The 2012 United States election presented a mother lode of surprises, from the first gay marriage measures approved by popular vote to a ceiling-breaking number of women elected to Congress. It also heralded a new era in access to marijuana, with the legalization of the drug being approved in Colorado and Washington State. While the new laws decriminalize marijuana use for recreational reasons, the Universal Life Church Monastery believes in making marijuana more accessible to terminally ill patients for medicinal reasons.
Colorado was the first state to decriminalize recreational marijuana use in small amounts, with voters approving Amendment 64 53-47 percent. The amendment will modify the state’s constitution to allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess, use, grow, and transfer up to one ounce of cannabis or four cannabis plants at one time, although certain restrictions will be imposed. Although the law will allow recreational use of the drug, which the ULC Monastery does not officially endorse, the bright side for ULC ministers is the fact that those who suffer from chronic pain due to terminal illness will be able to use the drug to relieve that pain.
In addition to Colorado, Washington state voters also passed a measure to legalize small amounts of cannabis for recreational use. In that state, Initiative 502 was approved by an even wider margin, 55-45 percent, and, as in Colorado, adults 21 years of age and older will be able to possess and use an ounce of cannabis. (Washington is now the only U.S. state where both cannabis and same-sex marriage are legal.) Once the measure passed, state prosecutors and police began dropping charges against individuals accused of possessing and using the drug. Although the new Washington law allows for recreational use of the drug, the most important consideration for those who become a minister in the Universal Life Church is the medical aspect–for ordained clergy, alleviating the suffering of the terminally ill is what truly matters.
The law which aligns mostly closely with the church’s philosophy on marijuana use, however, was passed by voters in Massachusetts. Over 60 percent of Massachusetts voters showed their support for Question 6, passing into law a measure which would allow cannabis use by patients with “debilitating medical conditions” and the creation of 35 medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. The Massachusetts law boasts a more humane goal than the laws passed in Washington and Colorado: it focuses on the care and well-being of people with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, hepatitis C, and other conditions.
While the 2012 U.S. election has paved the way for progressive legislation in a number of areas affecting women and minorities, it has also made it a little easier for people with profoundly life-altering medical conditions to seek relief. For the Universal Life Church and its ordained pastors, America’s new cannabis laws are not an excuse to “get high,” but rather a tool to help ease the relentless pain and suffering, within the parameters of the law, of the sick in our communities.