A former Sunday school teacher and 65-year-old grandmother, Carol Francey doesn't fit the typical stereotype of a political activist lobbying for marijuana legalization.
But that's what the retired social worker says is her calling now. Francey lives in British Columbia, a Canadian province where marijuana is widely used but still illegal. Like many healthcare workers throughout the United States, Francey says she's encountered patients with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and cancer who have benefited from the pain-relieving effects of the drug. She's used it herself for myriad ailments, such as migraines, asthma, muscle pains, and depression. It also offers stress relief, she says, as well as benefits related to relaxation, recreation, and "communing with God's nature," she explained in an e-mail. She says it has enhanced her experiences of listening to music and sharing laughter with others.
A decade ago, revealing her stance and advocating for drug legalization would have seemed impossible as a Christian, Francey says. But throughout Canada and the U.S., the cultural climate has started to shift. Since 1996, 20 states and Washington D.C. have passed laws allowing smoked marijuana to be used for medical conditions. In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington State also passed initiatives legalizing recreational use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. Additionally, advocacy groups such as the Marijuana Policy Project are pushing for the drug to be legalized for medicinal and recreational purposes in more than a dozen new states throughout the next few years.
In a 2013 Gallup Poll, 30 percent of American women admitted to having tried marijuana, while 6 percent say they currently smoke it. And for the first time in more than 40 years, results from a 2013 Pew Research Center study indicate that more than half of Americans (52 percent) believe marijuana should be made legal, while 45 percent said it should not. For adults born after 1980, the number in support of legalizing marijuana jumped to 65 percent.
Opinions vary among Christians. While 58 percent of white, mainline Protestants favor legalizing the use of marijuana, only 29 percent of white, evangelical Protestants support the measure, according to a 2013 poll from the Public Religion Research Institute.
Part of the debate centers around how the drug compares with other mind-altering substances. It's not an easy conversation to navigate, because perspectives—even medical ones—often differ.