Oregon voters will consider a ballot measure legalizing the sale and regulation of marijuana. Taxes from the sale of marijuana would be directed to fund public education, mental health and addiction services, and public safety. The General Synod of the United Church of Christ has made no pronouncement on this emerging public policy issue and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon has yet to release their fall ballot measure guide. As a minister in the United Church of Christ in Oregon, however, I will vote yes on the November measure and encourage other people of faith to consider doing likewise. My vote is predicated on a theological principle that public policy should reflect the common good. The illegalization of marijuana, a drug that is in some ways medically considered to be less harmful then alcohol, has tragically forced many people needlessly into the criminal justice system. It is worth noting that those charged with drug offenses are disproportionally people of color. African-Americans are four times more likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana use even though usage is the same, according to federal data. This has further institutionalized the sin of racism in our society. Like many young people, I smoked marijuana, but unlike youth of color there was little chance that I would have ever faced legal consequences for my actions. My “yes” vote is not without reservations. There is growing medical evidence that smoke from marijuana is dangerous. I am concerned that marijuana use is often idolized in public culture – the same is true for alcohol, however – and thus some seem to promote use among young people under 21. My hope is that with further public education and drug treatment funds that Oregon can do more to reduce unhealthy drug use among young people. Regardless of my concerns, this issue should be treated as a treatment issue and not a law enforcement issue. Obviously, people of good faith will come to different conclusions on this issue. I’ll vote Yes on 91 with the hope that the legalization and regulation of marijuana will reduce crime and violence now associated with the black market linked with the drug, will provide new funding for treatment, and will undermine the systemic racism that fuels our dysfunctional criminal justice system. All of this would benefit the common good of Oregon.
Disclaimer: Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the official views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ, or any local congregation.