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Arizona Religious Leaders Urge Arizonans to Vote ‘Yes’ on Prop 205

Church Marijuana

A group of Arizona religious leaders is urging Arizonans to vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 205, citing a “moral obligation to support change” because current marijuana laws “cause significant harm to individuals, families, and society.”

In an open letter to Arizonans, these Arizona clergy members – representing various faith backgrounds – explain why they support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The letter reads:

We are clergy in Arizona united in our support of Proposition 205. This measure will regulate, tax, and control marijuana like alcohol. It will limit legal use to adults 21 years of age or older and generate tens of millions of dollars for public schools and education programs annually.

As clergy, we have the responsibility and the credibility to talk about what policies serve our community best. One does not have to use marijuana – or even approve of marijuana – to see that our current laws are not working, nor are they, in our view, just.

In Arizona, taxpayers spend millions of dollars annually to arrest, prosecute, cite and process thousands of people — disproportionately Latinos and African-Americans — for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Over 150,000 adults have been arrested for marijuana possession in Arizona since 2005. These arrests, even when they do not lead to incarceration, ruin lives.

For decades, marijuana prohibition has been inefficient, wasteful, and counterproductive. By all measures, Arizona’s marijuana laws have failed. In addition to the millions of dollars spent on enforcement, our police waste precious time enforcing these policies. This is time that could be directed toward preventing violent crimes. Despite all these efforts, about three-quarters of teenagers in national surveys consistently report that marijuana is “fairly or very easy to get.”

As we seek to teach compassion and love, it seems inconsistent to support, in cases of private personal adult marijuana possession, the use of police, guns, and courts. The faith community, parents, peers, counselors, and educators are the appropriate means to address this kind of personal behavior.

We should work to make our communities safer. Illegal marijuana sales are the foundation for criminal markets that operate in every community in our state. When people, both old and young, seek to purchase marijuana in the underground market, they are often exposed to – and are encouraged to purchase – far more dangerous substances.

We need to break the link between marijuana and more dangerous drugs. And we can do so by shifting sales of marijuana out of the criminal market and into regulated businesses that check ID’s for age and generate tax revenue for needed services.

How we punish people and what we punish them for are central moral questions. If a punishment policy fails to meet its objectives and causes harm to humans, we have a moral obligation to support change. Our laws punishing marijuana use continue to cause significant harm to individuals, families, and society. In response to that harm, we support replacing marijuana prohibition with a system of strict regulation and sensible safeguards.

We urge all voters in Arizona to support Proposition 205.

Rev. Sherman Fort

Senior Pastor, Canaan Missionary Baptist Church

Mesa, AZ

Rev. Terry Sims

Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church of Sunrise

Sunrise, AZ

Rev. Bart Smith

Pastor, St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church

Tucson, AZ

Rev. Warren Stewart, Jr.

Lead Pastor, Church of the Remnant

Phoenix, AZ

Rabbi Dr. Schmuly Yanklowitz

President and Dean, Valley Beit Midrash

Phoenix, AZ

Rev. Jim Wiltbank

Pastor, St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church

Tucson, AZ

Rev. Alexander E. Sharp

Executive Director

Clergy for a New Drug Policy

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