Legalizing Marijuana


BOB ABERNETHY, host: On November 2, voters in Arizona and South Dakota decide whether to legalize marijuana for medical use, as 14 states and the District of Columbia already have. Meanwhile, in California, where medical marijuana is legal, voters are deciding whether to decriminalize recreational marijuana use. Is marijuana a gateway to harder drugs? Lucky Severson reports from Los Angeles.

BISHOP RON ALLEN (President, International Faith-Based Coalition, speaking in a church): It is because Satan has tried to make us think and have tried to make us believe that it’s nothing. Isn’t that just like the enemy? That it is less harmful than alcohol. Isn’t that how Satan comes in the back door to make you think that one sin is greater than another? You all have to say “amen.”

LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: It’s Sunday, so Bishop Ron Allen is guest preaching in church. Any other day of the week and he’ll be preaching the same message to anyone who will listen. Bishop Allen is president of the International Faith-Based Coalition, comprising what he says are over 4000 churches nationwide. His one mission is to teach drug prevention to church leaders, and more urgently to defeat Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in California.

post01-marijuanaSTEPHEN GUTWILLIG (State Director, Drug Policy Alliance): First, it decriminalizes low-level possession of marijuana of up to an ounce by adults 21 and over, eliminates all penalties for that offense and allows adult 21 and over to cultivate small amounts of marijuana also for their personal use. And then the second thing that it does is it allows local governments to decide for themselves whether to regulate and tax sales of marijuana also for adults 21 and over if they choose to do so.

SEVERSON: Stephen Gutwillig is the California director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a nationwide organization working to change the focus of the war on drugs, especially state and federal laws prohibiting marijuana.

GUTWILLIG: Banning marijuana outright has fueled this enormous black market. It wastes hundreds of millions of dollars of law enforcement resources. It makes criminals of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens. That makes it very, very clear that marijuana prohibition has failed at every single level.

ALLEN (speaking in a church): And today we are in a critical position in the state of California. We have individuals that want to legalize a schedule one drug: marijuana. And what they’re saying to us is that it’s not dangerous. I beseech you. Don’t sit at home November the 2nd. Go down to the polls and vote.

post02-marijuanaSEVERSON: In 14 states and the District of Columbia, medical marijuana is now legal and available in approved outlets like this. Other states are considering it. But at the same time as arrests for every category of crime have gone down nationwide, recreational marijuana busts are skyrocketing. The FBI says police prosecuted 858,000 individuals for marijuana violations in 2009, and almost nine out of 10 were for possession of an ounce or less. Most arrests are misdemeanors but still result in a permanent drug arrest record.

GUTWILLIG: Every independent body that has been asked to look particularly at what should be done with marijuana, the answer has always been we should probably regulate it the way we do alcohol and tobacco, both because it’s widely available and widely consumed and it’s going to lead to mass arrests. That’s why alcohol prohibition itself was a disaster in the 1920s and ’30s and why it’s regulated today—not because it’s harmless, but because the risks associated with it are only magnified with a prohibition that drives its consumption underground.

ALLEN: When we talk about prohibition of 1920s and 1930s, we cannot relate that to what we’re dealing with today at all.

SEVERSON: Allen says legalizing marijuana would simply add to the destruction drugs and alcohol have already caused in African-American neighborhoods.

ALLEN(speaking in a church): Here’s their mantra: Marijuana is as harmless as alcohol, and so what I’ve been offering them is a rattlesnake or a cobra. Which one is harmless?

post03-marijuanaSEVERSON: Joining Bishop Allen’s coalition are conservative church leaders; the state’s two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer; Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina; outgoing Governor Schwarzenegger; and the two candidates who want his job—Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

MEG WHITMAN (Republican Candidate for Governor of California, speaking at a debate): I am firmly opposed to Proposition 19, which is the legalization of marijuana. But don’t ask me. Ask law enforcement. Every single law enforcement official is against Proposition 19.

SEVERSON: Not every single law enforcement officer opposes Prop 19. Several former police chiefs and the National Black Police Association support it. So does the California Council of Churches and the California NAACP, where Alice Huffman is president.

ALICE HUFFMAN (President, California NAACP): I would like to see it approved across the country. I believe prohibition has failed us, and it is failing us now.

ALLEN: I have called constantly for the resignation of Alice Huffman as the state president of the NAACP for this one reason. If you want to be a civil rights leader, you have to understand this one thing. What causes the devastation in the colored community? It’s not rocket science, Lucky, we all know it’s drugs.

post04-marijuanaHUFFMAN: Marijuana should be a different classification of a drug. It should not lead to any criminal arrests. It should not destroy our families.

SEVERSON: There’s another reason the California NAACP supports Prop 19, and it was underscored in a recent study of marijuana possession arrests in California.

GUTWILLIG: Statewide, African Americans are arrested at more than triple the rate of whites, typically double, triple, quadruple in all of the 25 major counties.

SEVERSON: According to the study, if, as a case in point, you lived here in South Central Los Angeles, and you were African American, you were seven times more likely to be arrested and cited for possessing marijuana than if you were white. The gap may be even greater because studies have shown that blacks are less likely to use pot than whites. Bishop Allen says the disparity, in part, is because the police discover marijuana possession while in they are in African-American communities investigating other crimes.

ALLEN: If we can do something about the drug abuse and the crime in these neighborhoods, then maybe the police officers won’t get the call to go and arrest in that particular area.

HUFFMAN: One law enforcement person says yeah, we call your community the pond. We go down to the pond. That’s where we go, I guess, fishing is what he was implying, and that’s exactly what happens. It’s like they target our communities.

post05-marijuanaSEVERSON: National studies indicate that enforcing marijuana laws costs American taxpayers over $8 billion annually. The costs of pot arrests in California are estimated at over a billion a year.

GUTWILLIG: Police will always deny that there are such a thing as arrest and ticket quotas, but clearly these exist. Arresting, detaining, citing petty marijuana possession offenders are among the safest and easiest ways to meet those quotas.

SEVERSON: The greatest fear of opponents to Prop 19 is that marijuana is a so-called gateway drug, that smoking it will lead to other stronger drugs like crack cocaine or heroin.

ALLEN (speaking to congregation): They said to me that it’s not a gateway drug. I have to disagree with them. I can only talk about Bishop Ron Allen. When I started my seven years of crack cocaine my first experience with drugs was marijuana.

GUTWILLIG: The overwhelming evidence shows that the enormous majority of people who try marijuana or who even smoke marijuana regularly never consume any other illicit substance. It’s actually what’s referred to as a terminus drug. It is the only illicit substance that most people ever try.

SEVERSON: Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed a law reducing the fine for marijuana possession to that of an infraction, like a traffic violation. But Alice Huffman says it won’t do anything about the disparity of arrests, and it won’t stop gangs from running illegal drugs in black neighborhoods.

HUFFMAN: I thought that the war on drugs was going to protect us. I did not realize that the war on drugs was going to destroy my families and destroy my community, and so I am very passionate now that I understand, and I think that this is a great opportunity to raise the awareness in America about a failed drug policy

SEVERSON: Even if California voters approve Prop 19, US Attorney General Eric Holder says the government will continue to enforce federal marijuana laws. But without the help of state and local police that wouldn’t be easy, because they’re the ones who make virtually all marijuana arrests nationwide and in California. For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Lucky Severson in Los Angeles.

ABERNETHY: The latest Los Angeles Times/USC poll shows the marijuana proposition trailing among likely voters 51 percent to 39.

  • unite

    Bishop Allen is correct in trying to reduce drug use, but keeping marijuana illegal is not doing that. All it is ensuring is that criminal gangs can use the vast profit to allure young children into a dangerous trade. One that is much more dangerous than marijuana in and of itself. Sadly, this phenomenon is most prevalent in poor communities where family life may not be the best and financial struggles are everywhere. Many 14,15,16+ year old kids with poor family structure find it hard to ignore the allure of easy money regardless of how much preaching you do. If we take this away, it may not eliminate gangs, but it eliminates their #1 trade by volume/sales.

  • DeaconGreen

    Vanity nothing but vanity. God created the Cannabis Plant and all of its therapeutic values used by mankind since the beginning of time, even during the time that Christ walked the earth. Cannabis (marijuana is slang) is therapeutic to the human body simply because humans, as all other forms of life from the nematoad worm on up, have an Endocannbinoid System complete with cannabinoid receptors throughout our body, which was made by God in Our Image i.e. that of the Father and His angels. The Huiman body creates 2 chemicals Anadamide and 2AG that mimic the effects of THC and other cannabinoids found in the Cannabis plant. Ergo God can not do nor create evil. God created the Cannabis Plant, Gen 1:11 “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. Gen 1:12 And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” I am living proof that marijuana is the safest, most therapeutically active substance for the control of chronic nausea & vomiting due to Diabetic Neuropathic Gastroparesis (paralyzed stomach) known to man. My Family Dr & my Digestive Disease Specialist both tell me, “If you can get some marijuana get it and use it to control the chronic nausea & vomiting due to Gastroparesis. Which is the work of Satan not marijuana. Satan would like for you to believe that for it makes you imprison many people and destroy many lives needlessly. Marijuana is not a threat to the public, if it was the public would have suffered from it long ago. For marijuana is the most used illegal substance by society that millions of people smoke it everyday. If marijuana were harmful we would see millions of people rushing the doors of Emergency Rooms across the country. But we don’t see that now do we. No need to say more, you have it backwards just the way Satan wants you to have it. I bet you believe in the “Rapture Theory” too, don’t you? Remember the Anti-Christ comes fist on the 6th Trump. If you go to meet him he will fly you away but not to Heaven. Those who think Cannabis/Marijuana is bad/evil are just as ignorant as those who believe a non biblical way to salvation i.e. The Rapture Theory.

  • Buzzby

    “They said to me that it’s not a gateway drug. I have to disagree with them. I can only talk about Bishop Ron Allen. When I started my seven years of crack cocaine my first experience with drugs was marijuana.”
    Is the Bishop trying to tell us that he never had an alcoholic beverage or a cigarette before he smoked marijuana and before he foolishly got himself addicted to crack cocaine? I find that hard to believe.
    If you want top look at the facts instead of at the Bishop’s bloviation, only 1 out of every 102 marijuana users goes on to become an habitual user of hard drugs. That hardly seems like a causative relationship to me. The Bishop is speaking more about his own weakness for drugs than any possible effect of the marijuana he smoked.

  • Garry Minor

    In 1936 a Polish Anthropologist named Sula Benet discovered that in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament the word “kaneh bosm”(קְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם) was translated as “calamus” or fragrant cane by the Greeks when they first rendered the Books in the 3rd century B.C., then propagated as such in all future translations from the original Greek without review, including Martin Luthers. During that same time period Hebrew slowly ceased to be used as a spoken language. It wasn’t until the late 1800’s that a man named Eliezer Ben-Yehuda revived it once again. Benet concluded through years of substantial research and etymological comparison that the correct translation of “kaneh bosm” should be “cannabis.” In 1980 the Hebrew Institute of Jerusalem confirmed her claim that indeed “kaneh bosm” is cannabis. Ben-Yehuda’s 1964 Hebrew-English dictionary confirms this fact, page 140. The Biblical
    “Canon,” from the Greek “Kanon,” meaning; “to measure, to rule, straight, upright,” is also derived from the Hebrew word “kaneh”(קְנֵה). In fact we now know that all early religions used cannabis and, or, other psychotropic plants as sacraments. Calamus was used by ancient peoples and still today as an aphrodisiac and stimulant, its active chemical asarone is a precursor to the psychedelic MDMA, ecstasy.


  • wanda

    i guess the preacher only agrees with legal drugs that can kill god does not . he needs to face his fears of plants and be afraid of mans drugs the will be no man made drugs in heaven will there? cannabis will be in heaven marijuana is not dope man made drugs that kill are dope and we all know it all drugs man made are dope synthetics are man made that poison that kill easily synthetics foods will eventually cause death diabetes mental illness other illnesses caused by synthetics foods with bad stuff in them

  • Telarus, KSC, Episkopos

    I agree Deacon Green. As the arrests in Hawaii of Rev. Roger Christie & company (for running a donation based ministry center) show, the current narrative around this issue has been hugely skewed. Look at how quickly the /good/ Rev Allen up there backpedaled from any discussion of Alcohol Prohibition and avoided the term for the remainder of the talk.

  • WolfBlade

    This is a New Low!!!! The Government is Bringing Religion between are state of California, and federal Law. If the government is listening to me; leave these good religions out of this dispute. The government has shown its true face. “YES TO PROP 19”.

  • Olden Atwoody

    What’s religion got to do with this issue?

    Not everyone is a Christian. Christians are a minority among the world’s population.

    Is this a case of a religion telling everyone in the US how to live? Which religion should do that – Catholicism, Judaism, Islam?

    Bishop Allen – you don’t have the right.

  • Bill Harris

    Roger Christie of Hilo Hawaii has formed a marijuana church, and is now in custody as a drug dealer. He has been denied bail because the government claims him to be a danger to the community. The government has not produced a single member of the community who Mr. Christie may have allegedly harmed. He is harmless to the community, not dangerous. All marijuana use is religious, not just for those who form a church around it. Being high is a state of grace, a state of prayer. Even atheists entertain hopes, which are informal prayers. God doesn’t stand on formality.

    The public supposes that the U.S.A. has Freedom of Religion. The Christie case proves that the only tolerated churches are those with placebos for sacraments. The state will say that his religion is not a religion, but it’s not their call. Religion is not the name of a church. Each person’s religion is what it is, singular, according to individual conscience. Outlawing the sacrament of cannabis deprives millions of an introspective channel for divine feedback.

    The intent of prohibition is to prevent a religious revival, such as got off to a false start in the Sixties, and was then driven so far underground by the war on drugs as to be in the grave. Prohibition’s true function is to prevent Free Exercise of Religious Liberty, while maintaining the illusion of Freedom of Religion.

  • Barry B.

    Smoke pot and burn in hell! Do we really have to go there? Marijuana is already being used by millions of people with little to no harm to Society. Any harm comes from it being illegal. It’s time to end the lies and distortions and stop putting non violent people in jail. Most clergy agree that prohibtion has failed miserably and needs to change. Lumping Cannabis in with all those other more dangerous drugs is a fallacy that needs to be corrected.

    Vote YES on Prop 19 on Tuesday November 2nd. Not only for us here in California but for all the victims of draconian Pot laws across the country that are hanging their hopes on us. We can change history by overturning 70 years of failed Prohibition and use those dollars to help society and even provide drug counseling for those that need it. Our police can focus on violent criminals and we can begin shutting prisons down, instead of building new ones.

  • mark inyokern,ca.

    GUTWILLIG: Banning marijuana outright has fueled this enormous black market. It wastes hundreds of millions of dollars of law enforcement resources. It makes criminals of millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens. That makes it very, very clear that marijuana prohibition has failed at every single level.

    i agree with Mr. gutwillig.this insane law does nothing good, destroys lives, and is a complete failure.

    if you live in cal………vote yes on 19.

  • Brandon F.

    People who believe that Satan is affecting our public policy should be examined for mental defectiveness.

  • Spencer

    Drug, african american communities….

    A preacher has no need of color. God has no need for profane rules. Do you love God? Do you do as you can to love those around you??

    Our King made the rule easy: Love.

    “Thou shalt not enter into heaven for the smoking of a plant that grows of its own”

    God warns against drunkeness – being messed up

    Smoke some meth, some crack, some opium…. see if you EVER can function and think rationally on them.
    Drink some beer and see the same

    Now try pot and understand:

    Simple euphoria does not disconnect rational thought.

    Does God have a problem with pot? Maybe, but it isn’t prohibited in scripture as though it were the mortal sin the preachers have made it out to be.

    Can’t we just tell people that Jesus is King and worry about herbal excuses after the redemption?

  • Andrew C. Bairnsfather

    Please take a look at the November Coalition’s graphs on incarceration — not only is the Drug War similar to National Alcohol Prohibition, but Drug War dwarfs it in terms of outlandish spending and incarceration.

    One of my favorite lines about Drug Prohibition is from an article published by Reverend John Clifton Marquis, S.T., in the U.S. Catholic, on May 1990. Basically he calls our drug laws blasphemy, he calls them false gods, they promise a salvation they can not deliver. (On this page — — you will find “Writings by Religious Leaders” and in that section is his article. However, the link it temporarily out of action. But you can read how I’ve incorporated some of what he wrote in one my own scriptural studies —

    Anyone over the age of 30, even with the most modest education, should be astutely aware that religion has caused FAR MORE deaths than all (legal and illegal) drugs combined. Religion has broken up more families, destroyed more property, and done more general social damage than all drugs combined. What does this mean? I know some people would love to outlaw religion, but not me. Just because religion has a sordid past and in the hands of *some* people is grossly abused, does not mean we should prohibit it.

    Paul prophesied all this to Timothy ages ago: 1 Timothy 4:1-6. In fact, I bring that, and many more Biblical passages to bear on the Drug War — the only conclusion there is, is this: Drug Prohibition is immoral and failed, it creates more ills than it supposedly solves (however, the roots of Drug Prohibition are NOT in caring, they’re in racism).

    Both John the Baptist and Jesus said you can tell a tree by its fruit. The verdict is in! The fruit of the Drug War Tree is only bad and what they prophesied will happen, and if us humans can’t do it, God will.

  • wish wash

    marijana is a natural substance. and it help with metrical problems. and people that have ADD or ADHD it can control there hyper or if your just naturally hipper. i say heck ya lets do this to legalizing marijuana. ged

  • Karena Crankson

    life is precious and we must come to aknowledge that we do not create our selves. life is a very precious gift that was given to us freely by our maker God. We must take care of it and protect it.Now the most beautiful thing about our creator is that he gives us a free will to make choices.What ever we choose to do with our lives here on earth, being it good or evil has consequenses and we will pay the prize for it.Marijuana is used to cure illments and not used to create illments. This is the body in which your maker resides so keep it clean.The choice is yours.



  • Cyberkick




  • Cary Urka

    Some of the best critical equipment operators, talented technitions, truck drivers smoke one right after another. I bet as a whole in a fair test you cannot prove most smokers are any more dangerous behind the wheel than the general population. Lots of people shouldnt be driving smoking or not.