What Do Religious Leaders Say About Cannabis Legalisation?

Cannabis is increasingly gaining acceptance worldwide, but there are complexities from a religious perspective

Religious leaders can be found among cannabis strongest supporters, and also its strongest opponents. Catholics are the most divided Christian group, with an almost 50/50 split in opinions for and against.

A new study conducted by Barana Group asked Christian and non-Christian adults 18 and older their thoughts on the moral acceptability of cannabis. Around 58% of Americans favour legalisation for recreational purposes, mainly including people with higher incomes and some college education.

In contrast, most practicing Christians are against cannabis legalisation. Even mainline Protestants, who are more liberal on social issues than Catholics and non-mainline believers, are less likely to say yes to legalisation.


Religious leaders’ views on cannabis legalisation. Source

Conservative believers say cannabis use is immoral as it pollutes the body, mind and soul. Some of the religious leaders who oppose legalisation say marijuana legalisation leads to the risk of driving impairment. They also show concerns about the danger of cannabis addiction or abuse and point to it as a gateway drug. 

On the other hand, some Christian pastors are in favour of medical cannabis as an effective treatment for illnesses. Christian leaders have a varying opinion on how the country’s lawmakers should handle the drug, and whether the discussion is around recreational or medical use can also alter the discussion.



Churches support medical cannabis

In certain circumstances, many churches support medicinal marijuana when used in a controlled way to help people suffering from terminal and chronic illnesses. Lawmakers in South Carolina are preparing a new bill to legalise medical marijuana. The bill has gained overwhelming support from legislators and the general public. Additionally, the bill formally received support from a group of religious leaders from different religious organisations.

If this bill gets approval, doctors will be able to recommend medical cannabis to patients legally. On the patient side, those with a prescription will be allowed to buy up to two ounces of medical marijuana every two weeks. Originally, two Republican lawmakers introduced this bill. Since Republicans were backing it already, it is likely that South Carolina’s bill will pass.

These chances have improved even more with the support of faith leaders. According to a report by the Associated Press, a clergy group from a coalition of religious groups organised a press conference last month and urged for appropriate laws to handle cannabis use for serious illnesses.



Cannabis in the Old Testament

Financed by a Christian church group, the notorious propaganda film Reefer Madness released in 1936 exaggerated the effects of cannabis when used by high school students.

In the same year, Polish etymologist Sula Benet proposed a new interpretation of the Old Testament, suggesting references to hemp actually were included in oils and other substances throughout the Old Testament. She said the Hebrew word kaneh-bosem was mistranslated in the Green version of the Old Testament written in the third century BCE and the mistranslation has been repeated since.

Meanwhile, a cannabis church “The International Church of Cannabis” was built in the USA. No consumption of the drug is allowed during visiting hours, but people may tour the property and take pictures.



Cannabis nuns

Following cannabis legalisation in Canada and many U.S. states, many new groups have emerged. One example is a movement formed around marijuana called “the Sisters of the Valley.” This group consists of women dressed as nuns who grow and sell cannabis while extolling its virtues.

Catherine Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, created this group in 2014. The group produces hemp with high cannabidiol (CBD) levels for medicinal rather than recreational use. They also create cannabis-infused balms, oils, soaps, and tinctures from the hemp. They manufacture their products in strict adherence to the moon cycle, which they believe imbues healing powers.



Will cannabis legalisation cause an orphan epidemic?

Recently, the leaders of the six Catholic dioceses in Illinois together urged lawmakers not to legalise recreational marijuana in the Prairie State. In a statement, the bishops said cannabis legalisation would lead to more orphans.

The statement said that many children turned into orphans after their parents overdosed on heroin. They added that similar stories surrounding opioid crisis are common today and that if cannabis is legalised, it will escalate the problem.

But in reality, cannabis is proven to be helpful in weaning people off opioids. Using this drug may not raise the risk of using harder and hazardous drugs like alcohol, tobacco and heroine.

As with many issues in the religious world, opinions are divided – and it seems that both sides can produce evidence to support their opinion. The issues of legalising medical marijuana and marijuana for recreational use also has supporters and detractors on both sides, who differ in their beliefs but not in the strength of their convictions. As marijuana use becomes more socially acceptable, it’s likely that more religious leaders will become comfortable with the issue. For now though, it’s safe to say that opinions are mixed.