Clergy Explain Their Support For Marijuana Legalization

grygielny Catholic Perspectives, Faith Perspectives, Jewish Perspectives, Marijuana Legalization, MI

On November 6, Michigan voters will be asked to vote on a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use. We are grateful to the following five clergy – from Flint, Detroit, and Ann Arbor – who tell us why they support this measure.   Rev. Deborah Conrad, Woodside Church, Flint, MI. “…Legalizing marijuana, fully legalizing it, is, I think, a sensible thing to do. ‘Most of what we hate and fear about drugs – the violence, the overdoses, the criminality – derives from prohibition, not drugs’ wrote Dan Baum, Harper’s Magazine, April, 2016.  Another writer noted that if marijuana is a ‘gateway drug,’ though that hasn’t really been established, maybe it really is more about the people users must associate with when they buy it illegally. If we take away the underground marijuana market, maybe we actually help keep people away from the harder stuff.” “At our meeting last week, the Woodside Board of Directors affirmed this resolution (Proposal 1 Marijuana Legalization Initiative), as a key piece of our advocacy for mass incarceration reform…But, while the board agreed that legalization is the desired goal, we also agreed that the language of the referendum isn’t perfect. ”  “We were especially concerned that the stipulations of the legislation would still provide loopholes for targeting people of color.  It is restrictive, far more than I think necessary, given what we know about the relative dangers of alcohol and tobacco, and I’m not convinced it would still become a mitigating factor in the ‘piling on’ that prosecutors like to do – heaping lesser charges onto a defendant to increase penalties for a primary offense. The proposed law isn’t perfect, but it is a start. So I recommend we vote yes, and then continue to work of learning to see racism, advocating for better law that benefit us all.” NOTE:  These comments are drawn from the October 4 issue of Pastor Conrad’s church newsletter. She makes clear the deeper implications of legalizing marijuana: with this measure in place, we will finally be able to consider other reforms  that, taken together, will finally end those parts of the War on Drugs that have inflicted so much damage upon our society.  We commend the entire newsletter to you. Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, Rabbi, The Birmingham Temple, Birmingham, MI “For too long our society has ignored the lessons of Prohibition by imposing the same regressive policies on marijuana. What have we gained from it? We’ve reaped violence in our streets through black market dealing. We’ve generated a social justice crisis through inequitable enforcement of the law in African-American communities. And we’ve prevented sensible research into the many real benefits of cannabis. Approval of Proposal 1 will allow law enforcement to turn its attention to the real problems plaguing our state while generating a new stream of tax revenue to benefit our children, infrastructure, and municipalities. We talk a great deal about learning from the mistakes of history. When presented with this opportunity, let us do just that.”   Rev. Kevin Johnson, Presbytery of Detroit, Presbyterian Church U.S.A. “I support the Michigan Legalization Initiative to legalize the recreational use and possession of marijuana for persons 21 years of age or older. My hope is that if passed, this legislation would remove the element of criminalizing individuals for possession and stem the tide of arrests and incarceration rates of people which clearly show imbalanced racialized characteristics as reflected in statistical analysis. I also hope that the passage of this proposal will lead to additional legislation to expunge the convictions for individuals previously prosecuted for the use and possession of marijuana.”     Rev. Thomas James, Grosse Ile, MI “I endorse the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol initiative because: Rather than spending enormous sums of taxpayer money punishing users of a drug that has minimal adverse effects on individuals and society, we should be supporting programs that reduce harm and encourage constructive participation in the economic and civic life of our state.  As a clergy person, I am especially concerned with the morality of our current practice of prohibition and incarceration because it imposes disenfranchisement, barriers to employment, and family disruption with disproportionate severity on people in Michigan who already face more than their fair share of economic challenges.” Rev. Alexandra McCauslin, Ann Arbor, MI “I believe the regulation and penalty system for marijuana possession has created grave injustice, increasing debt and incarceration unnecessarily, especially for already vulnerable populations, like people of color and the poor. “  

Yom Kippur: Intoxication, Collective Responsibility, and Harm Reduction

James Kowalsky Guest Pieces, Harm Reduction, Jewish Perspectives

Rabbi Jacob Schram (Ben Stiller in Keeping the Faith) called Yom Kippur the Super Bowl of the Jewish calendar. It’s probably the most coveted ticket of the year for temple-goers, so it makes sense to say that. To me, Yom Kippur is more like a combination of Lent and New Year’s. If you don’t know, Yom Kippur, which occurred just over a week agond, is the Jewish Day of Atonement, the last chance to make yourself right with God before the books are closed for the year. Yom Kippur also falls eight days after Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s Day on the Hebrew calendar. In addition to repenting for what we’ve done wrong in the past year, Jewish people use Yom Kippur as a time to recommit ourselves to do good deeds in the coming year. Essentially, we’re atoning and making resolutions all at the same time. In thinking about this High Holiday, I realized some of the ways that it’s linked to my thoughts on drugs and drug policy.

Celebrating Passover With Pot

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp Faith Perspectives, Jewish Perspectives

Claire and Roy Kaufmann are co-founders of Le’Or, a Jewish activist organization based in Portland, Oregon. Their cannabis seder on April 15 was their second such event. Over 70 individuals from the cannabis industry, along with drug law reformers, clergy, civic leaders, and others were present. In a recent radio interview, Claire described the connection between Judaism and cannabis, the purpose of this annual event, and its relevance to ending the War on Drugs. Here are excerpts from this broadcast. “So, what is Passover? The Jewish holiday of Passover is the most observed holiday, more than Rosh Hashanah, more than Hannakuh, more than Yom Kippur. A larger percentage of Jews go to a Passover Seder than anything else.

An Accidental Jew

Diane Goldstein Jewish Perspectives

Twenty years ago, on the eve of my conversion to Judaism and my marriage, I addressed a letter to my Rabbi explaining why I chose to become Jewish. My Rabbi, Leon Kahane, was a holocaust survivor, a police chaplain, as well as my spiritual leader even before my conversion. In my work as a police officer I had the honor of spending countless hours with him. He tended not just to the Jewish community, but to all those he came in contact with. Despite the many losses he suffered, Rabbi said his experience resolved him to make the world better. He made me a better police officer by reminding me that compassion, justice and redemption are tenets not just of religion, but should always be goals of law enforcement.

How Judaism Led Me to Harm Reduction

James Kowalsky Faith Perspectives, Harm Reduction, Jewish Perspectives

  I’m an American Jew. I’m descended from Jews who immigrated to the United States from Europe in the early 1900s. Growing up, I attended a Hebrew day school, became a bar mitzvah, celebrated the High Holy Days and Hanukkah, went to a Jewish summer camp, traveled to Israel, kept kosher (at times) and ate a fair share of kugel, gefilte fish, and bagels with lox and shmear.  But my Jewish experience has been about more than traditions, holidays, and matzo ball soup.  Judaism instilled in me a passionate commitment to social justice which manifested in my role as an advocate for harm reduction.