PHOENIX - A handful of religious clergy leaders is stepping forward to endorse Arizona’s Proposition 205 legalizing recreational marijuana, while a larger alliance of church organizations remains strongly opposed.
Seven local clergy leaders from varying faiths recently signed a letter endorsing Prop 205, citing incarceration rates and public costs associated with current marijuana laws. Prop 205 would cause marijuana to be regulated like alcohol and tobacco.
“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,” the letter states.
Dr. Shmuly Yanklowitz, a Valley Jewish Rabbi, is one of the leaders who signed the endorsement.
"I believe God stands in solidarity for those who are suffering and today we see a racial injustice which is insuring minorities are suffering based on an unjust law," Yanklowitz said.
A larger contingency of religious leaders opposes the proposal, citing public health concerns and statistics in Colorado that suggest youth are more likely to be exposed to marijuana and edibles where the drug is legal. Colorado legalized recreational marijuana in 2012 and one recent study suggests a higher percentage of teens use marijuana in the state than anywhere else nationwide.
"Clearly this issue is going to affect our children and our schools," said Pastor Larrie Fraley of Christ's Church of the Valley in Glendale. “When you have the governor of Colorado warning you, saying look what this is doing to our community and to our schools, it is sending a message that people need to educate themselves.”
Leaders at CCV are joined by other non-denominational church leaders, as well as the Arizona Catholic Conference Bishops and the LDS Mormon Church in opposition of Prop 205.
A letter from LDS leadership to church members this month stated, “Dangers of marijuana to public health and safety are well documented. Recent studies have shed light particularly on the risks marijuana use poses to brain development in youth. The accessibility of recreational marijuana in the home is also a danger to children.”