On August 11, Rev. Alexander Sharp participated in the panel “Cannabis, Family, and Faith” at the Texas Marijuana Policy Conference. Here are excerpts from his presentation on medical marijuana, edited for brevity and clarity.
I got involved in medical marijuana as a wedge issue, I’ll be the first to admit that. I live in Illinois. I wanted to change all the laws brought forward with the War on Drugs that are so oppressive. But you couldn’t even use the word “marijuana” with legislators in 2012 unless you were talking about medical uses.
But after I had been involved for about a month medical marijuana as an end it itself became all-encompassing for me. I met people whose profound, sometimes unremitting, suffering was alleviated by only marijuana. If my career had ended when medical marijuana became legal in Illinois, I would have been content.
Medical marijuana isn’t going to happen because of policy arguments, important as these are. What persuades people are the individual stories. In Illinois, it took three years to get the six or seven votes that put us over the top. Legislators who might not initially have been with us began to realize that they knew a family member, they knew a friend, whom medical marijuana had helped.
I couldn’t be in Springfield the day the vote was taken, but I was sitting in my office watching the debate on TV. My eyes were filled with tears. My own state senator commented, “My father’s life as he was dying from cancer would’ve been dramatically different with medical marijuana.” Tears were streaming down his face, too.
One of the arguments we got, of course, was, “You’re just the Trojan horse for legalization for recreational use.” If asked, I would have said, “I am for legalization. But when this is raised, there will be a passionate debate. Let’s respect democracy enough to realize the process does work without blocking a different use that has the capacity to relieve so much suffering.”
You should be reaching out to engage clergy much more. I realize I’m in a state where there might be not as many “mainline” pastors as there are in Illinois. But please know that most mainline pastors understand the arguments for medical marijuana real fast. It’s about compassion, mercy, and healing.
With evangelicals, it’s harder. They’re so worried about their own salvation and about an angry God and whether they’re going to live properly and get into the next world that they lose sight of the fact that’s not what Jesus was telling them. Jesus showed us that God loves us all, and calls us to love each other. Evangelicals, who read the Bible literally, should turn to Cor. 14: 1: “Make love your aim.” Medical marijuana is bringing the compassion and healing, indeed the love of God, to all in this world.
There were very few things that made Jesus angry, but the Pharisees did. Why? Because of hypocrisy. They worshiped form over substance. The substance of cannabis is that it helps people. Let’s talk about the best of Christianity. The best of evangelical minds and hearts can be reached if we make that argument in the right way.
I will close with the Christian concept of hope. Medical marijuana is going to pass in Texas. When it does, it will be because of the stories. All you have to do is persevere.
Rev. Alexander Sharp