Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jun 2017
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2017 New Haven Register
Author: Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver and Rev. Alexander E. Sharp


As clergy, we write in support of proposals to tax and regulate
marijuana in Connecticut. It may seem counterintuitive for a rabbi and
a minister to adopt this view. We believe, however, that people of
faith have a special responsibility to speak about what policies serve
our communities best.

Of course, we recognize that marijuana should not be used by youth and
can become addictive for some individuals at any age. Given these
realities, our focus must be not to prohibit all use, but to respond
in the most effective way to the possibility of abuse. Regulation and
education - not prohibition - are the best path. We learned this a
long time ago concerning alcohol.

One does not have to use marijuana - or even approve of marijuana - to
see that our current laws are not working. Since the war on drugs was
declared over 45 years ago, more than 25 million Americans have been
arrested for marijuana violations. Even so, there are more than 30
million Americans today consuming marijuana on a regular basis.

We hear concerns that taxing and regulating marijuana would increase
its use. But in the states that have legalized marijuana, arrests have
plummeted, crime has decreased, and youth use has not increased.

Legalization would make our communities safer. Illegal marijuana sales
are the foundation for criminal markets that operate in every
community in our state. They are responsible for much of the violence
that afflicts our urban areas. Marijuana legalization would reduce
crime just as it did when we decided to end our national ill-conceived
prohibition of alcohol.

We need to break the link between marijuana and more dangerous drugs.
And we can do so by shifting sales of marijuana out of the criminal
market and into regulated businesses that check ID's and generate tax
revenue for needed services.

When people, both old and young, seek to purchase marijuana in the
underground market, they are often exposed to - and are encouraged to
purchase - far more dangerous substances. The best way to guard
against adulterated marijuana is to allow the sale of products that
are tested, labeled, and properly packaged.

It is up to our faith communities, families, and friends to persuade
and educate ourselves and our children about drugs. The proposal
before us makes it more likely that we can create and offer education
programs, just as we have nationally with alcohol and cigarettes.

People turn to drugs, for the most part, to ease pain. We must find
ways to respond to our youth and others who need our understanding and
support. The best in our faith traditions call upon us to respond to
individuals in trouble with drugs by engaging them, listening to them,
offering alternatives, and enriching their lives in all reasonable

How we punish people and what we punish them for are moral questions.
If prohibition fails to meet its objectives and causes harm, we have
an obligation to support change. This is why we support the
replacement of marijuana prohibition with a system of strict controls
and sensible safeguards.

We hope that our fellow clergy across the state, and across all
faiths, will join us in calling for the taxation and regulation of
marijuana in Connecticut.

Rabbi Shaul Marshall Praver is founding president of Global Coalition
for Peace and Civility and the Rev. Alexander E. Sharp is executive
director of Clergy for a New Drug Policy
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