports medical marijuana; please vote accordingly.”
General letters were sent to other House members, listing the organizations that support medical marijuana use. “No denominations have opposed medical marijuana,” the letters assert.
I’d like to see our drug czar face the United Methodist Church delegates and proclaim (as he so often has done) that medical marijuana is a fraud that’s only used by groups looking to legalize drugs.
Folks, If you haven’t yet told your Representatives to support the Hinchey amendment, do so now.