When Pat Robertson, the founder and chairman of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) Inc., declares the nation "has gone overboard on this concept of being tough on crime" and advocates legalizing marijuana, you know the tide of public opinion has changed.
Lest we be captured and led astray by this wave of popular opinion, let us review why the federal government deemed it necessary to classify marijuana a Schedule 1 substance - a drug more dangerous than opium, morphine, methamphetamine, and cocaine - to begin with.
From a 1988 Department of Justice/DEA brief:
[A] marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette … In layman terms this means that in order to induce death, a marijuana smoker would have to consume 20,000 to 40,000 times as much marijuana as is contained in one marijuana cigarette … A smoker would theoretically have to consume nearly 1,500 pounds of marijuana within about fifteen minutes to induce a lethal response.
Any questions? Didn't think so.
Because when one weighs the consequences (of all those hippies who smoke 1,500 pounds of marijuana within 15 minutes) against the financial burden and societal costs of arbitrary violence, death, incarcerating more than 2.3 million people, and a literal epidemic of "isolated incidents," the War on Drugs is clearly the Bestest Big Government Program Evah!
But what about folks like that whacky Pat Robertson?
"I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol," Mr. Robertson said in an interview on Wednesday. "I've never used marijuana and I don't intend to, but it's just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn't succeeded."
"I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up," he said.
"It's completely out of control," Mr. Robertson said. "Prisons are being overcrowded with juvenile offenders having to do with drugs. And the penalties, the maximums, some of them could get 10 years for possession of a joint of marijuana. It makes no sense at all."
But whether Mr. Robertson's endorsement would have a lasting impact was unclear, even to Mr. Robertson.
"I think they would agree if they understood the facts as I do," he said of other evangelical leaders. "But it's very hard."
He attributed much of the problem of overpopulated jails to a "liberal mindset to have an all-encompassing government."
[Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition] who is a Christian, said Mr. Robertson's position was actually in line with the Gospel. "If you follow the teaching of Christ, you know that Christ is a compassionate man," he said. "And he would not condone the imprisoning of people for nonviolent offenses."
Mr. Robertson said he enjoyed a glass of wine now and then — "When I was in college, I hit it pretty hard, but that was before Christ." He added that he did not think marijuana appeared in the Bible, though he noted that "Jesus made water into wine."
"I don't think he was a teetotaler," he said.
No, He wasn't a teetotaler. But, but drugs are "dangerous and harmful to people, " and we certainly can't "condemn a portion of [our] fellow citizens to self-destruction" by decriminalizing marijuana.
This is the endlessly perpetuated myth about the drug war: that somehow imprisoning hundreds of thousands of poor people and minorities, many of whom are guilty only of putting substances in their bodies, and by waging violent war against black markets here and abroad, we are somehow helping children and the poor. What a fabulous lie.
Beyond the obvious failure the War on Drugs has proven itself to be, as Laurence Vance points out, the war itself is "dangerous, destructive, and immoral."
It is not the purpose of Christianity to change society as a whole outwardly; it is the purpose of Christianity to change men as individuals inwardly … The attitude of the Christian should be to mind his "own business" (1 Thessalonians 4:11) and not be "a busybody in other men's matters" (1 Timothy 4:15).
I believe that Christians have for the most part failed to fulfill their calling. Instead of making converts and instructing them in the biblical precepts of Christian living, they turn to the state to criminalize what they consider to be immoral behavior. Instead of changing people's minds about what is and what is not acceptable in society, they seek to use the state to change people's behavior …
Christians are making a grave mistake by looking to the state to legislate morality. The state is no real friend of religion, and especially not of Christianity … Why would Christians even think of looking to the state to enforce their moral code?
Most Christians simply have too high a view of the state. They are too quick to rely on the state, trust the state, and believe the state … they generally fail to discern the state's true nature.
Although drug abuse is a great evil, the war on drugs is an even greater evil … as columnist Charley Reese once said: "Presumably God will enforce his own laws. You won't find in the Christian Bible any passage that says the responsibility for enforcing God's laws rests with the secular state." And furthermore:
Christianity is a personal religion, not a tribal or state religion. If you wish to be a Christian, then you have a personal obligation to obey the commands of the Christian religion. Whether someone else does or does not is of no concern to you. You can be a devout, scrupulously pure Christian in the midst of the most outrageous sinners. Your obligation is to obey God's commandments, not to compel someone else to do it.
It is simply not biblical to promote legislation or crusades to punish sin that does not aggress against person or property.
What is the true nature of the state? "The essence of the state," wrote Joe Sobran, "is its legal monopoly of force. But force is subhuman … " Yes it is.
Furthermore, to inflict violent force or make threats to do so in the name of keeping people from sin, is to reject the love, acceptance, and forgiveness Jesus Christ taught. Do we really want to reject God by demanding an earthly king?
Nor is "the end justifies the means" a Christian concept. Means do matter to Christians. As Walter Wink, professor at Auburn Theological Seminary, New York City, so eloquently puts it:
Our attempts to stamp out drugs violate a fundamental principle that Jesus articulated in the Sermon on the Mount: "Resist not evil." The Greek term translated "resist" is antistenai. When it is used by the Greek Old Testament or by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, however, the word is usually translated, "to be engaged in a revolt, rebellion, riot, insurrection." It is virtually a synonym for war. It means to stand up against an enemy and fight. So Jesus’ words should be translated, "Do not resist evil by violent means. Do not fight evil with evil. Do not mirror evil, do not let evil set the terms of your response. Applied to the drug issue, this means, "Do not resist drugs by violent methods."
When we oppose evil with the same weapons that evil employs, we commit the same atrocities, violate the same civil liberties and break the same laws as do those whom we oppose. We become what we hate. Evil makes us over into its mimetic double. If one side prevails, the evil continues by virtue of having been established through the means used. More often, however, both sides grow, fed by their mutual resistance, as in the arms race, the Vietnam war, the Salvadoran civil war and Lebanon. This principle of mimetic opposition is illustrated abundantly in the drug War.
Marijuana has never killed anyone. Government Drug Warriors, on the other hand, kill people all the time. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
Estimates suggest that from 20 to 50 million Americans routinely, albeit illegally, smoke marijuana without the benefit of direct medical supervision. Yet, despite this long history of use and the extraordinarily high numbers of social smokers, there are simply no credible reports to suggest that consuming marijuana has caused a single death. By contrast, aspirin, a commonly used, over-the-counter medicine, causes hundreds of deaths each year. -- DEA Administrative Law Judge Francis L. Young