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‘A purpose to everything under the sun, including marijuana’

By Steve Rabey/Religion News Service
On March 21, 2016

Four years ago, an evangelical Christian family entered Colorado’s booming medical marijuana marketplace and developed an extract called Charlotte’s Web.

The Stanley brothers, all six of whom attended Colorado Springs Christian School, saw God’s hand at work when some local parents found that giving the dark oil to their epileptic children ended their violent seizures.

“That’s when it really sank in,” said Joel Stanley, the eldest of the brothers. “This is not a fluke. This is not going away. There is a purpose to everything under the sun, including the marijuana plant.”

Word got out, and over the next year and a half, more than 500 families relocated to Colorado. These “medical refugees” strained family bonds and budgets to give their kids Charlotte’s Web, not available legally in many states.

As the successes mounted, said Stanley, “it was a transformation for me, and I was angry that I had been told marijuana was evil and of no medical benefit. At that point, it was very easy for me to reconcile marijuana with my Christian faith.”

The Stanleys, along with two of the initial parents, Paige Figi and Heather Jackson, founded a nonprofit called Realm of Caring to help the relocated families. Most of Realm’s $600,000-plus annual budget is funded with profits from the family business, CW Botanicals.

Jackson, who said her Christian faith is everything to her, talked to her minister as she wrestled with the morality of marijuana.

“I’m a byproduct of the 1980s and ‘Just Say No,’ so I grew up thinking this was evil,” she said.

Stacey Mobley, minister of the church of Christ of Colorado Springs, an independent, Bible-based congregation, said members support Jackson’s work.

“God made the plant, and said in Genesis 1:31 that everything he made was very good,” said Mobley, who opposes recreational marijuana. “We are firsthand witnesses of its benefits in the providential healing of Zaki, and I believe Heather is driven by obligation because she is a Christian to do good to all.”

Their initial victory came in Utah, home to some of the nation’s most restrictive alcohol laws. Jackson quickly won over the Legislature’s conservative caucus, and the two moms worked with parents of epileptic children and supporters of medical marijuana to pressure politicians. Charlee’s Law, named after a Utah child with epilepsy, was signed into law in March 2014, a century after the state outlawed marijuana.

“This was our first indication that we can actually do this,” said Jackson, a churchgoing Christian who will speak this April at Q, a national conference in Denver designed to help Christian leaders address contemporary culture.

Federal drug laws dating to the Nixon administration group marijuana with other Schedule I drugs such as heroin and LSD that have “a high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical use.”

Charlotte’s Web doesn’t make patients “high.” It’s low in THC, the psychoactive ingredient that gives pot its buzz, but is high in CBD, which has healing properties. The needed CBD can be extracted from hemp, marijuana’s non-druggy industrial cousin, so Peake has introduced legislation to allow Georgia to grow hemp.

Many Protestant groups, including mainline Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Episcopalians, support some form of medical marijuana, but most evangelicals remain pot prohibitionists, like their anti-alcohol ancestors of a century ago.

Colorado’s medical marijuana moms now aim to change federal law. Last May, U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, introduced the Coalition for Access Now’s Therapeutic Hemp Medical Access Act of 2015 in the U.S. Senate. Senate bill 1333 has already attracted dozens of co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle.

“We’re not promoting recreational marijuana,” said Paige Figi. “We’re trying to fix a mistake in our laws. This is how the American system of government works.”

Meanwhile, new medical refugees keep arriving. Danette Bussey and daughter Alexa recently visited Realm of Caring from New Jersey, where medical marijuana is available, but not CBD oil.

“Our doctor told us our best hope is to go to Colorado,” said Bussey.

Steve Rabey is a contributor to RNS.

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