By Peyton Majors
Christian Action League
October 14, 2022
Pro-family leaders in North Carolina are encouraging state legislators to fully study the ramifications of marijuana de-criminalization in light of a proposal by Gov. Roy Cooper that leaders say could increase marijuana addiction while endangering public safety.
The Democratic governor this month said he supports President Biden’s pardoning of those who were convicted of federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana. Cooper also ordered a review to determine if similar action is possible on the state level.
Cooper urged state legislators to take action on the issue.
“The President’s actions are in line with North Carolina’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice I appointed that recommended decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana,” Cooper said. “While the General Assembly has not yet acted on this, I believe it should. We need to end this stigma that can keep people from getting jobs and make sure law enforcement keeps its focus on fighting violent crime, drug traffickers and other threats to safe communities.”
Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, said legislators must walk a fine line between displaying compassion for low-level users while not encouraging marijuana usage.
“I think the Christian Action League understands the value of debating appropriate sanctions for low-level uses of marijuana,” Creech said. “However, at the heart of effective drug policy is an approach that discourages drug use.”
A 2014 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institutes of Health found that 9 percent of marijuana users will become addicted — with that number jumping to 17 percent among teen users. Upwards of 50 percent of daily users will become addicted, the study said.
The study found that even short-term use of marijuana can lead to impaired short-term memory, altered judgment and impaired motor coordination, thus interfering “with driving skills and increasing the risk of injuries.”
Long-term use, the study found, can alter brain development and lead to lower IQs among those who used marijuana during their teen years. Long-term users also are more likely to drop out of school, the study found.
Biden on Oct. 6 announced a pardon for “all prior federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana” and urged governors to do the same with regard to state offenses. Too many Americans, Biden said, have criminal records for marijuana possession that have “imposed needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities.”
“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said.
The president also asked the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to review how marijuana is classified under federal law. Currently, it’s classified as a “schedule 1” drug — the same classification used for heroin and LSD. The schedule 1 classification is an “even higher” classification than “fentanyl and methamphetamine — the drugs that are driving our overdose epidemic,” Biden said.
“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” Biden said.
There is an important difference, Creech said, between decriminalization and legalization. In decriminalization, governments loosen or altogether remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession. Often, penalties are replaced with civil fines — similar to getting a speeding ticket. Legalization involves the total abolishment of penalties and fines in favor of the regulation and taxing of marijuana in the same way that alcohol and tobacco sales are governed.
“I don’t believe we need to legalize the possession of a small quantity,” Creech said. “To do so seemingly allows users to buy what dealers are forbidden to sell. This presents a logical problem that may create a practical problem of increasing demand, resulting in more customers for criminal enterprises, more dealer-related violence, and possibly more incarceration.”
Creech said he agrees that the government should not be “sending first-time users and non-violent offenders off to jail and saddling them with lifelong criminal records.” But “we can still hold the line by keeping the possession of any amount of marijuana illegal and lowering the penalties for first-time users and non-violent offenders, but pair the lower penalties with a higher mandatory emphasis on prevention, treatment, drugged driving enforcement, pre-trial diversion programs, and merit-based expungement.”
A serious public information campaign is needed, he said, to warn youth and adults alike “about the grave dangers involved in marijuana use – just like our efforts against tobacco which have been very successful.”
“Governor Cooper talks about removing ‘this stigma,’” Creech said. “If our drug policy is going to be effective, then this harmful drug needs to continue carrying something of a stigma for wrongdoing. Marijuana use negatively impacts not only the individual who uses it but much of society on several levels.”
Franklin Graham, the president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, said society should oppose the legalization of drugs.
“Some politicians are supporting the legalization of drugs,” Graham said in a Facebook post that accompanied a story about Cooper’s position. “I can’t see how society benefits from this — I only see more harm done to communities and families. I pray that voters will turn their backs on politicians who want to drag our country into the drug pit. It is also concerning that many of these same politicians support defunding the police and open borders that are allowing deadly illegal drugs to pour in. Pray that God will open the eyes of the American people to what is happening to our country.”