Cannabis News NORML - It's Time for a Change!
  Clergy Join Push To OK Medical Pot
Posted by CN Staff on April 21, 2007 at 18:24:56 PT
By Kevin McDermott 
Source: Ledger-Enquirer  

medical Springfield, Ill. - Illinois' latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana is getting support from a surprising source - religious leaders. "The moral issue is relief of suffering," said the Rev. D. Jay Johnson of the Union Avenue Christian Church in Litchfield, Ill.

Johnson is one of more than 40 state religious leaders named in a letter distributed to legislators as they consider changing Illinois law to allow use of marijuana for treating pain and nausea in medical patients.

But opponents also are leaning on religious morality as a central part of their argument. They say that the real purpose of the movement is to legalize recreational pot, and that well-meaning clergy are being duped.

"I think they're using the compassion of people who don't understand what the goal is," said Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, the group leading the fight against the bill.

Legislation pending in the Senate would allow people diagnosed with "debilitating" medical conditions to legally possess up to 12 cannabis plants and as much as 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis.

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, has passed committee and is awaiting a Senate floor vote.

Cullerton has acknowledged that its chances are still questionable unless he can garner more support from his colleagues. He estimates he has about 20 of the 30 votes needed for Senate passage.

Proponents say medicinal marijuana can ease nausea associated with chemotherapy treatments for cancer, the pain of multiple sclerosis and other conditions.

Usage would be regulated by the state Department of Public Health and overseen by a doctor. The legislation would require that the cannabis be grown in locked, indoor locations.

In the past decade, medicinal marijuana has been legalized in 12 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

"It's simply morally wrong to punish people for making an earnest attempt at healing," said Tyler Smith, spokesman for the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, the Washington-based group behind the religious campaign to pass the bill.

The letter from religious leaders supporting legalized medical marijuana states: "Our religious values of compassion, mercy, and justice compel us to ask that you vote yes on the medical marijuana bill." It was e-mailed to Illinois senators several weeks ago.

Smith acknowledges that when it comes to marijuana use, some people feel it is just inherently wrong. He maintains, however, that it is wrong to send people to prison for using marijuana to alleviate pain.

"It takes religious leaders taking a stand for people to really understand that," he said.

Critics of the campaign allege its proponents may have misled those religious leaders into believing the legislation is strictly about hospice use of marijuana.

"Who wouldn't want to make a person in that condition feel better?" said Jeannie Lowe, also of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems.

Lowe and other opponents say the wording of the legislation is so vague that, with a willing doctor, a patient could meet the standards for marijuana use for just about any illness.

The Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative compiled the list of names by sending out mailers to various churches and temples around the state, asking leaders to mail back their signatures in support of the proposal.

Still, some religious leaders named in the letter said they had, in fact, been thinking primarily in terms of easing the suffering of terminal cancer patients.

"I'm thinking in terms of people who are terminal or on chemotherapy," said the Rev. Dr. Gladys Herzog of Salem United Church of Christ in Alhambra, Ill.

She added, "I'm sure it will evoke disagreement" among religious people.

Others named in the letter said they saw their support as being consistent with religious thought regarding compassion for the sick.

"It comes down to, what do we think God is up to?" said Pastor Bob Hillenbrand of First Presbyterian Church of Rockford, Ill. He said his own belief was in "a God of compassion, and therefore also of healing."

Pastor Robert C. Morwell of Union United Methodist Church in Quincy said he had never used marijuana nor had any desire to. "But I think it's a little silly to say we can prescribe morphine - and other drugs that are more addictive," but not marijuana, he said.

State Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, the bill's sponsor, dismissed concerns that legalizing medical marijuana would pave the way for recreational marijuana use. He said it was already relatively easy for recreational users to obtain pot illegally, without having to get a doctor involved. Also, he pointed out that the legislation would specifically limit the growing and usage of medical marijuana to the patient, and increase the penalties for any who abused that system.

"It's a compassionate bill," said Cullerton. "If that brings a moral dimension to it (for some supporters), that's fine."

Cullerton sponsored similar legislation last year and won committee passage, but he declined to call it for a vote for fear it would become an election-year issue, he said.

Read the proposed bill for the medical use of marijuana:

The bill is SB650.

Source: Ledger-Enquirer (Columbus,GA)
Author: Kevin McDermott
Published: April 21, 2007
Copyright: 2007 Ledger-Enquirer

Related Articles:

Some Clergy Support Medical Marijuana Bill

Clergy Back Medical Marijuana in Illinois

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Comment #5 posted by Hope on April 22, 2007 at 10:59:08 PT
"insidiously clever"
John Tyler, Comment 2

That made me laugh.

I think you're right, though. The truth seems a devious clever trick, to them.

[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by Taylor121 on April 22, 2007 at 01:14:32 PT
Agreed John
Instead of responding to arguments, the anti medical marijuana groups allege that anyone that supports medical marijuana is being duped and is stupid. When you press them further, they really can't say how or why. Nothing in the medical marijuana bill makes recreational use legal.

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #3 posted by FoM on April 21, 2007 at 19:03:26 PT
I really appreciate the Clergy that are listening and trying to be compassionate. The problem is compassion is a word that means tolerance, understanding and acceptance. We need for society and the Clergy to understand that compassion should be displayed for all those who find help from Cannabis no matter what their health problem. Laws are made and people are isolated and we need to try to make them understand that compassion shouldn't have worries and loopholes. If Cannabis helps people why should they fear a form of decriminalization?

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #2 posted by John Tyler on April 21, 2007 at 18:57:03 PT
pro compassion
Have you notice that when people or groups come out in support of medical cannabis the Drug Warriors insult them by saying they are stupid and have been duped and manipulated by the insidiously clever pro compassion cannabis people?

[ Post Comment ]
Comment #1 posted by RevRayGreen on April 21, 2007 at 18:46:57 PT
This makes me nervous......
"He estimates he has about 20 of the 30 votes needed for Senate passage."

I've all but gave up on Minnesota since their Governot said he will veto any bill that hit's his desk :(

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