As Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence faced a moment of truth on March 26, 2015. An Evangelical Christian, for six terms in Congress he had opposed any form of clean needle exchange that might save the lives of intravenous drug users risking infection from HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis C. But now, faced with national coverage of perhaps the largest public health crisis in Indiana’s history, he found himself sitting at his giant mahogany desk in the Governor’s office, signing a bill permitting clean needle exchanges in Scott County, where the outbreak was especially virulent.
Religious views matter when it comes to drug policy in this country. That’s why it was significant when Rev. Franklin Graham, who inherited his father’s evangelical network about 15 years ago, came out strongly against marijuana legalization three weeks ago. The timing of his announcement is no surprise. In the last two years, four states have voted to tax and regulate marijuana, thereby eliminating sanctions for low-level possession and use. Voters in five more states (Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada) will consider similar ballot initiatives on election day November 8. Rev. Graham intends to campaign across the nation in the next two months to urge people of faith to vote “No.”