a guest-post by Shane McCormick
How many religious leaders in 2018 support legalizing cannabis? Very few, but here is my take-away after an interview with one who does.
I was inspired to conduct an interview with Reverend Capo after reading an article in the Chicago Tribune in which he was quoted as being in support of the legalization of the use of marijuana. The purpose of the interview was to educate myself and others about the fight for the legalization of cannabis and marijuana use.
While the reverend is a supporter of recreational marijuana and has never seen or heard anyone becoming addicted, he stated he would not support legalization if there aren’t mechanisms in place to help people that might become addicted. “Recreational use is a personal choice and we should be aware of the risks and consequences,” he said. He also stressed common sense and personal responsibility when using cannabis.
Beyond recreational use, Reverend Capo’s primary focus for the legalization of cannabis use is on the medicinal side. In order for that to happen, the United States government will have to remove cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. If or when the government does this, it will enable businesses, corporations, and universities, to study cannabis and its uses and effects more in-depth. He indicated he was upset with the recent Attorney General Jeffrey Sessions’ decision to renew the “war on drugs,” as he believes it will hinder various research efforts.
We live in a society that has evolved faster than the rules and regulations of the government. Reverend Capo believes sensible regulations surrounding the usage and study of cannabis is paramount. He inferred responsible regulation permitting the sale, consumption, and usage of marijuana is key.
While the government has allowed hobbyist homebrewers to produce their own beer; the same government hasn’t allowed individuals to grow their own cannabis. Reverend Capo seemed befuddled by the government hypocrisy surrounding this issue. However, this is starting to change with the passage of laws allowing individuals in states to produce their own. While eight states and the District of Columbia have adopted the most liberal laws legalizing cannabis for recreational use, Washington State is the only state that doesn’t allow recreational home-grows. Legalization is being bandied about that would require residents to register with the Liquor and Cannabis Board (LCB) if they want to grow their own cannabis. Many activists champion this stance: “It’s about moving the ball forward,” said Kevin Oliver, executive director of Washington NORML, the state’s largest marijuana consumer group.
While activists champion home grows, other supporters are upset about the many rules and restrictions surrounding the issue. For example, adults can only grow up to four plants and would have to register with the LCB which has all sorts of regulatory bureaucratic power. Law enforcement is skeptical because of the challenges enforcing home growing laws and the potential to sell untested product on the black market to unsuspecting customers, including children.
During our conversation, reverend Capo and I talked about the black market. I asked him “do you believe cannabis legalization will help get rid of the black market?” His response was simple: “It does reduce but doesn’t eradicate.” As time moves forward I believe we’ll see local governments and activists come to loggerheads with each other regarding home grow laws, but according to Capo, when cannabis is removed from being classified as a Schedule I substance you’ll start to see responsible regulation of cannabis.
There’s been anecdotal evidence of claims of people using cannabis to help cure ailments and even certain cancers, but these efforts could be stymied by the recent Attorney General’s “war on drugs.” The reverend expressed displeasure with the Attorney General Sessions saying, “he put a kibosh on marijuana.” He feels that Attorney General Sessions’ recent efforts are attempting to roll back the progress cannabis legislation has made in the past decade, but that it’s important to devote time and attention studying cannabis for the health benefits the plant might have.
The Israelis have been analyzing cannabis for forty years and have made many medical breakthroughs. “Scientists at the NIH believe these compounds could alleviate dozens of illnesses, including schizophrenia, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis, to name a few. The revelation of this endogenous cannabinoid system essentially legitimized the study of a substance previously on the margins of scientific research,” he said. The solution is to identify the exact chemical composition of different strains of cannabis. By systematically applying these strains to different cancer cell samples, he has been able to determine which strains of cannabis kill specific cancer cells.
The mechanism is similar to chemotherapy. One of the defining characteristics of cancer cells is their inability to ‘die’ like normal cells. The natural process of self-destruction, termed apoptosis, is not occurring; as a result, the cancer cells spread and invade other parts of the body. What cannabis has the potential to do, according to some researchers, is the potential to prompt cancer cells to function like healthy ones.
We have some of the smartest scientists throughout the world coming to the United States. Imagine applying American ingenuity and creativeness to the cannabis marketplace and what treatments and cures we can find for diseases and ailments? Imagine how private industry can help improve the lives of American people– cannabis legalization is something worth fighting over. The value is immeasurable because the health benefits are too great to ignore.
His progressive stand on legalization isn’t a popular one amongst his fellow religious leaders, but you have to give him credit for going where very few religious leaders have gone.