More than 60 religious leaders throughout the state are calling for the passage of SB 1381, which would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a physician's recommendation. The Senate must vote on the bill before an April 30 deadline.
Denominations with official positions supporting medical marijuana include the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union for Reform Judaism, Unitarian Universalist Association, Episcopal Church, and United Church of Christ. In addition to clergy from these denominations, medical marijuana supporters in Illinois include clergy from Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, Church of God, and Baptist congregations.
Clergy from these eleven denominations have endorsed the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative's statement of principle reading, "Licensed medical practitioners should not be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill patients, and seriously ill patients should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patients' medical practitioners have told them that such use is likely to be beneficial." A letter featuring the statement signed by over sixty Illinois religious leaders was sent to all members of the state senate. Many of the clergypersons followed up by making phone calls to their senators.
The Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois is also supportive of the measure. "If we are going to continue the War on Drugs, we should at least remove the patients from the battlefield," said Joshua Shapiro, Vice Chairman of the Jewish Political Alliance of Illinois. "Illinois citizens who are seriously ill have enough to worry about without having to look over their shoulder in fear of being arrested for using a medicine that their doctor has recommended."
Similar laws have been enacted in 13 other states. Patients in Illinois suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses who find marijuana to be helpful currently face a terrible choice: Either continue to suffer needlessly or risk arrest and jail.
"Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy and compassion," said the Rev. Bill Pyatt of the First United Methodist Church of Carthage. "It is the job of religious leaders to give voice to those who cannot speak up for themselves. We pray that the Illinois legislature will have the compassion to stop this war on patients."
"With Illinois legislators on both sides of the aisle voting in favor of and sponsoring this legislation, it is clear that this is not a partisan issue - it is a compassion issue," said Charles Thomas, executive director of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, which is coordinating the religious lobbying efforts in Illinois. "We urge Illinois lawmakers to heed this call for compassion and pass this legislation immediately."
Should medical marijuana be federally legalized? See the Opposing Views debate.