The conversation around supporters of legalization often focuses on politicians like Bernie Sanders, activists like Steve DeAngelo and celebrities like WIllie Nelson. But a number of churches have also gotten involved in the debate. While the influence of religion in American politics seems to be waning, spirituality still plays an important role in shaping public opinion.
With that in mind, here's a look at some prominent religious groups that are calling on America to reform its flawed cannabis laws.
1. Unitarians Preach Legalization
It's no surprise that one of the most liberal Christian denominations holds a progressive view of cannabis. In 1970, the church's General Assembly adopted a general resolution in favor of legalization: "the present local, state or provincial and federal laws in the United States and Canada regarding the growing, sale, trade, possession and consumption of sativa (marijuana) are based largely on public hysteria and myth, rather than on any established data about the effects on the user," the church declared.
The resolution urged lawmakers to repeal prohibition, regulate cannabis like alcohol and offer amnesty to people who have been convicted of marijuana-related offences.
2. New England Parishes Unite Against Prohibition
On Nov. 20, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for an end to the prohibition on cannabis and other banned substances.
In the declaration, they endorsed, "seeking means other than prohibition to address the problem of substance abuse." They also decried the racial injustices behind the enforcement of America's drug laws: "To people of color, the 'War on Drugs' has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery."
3. Congregations Extolling the Virtues of Medicinal Cannabis
The Episcopal Church, Progressive National Baptist Church and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are three of many denominations that support the use of medicinal cannabis. The Episcopalians led the way in 1982 by calling on Congress to legalize therapeutic uses of cannabis in every state.
In 2004, the Progressive National Baptists declared: "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 sanctions for using marijuana if the patient's physician has told the patient that such use is likely to be beneficial."
Two years later, the Presbyterian General Assembly passed a resolution urging the federal government to produce and distribute medicinal cannabis to doctors, patients and caregivers. They backed up their stance with a pro-legalization reading of the New Testament: "Jesus said, 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink…' When we see the suffering of others, we are called to stand up and take a look."