Plans for a Mega-Cannabis Complex Has Christians Hollering About Satan's Takeover
It’s not the first time the “devil’s lettuce” has whipped believers into anti-pot fervor.
Published on January 21, 2023

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A massive cannabis complex slated for construction in Barstow, California, is facing backlash from hysteric Christians hollering about the project signaling Satan’s takeover of the town. How do you argue with this logic? 

“I would love to see a sign across Barstow Main Street up here that says Barstow belongs to Jesus,” said minister of the Mojave Desert Christian Church Joe Vail at a city council meeting, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m afraid if you put up something like this [cannabis complex] you'll be saying Barstow belongs to Satan. I’m not in favor of this at all.”

Despite such evangelical misgivings, however, the city council voted three to one on Tuesday to approve the project, which will build on a 29-acre plot of land that was once an outlet mall comprised of 24 buildings. Developers say the area will be stuffed with weed businesses, to the tune of “20 cannabis farms, six distribution companies, four manufacturing companies, and two retail dispensaries,” according to the Chronicle.

The 25,000-resident town of Barstow is located on the key travel corridor between Los Angeles and Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert. That makes it a strategic location for what could be a major center of marijuana business in the region.

But the Jesus freaks were not the only ones in town to voice their concerns over the plan. The sole dissenting vote against the plan was city councilwoman Carmen Hernandez, who said the project's approval smacks of government corruption because the businesses set to be in the complex did not petition for licenses. In other words, those businesses likely forked out a lot of cash to secure buildings. Hernandez’s inference about her fellow council members potentially receiving compensation to vote in favor of the plan, however, was roundly denied, of course — despite the fact some of them received campaign contributions in the past from the proposed complex’s developers. 

Supporters of the complex say that the plan will bring much-needed revenue to the small town. To date, the owners of the complex’s various businesses have kicked in more than $420,000 in application fees.

Perhaps the controversy comes as no surprise, given that when California legalized recreational cannabis, Barstow joined various other small jurisdictions in banning cannabis retail activity entirely. (The town reconsidered the policy last year.)

Certainly, this is not the first time the “devil’s lettuce” has been associated with, well, the devil. Such has been the longstanding hysteria around the drug that some Christian faith leaders have defended. They are working against some fairly entrenched religious misinformation: Back in 2020, Reuters reported on the appearance of satiric online ads that drew a connection between Lucifer and the consumption of cannabis. Somehow, the ads had bamboozled some individuals, who were apparently reposting the spots in all seriousness.

“Smoke a ‘doobie’? You’re smoking with Satan,” read the ads’ text. “Just a simple toke of ‘devil’s lettuce’ could make your sacrifice your family just like Peter did. Marijuana is the leading cause of America’s youth joining Satanic Cults, and that’s a fact.”

Caitlin Donohue
Caitlin Donohue is a Bay Area-raised, Mexico City-based cannabis writer and author of She Represents: 44 Women Who Are Changing Politics and the World. Her weekly show Crónica on Radio Nopal explores Mexican marijuana culture and politics in the prohibition era. Follow Caitlin on IG @byrdwatch.
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