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In the 2013 elections, two states legalized the recreational use of marijuana, despite the federal government's laws against it. These political shifts both create and reflect changes in American culture, while positions on the ethical and moral consequences of the personal use of drugs range from enthusiastic support to entrenched resistance. Arguments about these actions have focused on the unequal enforcement of existing laws and discrimination in prosecution of them, as well as on the health—both physical and spiritual—of substantial drug use.

Yet, according to opinion polls, Americans' support for decriminalizing personal drug use is steadily increasing. Many religious leaders have expressed concerns about the anticipated consequences of decriminalization on individuals, families, and society. How should faith communities respond to the growing debate about recreational drug use, and the changing climate around treating drug use as a criminal matter? If the government loosens laws and reduces or abolishes penalties for personal drug use, is it respecting individual liberties, or failing to protect the health and wellbeing of its citizens?

The Patheos Public Square is produced in partnership with Christianity Today and the Progressive Christian Initiative.

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Featured Panelists

Drug Use and Brain Chemistry

Drug Use and Brain Chemistry

Nimue Brown, Pagan blogger, Druid Thoughts

Drugs are only able to change your perceptions because they interact with your brain chemistry. You are part of a process.

Can a Christian Smoke Pot?

Can a Christian Smoke Pot?

David French, Evangelical blogger, The French Revolution

Legality is not morality, and all mind-altering drugs should be considered in the context of purpose, necessity, and effect.

America Goes to Pot

America Goes to Pot

Ben Witherington, Evangelical blogger, The Bible and Culture

One of the clearest signs of a decaying or dying society is its need to run from reality, or medicate that reality just to survive day to day.

A Case Against MaryJane

A Case Against MaryJane

Karen Spears Zacharias, Evangelical blogger

Here are some of the more unpleasant facts about marijuana use.

Marijuana Legalization in Black and White: The Racial Cost of the Status Quo

Marijuana Legalization in Black and White: The Racial Cost of the Status Quo

Tyler Glodjo, Evangelical blogger, Christ and Pop Culture

While opinions vary on legalizing marijuana, let us not be fooled into thinking this isn't a racial justice issue.

Christian Pastor Says Legalize Drugs?

Christian Pastor Says Legalize Drugs?

Roger Wolsey, Progressive Christian blogger, The Holy Kiss

The war on drugs has been lost and it’s partly because of people trying to legislate morality.

Time to Get High?

Time to Get High?

Alan Atchison, Christian blogger, Geek Goes Rogue

We need only look at our culture's prevalent use of alcohol and tobacco as a preview of what's to come.

Condemnation and Criminalization of Drug Use: Bad Policy and Bad Religion

Condemnation and Criminalization of Drug Use: Bad Policy and Bad Religion

Alexander Sharp, Community Renewal Society

If we take seriously the story of Jesus and the woman caught in adultery, we will seek national policies that offer treatment and compassion.

The Larger Complexities of Poverty

The Larger Complexities of Poverty

Natasha Helfer Parker, Mormon blogger, The Mormon Therapist

Let us not ignore the complexities of addiction, shame those who are victim to all types of chronic trauma, and fail to address the underlying issue of poverty.

Drugs and Decriminalizing: Thoughts from (and for) the Pagan Community

Drugs and Decriminalizing: Thoughts from (and for) the Pagan Community

Peg Aloi, Pagan blogger, The Witching Hour

We worship gods and goddesses of the elements, the celestial bodies, the living flora and fauna...why not make a better effort to avail ourselves of the healing powers of Nature's gifts?

Commentary From Our Blogging Community

Addiction Through an LDS Lens

Addiction Through an LDS Lens

Natasha Helfer Parker

Addiction can be a difficult topic to understand. Most of what the scientific community has uncovered about addiction can seem to go against LDS beliefs regarding “free agency.”  [Read More...]

Addiction and the Politics (and Poetics) of Personal Responsibility

Addiction and the Politics (and Poetics) of Personal Responsibility

Eve Tushnet

There’s a narrative that comes up whenever addiction is discussed publicly nowadays: the narrative in which the disease of addiction essentially replaces a person’s free will. [Read More...]

Making Pot Legal

Making Pot Legal

Karen Spears Zacharias

There was a dead child on the floor but that was of little concern to the man pacing. He had pushed a dining room table and chairs up against a hollow-wood door, in a frantic effort to keep out the EMTs and law enforcement officials who had descended on his home like August gnats. [...]

Jailing Is Not Protecting

Jailing Is Not Protecting

John Beckett

It’s one thing to use the power of the law to discourage self-destructive behavior. It’s something very different to spend billions of dollars to throw people in jail because they want to get high.

Drugs: it’s all about the context

Drugs: it’s all about the context

yvonne

Drugs and other mind-altering substances have been used in a sacred context for millennia. It is only when drug use is taken out of this sacramental and communal context that it becomes a vice. If a drug is taken to alter one's consciousness for a sacred purpose - to obtain information or abilities inaccessible to normal consciousness - then it is a rare occurrence, and for a good reason: in the service of one's community.

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