To be fair, there are small pockets of church leadership that recognize the problems the drug war has caused in the black community. Pastor Carl Livingston of Kingdom Christian Center in Columbia City, Wash., was cited in a story at the Stranger as a proponent of Proposition 502, which seeks to regulate and tax marijuana in Washington state.
He believes that the laws are causing the problems, even for people who are not involved in the dope game. “They wouldn’t be in prison if it weren’t for these policies of prohibition,” he said. “And we talk about the deaths, the funerals they have in their churches because of the drug trade.”
But Livingston’s voice is one of the few. Many more are needed to join his and Robertson’s in delineating how, at the very least, marijuana laws are affecting America and how detrimental they are to the black community.
In fact, in 2010 African-American clergy in Sacramento attacked Alice Huffman, president of the California NAACP, for supporting the relaxation of marijuana laws in that state, calling for her resignation. They insisted that she was supporting all that was evil about drugs and “allowing drug pushers” into the black community. News flash: Drug pushers have been in the black community for generations. Apparently the only ones that haven’t noticed are the churches.
If the civil rights leadership of the mid-20th century — a group consisting largely of black clergy — could stand up to discrimination and disenfranchisement when it came to our community, then why can’t this new generation of preachers and evangelists, who tout themselves as “spiritual leaders,” make a stand against ill-conceived policies that are equally detrimental?
Now, to clarify, this is not to advocate using or selling drugs or to support the illegal drug business at all. Heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine all kill. And even though nobody has ever died of a ganja overdose, no one has proved that the plant is healthy, either. Its use as a non-recreational drug has been primarily medicinal.
But if medical marijuana were legalized — or if marijuana were at least decriminalized, sold through regulated entities and taxed properly — then that would eliminate the weed dealer on the corner selling it out of his car. It would stop people eager to make a buck by putting it in the streets, because there would be no profit in it. Most important, it would greatly reduce the number of people in jail because they were in possession of a simple plant that would be as expensive as parsley if it were legal.
Robertson, despite the crazy things he says, is smart enough to realize this. Maybe it’s time for the people who black folks listen to the most — their preachers — to do the same.
Madison Gray is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based writer and Web journalist. Follow him on Twitter.