Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain, and medical cannabis will soon become legally available thanks to a statewide ballot measure that was recently passed. And if you're surprised to see the conservative stronghold become the 31st state to legalize medical marijuana, you're not alone. Just a few years ago, this legislative feat seemed highly implausible, according to one of the state’s most vocal and perhaps unlikely cannabis activists: Pastor Danny Daniels, and evangelical Christian minister, who himself does not imbibe cannabis.
“When I first started advocating in 2008, nobody was receptive. Everybody thought it was the silliest thing you’ve ever heard,” Daniels recalled to Civilized. “In the past two years, there’s really been a shift.”
Daniels himself was not always a believer in the healing power of cannabis. “I’m from a conservative place. I’ve gone to church all my life. The D.A.R.E. program taught us it was evil.”
Then Daniels stumbled across the documentary 'Run From The Cure' by Rick Simpson, which outlines the many ways in which cannabis could treat serious diseases like cancer. Daniels, whose family has a history of cancer, soon found himself questioning everything he though he knew about this “evil” plant. The final blow to his anti-cannabis stance came when he found a list of the ways people die every year. “At the very end of it was marijuana. And it said ‘zero.’ I thought, ‘I can’t believe this, but I think it’s true.”
Soon afterward, Daniels discovered that many people in his life — congregants, patients he visits as a hospice chaplain, and even family members were all experiencing astonishing health benefits from cannabis. Having witnessed the plant's potential as medicine, Daniels could not “put the toothpaste back in the tube.”
"If you see somebody suffering, and you have the means to help them, and you don’t, that’s a sin.”
While advocating for legal cannabis may seem counter intuitive for a conservative pastor, it is, in Daniels’ view, actually a Christian's duty to act out of compassion for their fellow man, which includes letting them access medicine that could relieve their pain and discomfort.
“When you start to understand the benefit people get, you realize this can help people," Daniels explained. "If we don’t allow them to have it, we are contributing to their misery…For me, Christianity is all about loving people. If you see somebody suffering, and you have the means to help them, and you don’t, that’s a sin.”
And he isn't alone according to the results of the recent election in Oklahoma. At a time when partisanship is as fervent as ever, both Republicans and Democrats came out to support medical cannabis in higher numbers than either candidate voted for their gubernatorial candidate. Daniels believes these results indicate that cannabis may be an issue where voters on both sides of the aisle can find common ground.
He added that his vocal support of cannabis allowed many of his fellow Christians to be more open about their own views. “A lot of people told me [that his advocacy work] gave them permission as a conservative Christian person to say ‘Yeah.’ Somebody had to be the one to say ‘I’m for this, because it’s helpful. It’s beneficial. We can’t ignore the suffering of humans. Give people who need it a chance.
“In today’s world, cannabis is the elephant in the room. Somebody you know is using it right now. When we realize that, and recognize it, we say, ‘We’ve got to make this legal, because it’s everywhere. And this way it can be regulated.’”
Daniels plans to continue speaking out in favor of compassionate cannabis laws, and will act as an advocate to patients, regardless of their religious affiliation. “To me, cannabis medicine is about helping people, whether they ever believe in God or not. They’ll at least have as a reference point that people did their best to reflect God’s nature when they realize somebody helped them.”