At time of writing, the Texas legislature is considering a bill that would take steps toward decriminalizing possession of marijuana. If the bill passes, those caught with less than an ounce would have to pay a $500 fine instead of being arrested and incarcerated. I want to express my support for this bill from a theological perspective. In fact, I believe that no one should be criminalized at all for mere possession. To be clear, I make this argument having never smoked or inhaled marijuana. First, at creation, God declared good all that he created (Genesis 1). Similarly, in Acts, God spoke to Peter, saying: “what God has made clean, do not call profane” (Acts 10:15). God has declared all of creation good and clean. I believe, therefore, that marijuana as a naturally growing herb, has an intrinsic goodness. The criminalization of mere possession is inconsistent with a biblical theology of creation.
However, what is good can be used toward harmful and even evil ends. Given this, I believe criminalization should focus more on how marijuana is used. Like many other things in creation, this plant can be used harmfully, neutrally, or even for good purposes, as in medical marijuana. The law should determine the parameters that would define a proper or legal use, and what would constitute an illegal one, while eradicating mere possession as a crime. The law has already done this with alcohol. As far as I know, no adult is criminalized in the state of Texas for mere possession of alcohol, but only for consuming it in a way that is inconsistent with the laws of the state.
It has also been argued that criminalizing the possession of marijuana is a smoke screen for a deeper “crime”: being black in America. Statistically speaking, those who are arrested and given substantial jail time for possession charges are overwhelming persons of color. This is a problem. It is a social, economic, political, and even theological problem. Perhaps if this bill passes, it would save tax payer dollars in the long run, and the scales of justice will become more equal. My colleague, Jayson Galler, will offer a different perspective on this legislation next week. Stay tuned!
(Rev. Will Wilson is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Kilgore. Contact him at email@example.com)