By "Radical" Russ Belville
What part of "Love thy neighbor as thyself" did you people not understand?
(Huffington Post) Far from signaling a Christian approval of using marijuana, Christian advocacy for decriminalization signals disapproval of the retributive response to drug abuse. Incarceration must be reserved for those who present real threats to the public safety of our communities, not for individuals struggling with addiction and marijuana abuse. As Christians, we already know the compassionate response to addiction is far more successful as a road to healing than the retributive one. Yet each year the prohibition of marijuana sends tens of thousands of youth — disproportionately black youth — into a cycle of incarceration and addiction with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Locking our up neighbors without a way to work towards healthy lives is a fundamental denial of compassion and love. Decriminalizing marijuana closes one pipeline into that cycle and makes it possible for more people to receive meaningful drug treatment. Prop 19 is about more than freeing up jail beds and raising tax revenue; it’s about firmly standing by the value of compassion and refusing to address social problems by locking our neighbors behind bars. Throwing away the lives of young people as a response to smoking marijuana only engenders a far greater sin than drug abuse.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” should not be seen as a personal virtue to be checked at the door of the county courthouse. Christian communities already provide perhaps the nation’s largest network of drug-addiction programs rooted in compassion and love. It’s time they advocated for public policies that align with those same values.