Bama Baptists will battle lifting ban

Whether you still smoke it, used to smoke it or never tired it, most Americans are now in favor of marijuana legalization according to an article on Al.com, link here. The article said a Pew research poll showed the majority of Americans now support legalization. All, it seems but the Southern Baptists who have vowed they will fight it; and not just legalization for recreational use but ALL marijuana, including medicinal. In the article, the church offered no reasons for their opposition, only that the church was opposed to any such measures so I decided to do a little research to see if I could find out why.

This led me to an article available on the Baptist Press website (bpnews.net) which listed all of the states in which legalization measures were on the 11/8/16 ballot and reiterated the Baptist position of opposition to those measures. The church’s Russell Moore built quite the straw-man, calling legalization efforts an attempt at the “trafficking of addictive, mind-altering drugs”.

“Every state should seek to protect its people from the trafficking of addictive, mind-altering drugs,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Legalizing drugs leaves neighborhoods and schools vulnerable for exploitation.

“My hope is that these states vote down marijuana legalization and continue to put legal barriers between addiction and the communities it devastates,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments.

Where are these devastated communities? Where are all these addicted potheads? Colorado reports that total revenue to the state from marijuana sales fiscal year to date is $72,810,911. According to an article in the Denver Lost that revenue goes to repair roads fund education and pay for police and other services. Aurora, Colorado even set aside funds from marijuana sales to help the homeless. It doesn’t sound like weed is devastating Colorado.

But the Baptist Press isn’t going to let the facts stand in the way when there are plenty of anti drug spokesmen such as Tommy Green ready issue statements on the church’s behalf.

Tommy Green, executive director of the Florida Baptist Convention, called for pastors to encourage church members to vote against the state’s medical marijuana initiative.

Writing on behalf of the convention’s State Board of Missions in late September, Green said the board empathizes with those suffering from debilitating diseases but does not “believe legalizing an addictive drug without strong regulatory oversight is an appropriate solution.”

“[T]he effort to legalize marijuana is contrary to the interests of the public health, safety and welfare, and will adversely affect the rights of citizens to live and work in a community where drug abuse is not accepted and citizens are not subjected to the adverse effects of the drug abuse,” Green wrote in a column published in the Florida Baptist Witness, the convention’s newsjournal.

Adversely affected by the adverse affects? Did I read that right?

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But just how addictive is marijuana? The  National Institute on Drug Abuse advises that the numbers are highly controversial, but does say that only about 9 percent of those who use marijuana become addicted and that number may reach 17 percent for those who started use in their teens. By contrast, the same site reports 2.1 million people in the United States (or just under 1% of the total US population) are addicted to some form of opioid, many of which are legal prescription drugs. This church organization is fighting the legalization of a natural alternative to more dangerous and more addictive drugs and labeling those who would seek to use it as drug abusers. To push an agenda by comparing severely ill patients to drug seeking junkies is simply reprehensible.

In my research to discover their reason for their repulsion, I read article after article and blog after blog in which the church simply said “weed is bad because weed is bad”. Since the Southern Baptists seem to offer no real reason for their dislike of cannabis,  I must assume it is for reasons similar to their moratorium on alcohol and dancing, in other words, it is bad simply because the church says it is bad.

There are many Americans who, like me, do not use marijuana but still wish to see it legalized. When something becomes illegal, it does not simply vanish, instead it moves from the mainstream market to the black market. Take for example the US trade embargo against Cuba in 1962 which made Cuban cigars essentially illegal in the US. This removed them from the the store shelf but they were still available out of private humidors and tobacco shop back rooms, albeit at a markup. Another example, and one that resulted in the creation of a massive criminal enterprise, is prohibition. Alcohol production and distribution was taken away from legitimate businesses and taken over by gangsters just like marijuana growing and importation has been taken over by the Mexican drug cartels. None of these measures have caused anything to become unavailable, but they have taken away tax revenue and cost millions of dollars in enforcement.

Another consequence of the ban on weed is the myriad of products attempting to fill the void in the marketplace. These “Legal herbal smokes” are often untested chemistry experiments which have sometimes fatal side effects. This article in the New York Times discusses the problem of K2 use in the Big Apple. K2 is just one form of “synthetic weed” that found prominence in the marketplace, there have been others, dozens, if not hundreds of others released in the last decade alone, each with its own side effects and risks; and each time state legislators have rushed to make new laws to ban and confiscate them. Keeping marijuana illegal leaves this market spot open and continues this dangerous and expensive cycle.

With popular support in favor of legalization, loss of tax revenues, increasing enforcement costs and the ever present threat of new and dangerous alternatives, it seems the simple and logical choice is to legalize marijuana, but the Southern Baptist Church wants to cling to outdated schools of thought and force their beliefs on everyone else.

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