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Pastors and Pot: Religious Leaders Speak Out on Legal Weed

Medical marijuana unites diverse groups in Pennsylvania

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What do you get when you put a pastor, a Gray Panther, and a criminal defense lawyer in the same room?

While this may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, it’s actually the start of something better—groups of people uniting to promote the legalization of medical marijuana.

Politics makes strange bedfellows, and nowhere is this more noticeable than in the fight by everyone from epilepsy moms to Episcopal preachers to make it legal to use cannabis to treat conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and chronic pain. While it’s surprising to find such diverse organizations at the forefront of this battle, those who put empathy ahead of fear are finally starting to find a voice. 

Clergy for Compassion, a group made up of more than 60 religious leaders from across Pennsylvania, have banned together to show their support, including a rally at the state capitol to support medical marijuana legislation.

Also dubbed with the nickname Pastors for Pot, which has a much better ring, this group of reverends, rabbis, pastors, sisters, deacons and church elders united to proclaim that nobody should have to break the law in order to ease their suffering. “We cannot remain silent while people in pain and anguish are deprived of a viable, safe, and responsible remedy,” they said. “While we may practice different faiths and come from different communities, we share the same commitment to improving the broader community through the practice of humanity, healing, mercy, and compassion.” 

And they are not the only congregations to see the light. Churches lining up in the pews to support medical marijuana include the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Church, the Union for Reformed Judaism, the Progressive National Baptists Convention, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and the United Church of Christ. 

While the American Medical Association has still not come out in favor of using cannabis to help patients nearly a half dozen other organziations incluing the American Public Health Association and the American Nurses Association provide services to those with chronic diseases and have thrown their support behind the cause.

In 2014, the Epilepsy Foundation went even further, stating their support for the rights of patients and families living with seizures and epilepsy to access physician-directed care, including medical marijuana.

They also called for an end to Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) restrictions that limited clinical trials and research into medical marijuana for epilepsy, and have made the issue one of their advocacy priorities.

Those who suffer from conditions that can be helped by medical cannabis are raising their voices—and sometimes their walkers—as well. Despite the fact that as a whole, seniors tend to be more conservative than the majority of the nation, a 2004 AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) poll showed that three out of four older Americans supported legalizing medical marijuana.

Across the nation, senior groups are coming together to voice their needs; legislators are hearing from the Kansas Silver-Haired Legislature, the California Legislative Council for Older Americans, and local chapters of the Gray Panthers, among others.

No longer imprisoned by outdated ideas, some members of the legal field have also voiced their support. These diverse groups are not only vocal in their support of medical marijuana, but are able to make a difference at the polls come November. 

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