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Jesus Saves

The Fight to Legalize Marijuana Has an Unlikely New Ally: African American Clergy

Jesus Saves

Zorn Taylor

ALICE HUFFMAN The president of the California NAACP says, “I’m out here to change the law.”

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One night last week, at a forum in Columbia City to discuss the war on drugs and its impacts on communities of color, something unprecedented happened—an African American pastor spoke about the perniciousness of prohibition and his support for Initiative 502, which would regulate and tax marijuana in Washington State.

"I'm not promoting marijuana use—no, no," said Pastor Carl Livingston of the Kingdom Christian Center. "Scripture says the body is a temple... but we need to do more to relax the drug laws that get our people caught up in the net." The crowd, almost exclusively African American, applauded enthusiastically.

When it was her turn to speak, Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, praised Pastor Livingston. "Pastors won't speak out!" she said, and recounted the vehement opposition of African American clergy in California when she decided to support Proposition 19, which would have allowed regulation and taxation of marijuana. "I ain't out here saving souls," she said. "I'm out here to change the law. And whenever a law is against the people, we've got to rise up and change it!"

Proposition 19 was defeated by a modest margin—53.5 to 46.5 percent—with help from African American clergy, who vociferously opposed it. Huffman had argued that legalization would help communities of color. The clergy weren't having it, and waged a TV and radio campaign to say so. But the mood at the November 29 forum in Columbia City was markedly different, with Dr. Livingston on the stage and other pastors in the audience—African American community leaders could make or break this initiative.

A few days after the forum, Neill Franklin—a former Baltimore police commander who is now the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)—told me he was pleasantly surprised to hear from Dr. Livingston. "One year ago, ministers were not where they are today on this issue," Franklin says. "Especially not ministers of the black church."

Pastors still hold strong authority in African American communities, Franklin explained, but they've been reluctant to support legalization and regulation, despite ample evidence that drug prohibition laws unfairly target communities of color.

A recent study by the Drug Policy Alliance, for example, compares US government studies that show young blacks consistently use less marijuana than young whites, with California state statistics that show blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at double or, in some counties, quadruple the rate of whites. According to a report by Seattle's Marijuana Policy Review Panel, white people in Seattle in the year 2000 were arrested for marijuana possession at a rate of 4.38 per 10,000. Black people were arrested at a rate of 28.33 per 10,000. (In 2000, black people represented 8.4 percent of Seattle's total population.) Although arrests are down in Seattle these days, the racial disparity of pot arrests remains heavily lopsided against black people.

When Franklin first began traveling and speaking for LEAP in 2008, he says he "noticed there was a void of those who were most adversely affected, which is the black community. I expected to see blacks at the table, but it wasn't so."

So Franklin and LEAP began meeting with pastors, both in groups and individually, to talk about drug prohibition. Some ministers get the message right away, Franklin says, but others remain wary. One pastor told Franklin that he couldn't support legalization because he was already overwhelmed with the challenges of young people coming in and out of prison. "I looked at him and said: 'Pastor, you just made the case!'" Franklin said. "They wouldn't be in prison if it weren't for these policies of prohibition. And we talk about the deaths, the funerals they have in their churches because of the drug trade."

During last year's Proposition 19 campaign, Alice Huffman stirred up a hornet's nest by supporting legalization. African American ministers came out swinging—especially Bishop Ron Allen, who repeatedly went on Fox News to insist that legalization was a highway to hell. "Bishop Allen was so vehement," Franklin says, "he might as well have been calling us devils."

Even though Proposition 19 was narrowly defeated, having the debate was productive—six months ago, Franklin was at a forum about ending prohibition and Bishop Allen was in the room. Franklin looked at him from the stage, reiterating the need for drug-policy reform. To Franklin's surprise, Bishop Allen stood up and nodded in agreement.

Dr. Carl Livingston says he first got involved when local members of the American Civil Liberties Union approached him. "For us, in the African American community, this is life or death," he says. "This is serious. This confines us to a secondary legal status."

Dr. Livingston says he's talking to other pastors about drug prohibition from a scriptural basis, and cites Amos 5:24. "Let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream," he says. "And when you look at the context, you see powerful people using the laws in ways that help powerful people and hurt less-powerful people."

So far, I-502 has gathered 270,000 of the 340,000 signatures it needs by December 30 to qualify for next year's ballot. recommended

 

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1
What I have never understood is why Christian leaders have not embraced legalization of cannabis from the beginning. Not least the passage in Genesis 1:29 "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth..." Now biblical scholars have come to the conclusion that the anointing oils used in biblical times was infused with cannabis. Plants are, if you believe scripture, from god. It's about time that Christian leaders see that this plant is not only an ancient healing herb but that its prohibition is a violation of our very fundamental nature as humans to behold the majesty of Earth.
Posted by amanmusk on December 7, 2011 at 2:05 PM · Report this
2
What I have never understood is why Christian leaders have not embraced legalization of cannabis from the beginning. Not least the passage in Genesis 1:29 "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth..." Now biblical scholars have come to the conclusion that the anointing oils used in biblical times was infused with cannabis. No surprise there. Plants are, if you believe scripture, from god. It's about time that Christian leaders see that this plant is not only an ancient healing herb but that its prohibition is a violation of our very fundamental nature as humans to behold the majesty of Earth.
Posted by amanmusk on December 7, 2011 at 2:10 PM · Report this
3
I'm for legalizing marijuana too, and I'm a Christian. But I have to inwardly facepalm when I read a Christian abuse "the body is a temple" verse, 1 Cor 6:19: "Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?"

The preceding verse makes it clear that the temple argument concerns only one sin — sexual immorality: "Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body." In other words, we are not to become one flesh with anyone but our spouse. And, yes, I am promoting its use when the current drug war on THC is finally over.
Posted by cfrankb on December 7, 2011 at 2:25 PM · Report this
4
I suppose the African American community doesn't need to drive. I hope the good Pastor has read more of the bible then he apprently has of i502.

Regrettably, I-502 contains a law called per se Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis, or per se DUIC, that traps innocent drivers including medical cannabis patients.


Currently, the crime requires the state prove impairment. But under I-502, the crime becomes a blood test. Alcohol is an unusual drug because blood and breath levels correlate with impairment. There is no equivalent test for cannabis. Currently, law enforcement proves impairment by field sobriety testing using the laboratory to support the prosecution. This will change with I-502 when having the wrong THC level becomes the crime.


Posted by ChronicKindness on December 7, 2011 at 3:03 PM · Report this
5
Anyone lobbying to increase the tax on tobacco is labeled 'anti-tobacco'.

Anyone lobbying to tax cannabis is labeled 'pro-cannabis'.

Cognitive dissonance anyone?
Posted by NutmegJunkie on December 7, 2011 at 4:00 PM · Report this
6
cfrankb: "The preceding verse makes it clear that the temple argument concerns only one sin — sexual immorality"

...except that if cannabis use is a sin, it too is one that is committed against one's own body. I'm not religious, but I am given to understand that the bible has almost nothing to say about drug use, and does not mention cannabis at all - thus making it a blank slate for Christians of a more puritanical persuasion to expand the 'body as temple' metaphor into drug use. I'm reminded of Sam Harris' rant about the subject - "When one looks at our drug laws ... the only organ­izing prin­ciple that appears to make sense of them is that any­thing which might rad­ic­ally eclipse prayer or pro­cre­ative sexu­ality as a source of pleasure has been out­lawed." (the passage is online here:http://www.synchronium.net/2009/03/22/sam-harris-religion-drugs/)

What this means is that religious people such as yourself who, rightly in my opinion, prioritise humaneness and justice over forced abstinence from imaginary crimes, need to be speaking up amongst their fellow believers. Luckily, as this article suggests, that is indeed starting to happen.
Posted by David Hart on December 7, 2011 at 4:53 PM · Report this
7
I believe that the state needs 241,000 signatures in order to get the legislature to vote on this initiative.
Posted by Etidorhpa on December 7, 2011 at 6:35 PM · Report this
8
I believe in an evangelical Christian theology, and I happen to enjoy using cannabis. I have a pretty solid belief about it.

I believe that any Christian who feels compelled by Holy Spirit to take up cannabis and eat it, should do so thankfully and joyfully, because the Scriptures confirm that persuasion.

Legally, it seems that any such said Christian should also receive a religious use exemption from the CSA, because the free exercise of our religion is the right of the citizen in this nation.
But even without an exemption and subject to arrest, it is our lawful Christian duty to submit our "temple" to the service of God and joyfully obey him, even in the midst of persecution and death.
In example, If the Lord put it on my heart to take up cannabis and eat it, and the Scriptures confirm it- as crazy as it sounds- What man could convince me to disobey the conviction of God on my conscience?

-Supporting Scriptures-

Acts 11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 11:8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 11:9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’

Romans 14:13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place a stumblingblock before a brother or sister.

Romans 14:22 Do you have faith? Keep it between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not judge himself by what he approves.

Colossians 2:16- Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:1- Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

Titus 1:15- Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Revelation 2:15- But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication

-Supporting Traditions-

-A Martyrs testimony- "For a certain Alcibades, who was one of them, led a very austere life, partaking of nothing whatever but bread and water. When he endeavored to continue this same sort of life in prison, it was revealed to Attalus after his first conflict in the ampitheater that Alcibades was not doing well in refusing the creatures of God and placing a stumblingblock before others. And Alcibades obeyed, and partook of all things without restraint, giving thanks to God. For they were not deprived of the grace of God, but the Holy Ghost was their counselor"
(The Church History of Eusebius, Book V. Chapter III)

"For it is not the eating that makes unclean, but the intention with which a man eats. If then thou dost not set that aright, you have done all to no purpose, and hast made things worse: for thinking a thing unclean is not so bad as tasting it when one thinks it unclean"
(John Chrysostom, Homily 26 on Romans(Rom. XIV. 14)

"The substances are themselves as creatures of God without impurity, and in this their native state are free to the use of all; but the ministries to which in their use they are devoted, makes all the difference... I burn the Arabian product myself, but not with the same ceremony, nor in the same dress, nor with the same pomp, with which it is done to idols."
(Tertullian, The Chaplet, part first, chap.10)

"Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do any thing against the conscience."
Martin Luther, Testimony April, 1521

The ammount of evidences are overwhelming and far too excassive to post here.
More...
Posted by JeffL on December 7, 2011 at 8:55 PM · Report this
9
I believe in an evangelical Christian theology, and I happen to enjoy using cannabis. I have a pretty solid belief about it.

I believe that any Christian who feels compelled by Holy Spirit to take up cannabis and eat it, should do so thankfully and joyfully, because the Scriptures confirm that persuasion.

Legally, it seems that any such said Christian should also receive a religious use exemption from the CSA, because the free exercise of our religion is the right of the citizen in this nation.
But even without an exemption and subject to arrest, it is our lawful Christian duty to submit our "temple" to the service of God and joyfully obey him, even in the midst of persecution and death.
In example, If the Lord put it on my heart to take up cannabis and eat it, and the Scriptures confirm it- as crazy as it sounds- What man could convince me to disobey the conviction of God on my conscience?

-Supporting Scriptures-

Acts 11:7 I also heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter; slaughter and eat!’ 11:8 But I said, ‘Certainly not, Lord, for nothing defiled or ritually unclean has ever entered my mouth!’ 11:9 But the voice replied a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean!’

Romans 14:13 Therefore we must not pass judgment on one another, but rather determine never to place a stumblingblock before a brother or sister.

Romans 14:22 Do you have faith? Keep it between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not judge himself by what he approves.

Colossians 2:16- Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.

1 Timothy 4:1- Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.
If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

Titus 1:15- Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled.

Revelation 2:15- But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication

-Supporting Traditions-

-A Martyrs testimony- "For a certain Alcibades, who was one of them, led a very austere life, partaking of nothing whatever but bread and water. When he endeavored to continue this same sort of life in prison, it was revealed to Attalus after his first conflict in the ampitheater that Alcibades was not doing well in refusing the creatures of God and placing a stumblingblock before others. And Alcibades obeyed, and partook of all things without restraint, giving thanks to God. For they were not deprived of the grace of God, but the Holy Ghost was their counselor"
(The Church History of Eusebius, Book V. Chapter III)

"For it is not the eating that makes unclean, but the intention with which a man eats. If then thou dost not set that aright, you have done all to no purpose, and hast made things worse: for thinking a thing unclean is not so bad as tasting it when one thinks it unclean"
(John Chrysostom, Homily 26 on Romans(Rom. XIV. 14)

"The substances are themselves as creatures of God without impurity, and in this their native state are free to the use of all; but the ministries to which in their use they are devoted, makes all the difference... I burn the Arabian product myself, but not with the same ceremony, nor in the same dress, nor with the same pomp, with which it is done to idols."
(Tertullian, The Chaplet, part first, chap.10)

"Unless I am refuted and convicted by testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear arguments (since I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils alone; it being evident that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am conquered by the Holy Scriptures quoted by me, and my conscience is bound in the word of God: I can not and will not recant any thing, since it is unsafe and dangerous to do any thing against the conscience."
Martin Luther, Testimony April, 1521

The ammount of evidences are overwhelming and far too excassive to post here.
More...
Posted by JeffL on December 7, 2011 at 8:58 PM · Report this
10
Romans 15, exodus 30 annointing oil contains kenneh bosm i.e. Cannabis, same oil he is using to heal the nations. See the end of revelations: the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse.
Posted by apostle of the Holy Oil on December 7, 2011 at 10:52 PM · Report this
11
LEAP has been doing great work. It is also great that a breakthrough has been made with both the clergy, and the African-American community (for lack of a better term).

Unfortunately, the DUIC (driving under influence of cannabis) limits proposed under I-502, will allow convictions of drivers who are not impaired. The new law is "per se", guilt is automatic without defense. Washington State already convicts for DUIC, the new law is not needed.

The limits are set too low, which will entrap medical cannabis patients, and frequent recreational users. The arbitrary limits in 502 are not backed by science, and need to be thrown out.

For more information, please see < http://www.patientsagainsti502.org/ >

Prohibition needs to end, but we have an obligation to write laws based on science, and not wrongfully convict innocent people. No on 502.
Posted by Troy Barber on December 8, 2011 at 10:31 AM · Report this
12
FINALLY!
Those of us who have worked for years to reform the laws have generally met adamant opposition from Black ministers, in spite of the obvious ways that the drug laws discriminate against all people of color.
To hear that the Black clergy are finally seeing the light is wonderfully heartening news! Let's all do our best to spread that revelation across the nation.
Posted by FreeRoy on December 8, 2011 at 8:48 PM · Report this
13
Religious ideals + voting = never ends well. It's a crap law, a form of entrapment.
Posted by WenG on December 8, 2011 at 10:44 PM · Report this
slade 14
Taking on the drug filled ghettos and prisons filled with poor illiterate gang bangers is a job for special saints.

you can get anything you want at Alice's restaurant?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNLE5z7jN…

Alice Huffman.....You Go Girl!
Posted by slade http://www.youtube.com/user/guppygator on December 11, 2011 at 1:55 PM · Report this

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