Clergy gathered Sunday night in the nave of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento, but this was no normal Sunday service. Five ministers and church officials from around the state met with a retired police commander, and medical marijuana providers to discuss Proposition 64, the measure to legalize marijuana on the November 8th ballot. Just nine days before election day, the clergy and others made clear that they strongly support ending the war on marijuana that results in thousands of Californians being incarcerated every year, and that they urged all people of faith and conscience to vote “Yes” on Prop. 64.
“People of faith play a unique role in this election cycle, and encourage respectful dialogue that builds community and a hope-filled future for all people,” said Reverend Rick Schlosser of California Council of Churches IMPACT, “Many black and brown lives are destroyed because of incarceration, and this is an opportunity for the faith community to speak to the moral imperative for supporting Proposition 64, and to speak out for the need for broader criminal justice reform.”
The church officials and others agreed that California’s feckless 100-year war on marijuana had failed to reduce use or availability of marijuana, but that criminalization was a cudgel used to attack immigrant and low income communities. That incarceration and cartels were far more damaging to health and safety than marijuana ever could be. That regulation and control was key to protecting communities, especially young people.
Quoting Martin Luther King Jr.’s letter from Birmingham Jail, Rev. Mahsea Evans, a youth pastor from Sacramento’s St. Mark’s Church, said, “Change does not come in on the wheels of inevitability--that you are going to have to fight for it, that you are going to have to advocate for it.” He concluded that pastors as well as voters would have to support the legalization ballot measure, “We as pastors, as people in healing ministries care about our communities, then we must support the passage of Proposition 64.”
The collected clergy made it clear that Prop 64 came as a form of redemption for the state and that it was smarter to tax cannabis production and distribution in order to provide hundreds of millions of dollar in new revenue to vitally needed community programs, including drug and alcohol prevention and treatment for young people, including students, foster kids, homeless youth.
“The war on drugs has failed California,” said Reverend Walter Contreras from Pasadena, and a representative of the 3000 churches of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “Proposition 64 provides the necessary regulation that we need to protect our children, and also to decriminalize our youth.”
Contreras continued: “Proposition 64 will bring forth an incredible answer to the big problem we have with mass incarceration, especially among Latinos.”
Among the participants was a retired police lieutenant turned avid supporter of ending the drug war. Diane Goldstein spent 20 years in law enforcement, including years of anti-narcotics work. She said, “We have abdicated control to criminals and cartels who would do more danger to our children and our communities. So when you vote, look at it as a moral imperative.”
In conclusion, Reverend Dr. Alan Jones, the Pastor of St. Mark’s United Methodist Church in Sacramento said, “Jesus when asked what the bottom line is, said, ‘Love God with all your heart and soul and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.’ And if you do that, you have to find your way into Prop 64. Please vote to support Proposition 64.”
Video excerpts of all speakers will be up online today at: https://www.youtube.com/user/drugpolicyaction
The Rev. Dr. Alan Jones, Pastor St. Mark’s United Methodist Church, Sacramento; President California Council of Churches
The Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs, Executive Director Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity; Pastor Los Angeles Filipino American United Church of Christ, Director California Council of Churches
The Rev. Walter Contreras, Vice President of NaLEC, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Latino Pastor at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Member of CLUE, Clergy United for Economic Justice and La Red de Pastores del Sur de California
Rev. Mahsea Evans, St. Mark’s United Methodist Church Sacramento, The Ignite Institute at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley
The Rev Kevin Kitrell Ross, Senior Minister/Spiritual Director, Unity of Sacramento Dale Sky Jones, Oaksterdam University Executive Chancellor
Diane Goldstein, Lieutenant (Ret.) Redondo Beach Police Department, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
The Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, California Council of Churches/IMPACT
Kendra Lewis, California Council of Churches/IMPACT
California Council of Churches IMPACT (churchimpact.org) represents 1.5 million members within 20 denominations of the mainline, progressive Protestant communities of faith.