God has spoken. Or, at least a lot of his messengers have. And what they have to say is this: decriminalize that weed stuff.
The Clergy for a New Drug Policy, a coalition Christian clergy and rabbis, has united across denominational boundaries to mount an impressively-sized campaign to scale back the war on drugs.
The group was partially responsible for the passing of a bill to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in the Illinois State Senate last week. A big win, though the bill still needs to get past state Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk before we can count that chicken hatched.
The end game of the CNDP is not just to decriminalize marijuana, but to essentially dismantle a justice system they see as a “culture of punishment,” where drug laws are misused or abused to persecute, incarcerate, and institutionalize the poor, disenfranchised, and minority portions of the population.
“My hope is that we do reach a point to say that marijuana is no longer a controlled substance, and understand that, instead of putting people in prison, we need to offer them assistance, counseling drug rehab so they can put their lives back together,” Rev. Tom Capo, pastor of DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Illinois, told the Chicago Tribue. “Putting them in prison does not stop people from using drugs. It just isolates them from the rest of the society.”
The group’s nine commandments (we called it that, not them) for improving our drug laws are holistic, humanitarian, ambitious, and kind of awesome. Their major tenants, according to their website’s “Religious Declaration,” include:
- Diversion programs that swap jail time for treatment and education in drug possession cases.
- Restoring “eligibility for housing, food stamps, education grants, and other supports for those seeking to rebuild their lives after a conviction for low-level drug use.”
- Clemency for those still serving anachronistic sentences that would not be passed under today’s drug laws.
- Establishing medical marijuana programs, decriminalization, and regulation in those states that don’t already have such programs.
What’s interesting, coming from a group of religious leaders, is that these are just about the most reasonable, thoughtful, and good-natured legalization rhetoric we’ve ever heard. It’s not about faith, it’s not about being able to get high more easily. It’s about undoing a mass injustice that’s been ingrained in the system since the war on drugs began decades ago.
“I certainly realize there’s going to be a lot of change in the way we deal with drugs in our society,” said Capo. “For me this is a social justice issue.”