Religious Groups Call Drug War Immoral

For Jennifer Wallace, the revelation came four years ago, after she found out that a friend of hers who she knew came from a devout Christian family smoked marijuana, and she became worried about the young woman.

Wallace, a devout Christian herself, started looking into the research on marijuana and what she found surprised her.

She said she found no evidence to back up the horrible things she had heard about the drug, and when she searched the Bible for any reference to it she found nothing at all. So she began to wonder why some religious leaders seemed to favor stiff penalties for marijuana users.

She even decided to try smoking it, though she had always been afraid before.

"I was very surprised that I wasn't very different than I was before," she said of the experience. "I believe it made me think more, and thinking more is always good."

Those experiences led the 35-year-old mother of five to start the Christians for Cannabis Web site, and to begin a campaign of letter-writing to legislators, religious leaders and newspapers, urging an end to the marijuana prohibition and more research into potential uses of the drug, she said.

Christians for Cannabis, which describes part of its mission as "to provide encouragement, support and prayer for the [Christian cannabis user] subculture as a whole and those that work on its behalf," may be the extreme, but it is not the only religious group advocating an end to the war on drugs.

The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and the Progressive Jewish Alliance are among the groups that have lent their support to a call by the National Coalition for Effective Drug Policies to redirect efforts to curtail drug use.

These organizations all make clear that their opposition to current drug policy is based not on support for drug use, but out of a belief that the war on drugs has done more harm than good and that it is essentially immoral.

"The war on drugs has been an abysmal failure in any practical sense, and the number of people who are being victimized by the war is fairly awful," said Thomas Jeavons, the general secretary of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, a group of Quakers.

"The war on drugs affects our society in so many negative ways," Universal Unitarians for Drug Policy Reform executive director Charles Thomas said. "We believe underlying it all is an immoral approach to dealing with a health problem."

An Evolving Process

The thrust of the NCEDP's statement, "Eight Steps to Effectively Controlling Drug Abuse and the Drug Market," is that criminalizing drug use has failed to curtail drug use, and that society would be better served by a "shift to treating drug abuse as a health problem with social and economic implications."

"It's an evolving process — reform," NCEDP president Kevin Zeese said. "We've seen over the last five or six years more denominations realize that the drug war is hurting their denominations and does more harm than good. They're seeing in their own experience that their people are hurting from the drug war."

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