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Unitarians Say All Drug Use Should Be Legal

Discussion in 'Marijuana News from The USA' started by Superjoint, Jul 3, 2002.

  1. By Jay Lindsay, Associated Press
    Source: Gloucester Daily Times

    Drug use of any kind should be legal, according to the Unitarian Universalist Association, the first religious denomination to take the stance, church officials said.
    The "Statement of Conscience" passed at the Boston-based association's general assembly proposes legalizing marijuana and making all currently illegal drugs available with a prescription.

    The statement said the federal government's costly drug war is cruel and ineffective, and disproportionately affects the poor and minorities. It added that drug use is widely misunderstood.

    "Drug use is erroneously perceived as behavior that is out of control and harmful to others," the statement reads. "... Yet many people who use both legal and illegal drugs live productive, functional lives and do no harm to society."

    The statement was approved Saturday by two-thirds of the roughly 1,700 delegates at the General Assembly in Quebec, which wrapped up earlier this week.

    While the statement may appear fairly radical, Rev. Dr. Anita Farber-Robertson, pastor of the Rockport Unitarian Universalist Church, points to many practical considerations that went into the decision.

    "The philosophy behind the statement is twofold," said Farber-Robertson.

    "By decriminalizing drug use, it takes the power out of organized crime and away from the power brokers who are not accountable," she said, referring to groups known for drug trafficking. "This is an attempt to disempower that whole covert infrastructure."

    Farber-Robertson also said the statement is meant to call attention to how society allocates its resources in fighting crime.

    A lot of people are put in jail for drug offenses that are essentially victimless crimes, she said.

    "If someone wants to sit in their home and smoke a little reefer, it doesn't hurt anyone," she said. "There are more serious issues."

    Farber-Robertson also said church members believe some drugs that are used to alleviate pain for certain illness should be available for people. She gave the example of cancer patients who sometimes use marijuana to combat the side effects of chemotherapy.

    Charles Thomas, the head of Unitarian Universalists for Drug Policy Reform, said the statement reinforces the denomination's basic theological tenets, which stress compassion and justice.

    He said drug abuse would be better seen as a medical problem, rather than a crime, and addicts would respond to "the transforming power of love," much better than incarceration.

    "Ideally, people will not use drugs," he said. "We're not pro-drug. We're pro-choice on drugs, pro-honesty."

    Robert Maginnis of the Family Research Council, a Christian public policy group, said the statement is well-intentioned, but misguided because it ignores the fact that drugs are harmful, whether they're legal or not.

    "We don't want to make it easier for people to use drugs, we want to make it more difficult because of what they do to themselves," he said. "It's not the illegality of drugs that's at fault. Drugs are just bad for you."

    The small, liberal denomination, with about 150,000 members nationwide, has a traditionally bucked the mainstream on social issues. Gloucester is the American birthplace of the Universalist branch of the denomination, founded in the late 1770s by John Murray.

    Robert Fuller, a religion professor at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., said the Universalists advocated abolition, women's suffrage, and gay rights years before other liberal denominations followed suit.

    "History tends to be on their side," he said.

    But Fuller said the denomination's statement is unlikely to wield much theological influence on other denominations since it's seen as a far left group that largely rejected religious doctrine in favor of social justice issues.

    Thomas said the Universalists' statement can spark growth, both in the denomination, and in a much-needed religious component of the opposition to the drug war.

    Staff writer Barbara Taormina contributed to this report.

    Note: Unitarians open new front in war on drugs.

    Complete Title: Unitarian Universalists Say All Drug Use Should Be Legal

    Source: Gloucester Daily Times (MA)
    Author: Jay Lindsay, Associated Press
    Published: June 29-30, 2002
    Copyright: 2002 Essex County Newspapers, Incorporated.
    Contact: mfine@ecnnews.com
    Website: http://www.gloucestertimes.com/

    Related Articles & Web Site:

    Unitarian Universalist Association
  2. Thought you might be interested in this exchange of emails between me and Charles Thomas.

    RMaryJaneL@aol.com wrote:

    I merely sent an email to get information on your efforts in drug reform. I have questions as to why you would want ALL illegal drugs legalized. I think that if your cause supports the legality of heroin, MDMA, meth and some others then you are only hindering the possible legalization of marijuana. You are asking for too much too soon and if the above is true of your cause then you aren't at all considering the consequences of what you want to be, heroin by prescription. I live in a state that has healthcare that pays for 100% of prescription drugs and people are on the streets and in their homes selling their meds for damn good money. Imagine how many people would be shooting up because the supply of heroin would be unreal. It can't be controlled now because doc's give out scripts like candy.

    Please give me details as to your plans.

    Greetings! I received your e-mail of a few weeks ago, and I've been meaning to reply. However, I've been swamped with e-mail from nearly 100 other UUs and a plethora of other work, so I apologize for the delay.
    In a nutshell, UUDPR will be focusing our organizing efforts only on the issues that have a reasonable chance of making progress in the immediate future -- e.g., medical marijuana, needle exchange, treatment instead of incarceration, effective drug education, ending racial disparities in sentencing, etc. Even marijuana "legalization" is a stretch, except for in Nevada, where a marijuana legalization initiative will be on the ballot in November.

    As for other drugs, I do not support "legalization" (i.e., like alcohol), and neither does the Statement of Conscience (SOC). There's a big difference between legalization and the decriminalization/medicalization that is recommended in the SOC. I will explain in more detail ASAP, but for now, please trust that there is no chance that all drugs will be legalized -- or even decriminalized/medicalized -- in the near future as a result of the Statement . . . or of UUDPR's efforts.

    UUDPR may occasionally push the envelope of the public debate by mentioning the SOC and the success that decrim/medicalization have been having in various other countries, but most of our actual advocacy efforts will be on the issues that you (and large segments of the general public) already agree with.

    I encourage you to stay on our e-mail list to see what I mean, and I would greatly appreciate if you would patiently wait for my to give a more thorough replay to your personal e-mails.

    Thank you very much for your interest, time and consideration.

    All the best,



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