There are a lot of people that are on the fence about marijuana reform that would be swayed to the ‘pro side’ if they heard the religious community come out in support of reform. That’s why I was so pleased to read a guest column by a pastor in support of marijuana reform. The pastor is Rev. M. William Howard Jr.. Mr. Howard is a pastor at Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, and a former chairman of the Rutgers Board of Governors. Below are some excerpts:
Nowhere are these policy failures more evident than in our existing marijuana laws. More than 22,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010, and in shockingly racially disproportionate numbers. Despite the fact that people of all races use marijuana at roughly equal rates, blacks are nearly three times more likely to be arrested for doing so in our state.
Furthermore, our state’s war on marijuana is waged against people of color at the taxpayers’ expense. In 2010, New Jersey wasted more than $125 million enforcing these unfair, apparently racially biased and ineffective marijuana laws. Considering that nearly half the arrests made were for simple possession as opposed to large-scale trafficking or distribution, this is hardly the most effective use of our limited fiscal and law enforcement resources.
Whether you are religious or not, I think you can recognize the significance of such words from such a source to many people. How many people within Rev. M. William Howard Jr.’s congregation were swayed by this moving article? How many beyond his congregation? Why aren’t all religious leaders getting on board with reform? They don’t have to smoke marijuana to know that prohibition has failed, and ruins lives.
I hope campaigns will involve the religious community more. Colorado did it, and I hope Oregon does it. Setting your personal beliefs aside, looking at this objectively, I think everyone can recognize that articles like Rev. Howard’s are good for marijuana legalization efforts.