Commentary by Mackenzie Draper | FāVS News
In 2017, I tried my first edible. I was with a friend in Portland, and they offered me one as we made dinner together. In what I saw as an act of rebellion and defiance of my conservative evangelical upbringing, I agreed, chewing the fruity gummy with an equal mix of excitement and anxiety.
While we had originally planned on going out that evening, my friend and I ended up staying in, wrapped up in blankets and staring, stoned, at a YouTube compilation of makeup tutorials.
When I woke up the next morning, I asked my friend, “Is that it?” I was slightly disappointed that my act of rebellion was a drug that made me go to bed early and sleep better than I had in years.
Still, it was a positive experience, and I felt somehow freer having discovered that something so off-limits was so banal.
Would My Parents Find Out?
Even though I had a nice time, I was still so anxious that my parents would find out. I was still living at home, and I spent a majority of my drive back to Spokane wondering if my mom was going to smell it on me, like parents did when teens came home from parties on TV. (I was neither a teen nor coming home from a party, and, if you recall from the first paragraph, I didn’t smoke.) I feared my family’s reactions and vowed not to say anything about the edible unless asked directly.
I needn’t have worried. I told them about the other parts of my trip to Portland, about how my friend was doing, and especially about our journey to Powell’s. I was always a good kid and a good, if annoying, teenager, so in my young adulthood my parents never thought to ask, “Did you consume marijuana over the weekend?”
Marijuana for Pain Management
In recent years, I’ve started consuming edibles for pain management. I’ve dealt with painful periods ever since I started having them, and weed has been a powerful tool in my arsenal to keep my chronic pain in check.
After struggling every month for over ten years, I was finally diagnosed with endometriosis this year. Now I’m able to access certain medications that are supposed to target and minimize my pain, but over the past few years, edibles have been the best medicine.
The Conservative Pushback
I’ve often wondered about the conservative pushback against marijuana since I first tried it. In 2012, Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. At the time I was in high school and had no strong opinion about it. Every year it seems more and more attitudes are changing in favor of legal marijuana, including mine.
Yet there is still a loud contingent of religious conservatives who believe consuming marijuana is sinful, and a large portion of those believe it should never have been decriminalized in the first place.
I decided to research the topic and find out two things: 1) have attitudes toward cannabis softened since 2012 on a population level, and 2) have conservative Christians’ attitudes softened too?
A 2011 Pew Research survey showed that American adults were evenly split on the issue. Those under 30 favored legalization by a slight margin, 54% to 46%.
However, in the intervening years since Washington and Colorado led the charge to legalize marijuana, the policy change has become very popular. According to a November 2022 Pew Research Center article, more than 88% of American adults believe that using marijuana should be legal either recreationally or medically, compared with only one in ten adults who stated cannabis should be illegal in all contexts.
While the breakdowns of these percentages change slightly based on age, political affiliation and ethnicity, I was eager to see how they might change or stay the same when taking religious affiliation into consideration.
I believed conservative religious groups, like evangelical Protestants and Catholics, would have low approval ratings for the use of recreational and/or medical marijuana from 2012 to now.
Indeed, the Public Religion Research Institute showed in 2013 that half of religious young adults (18-29) favored legalizing marijuana, compared with their elders (65 and older) at 22%.
The same survey found that white evangelical Protestants “are the only group in which a majority (58%) believe that new laws do indeed represent the ‘moral decline of America.’”
Yet I was surprised to learn that in a 2021 Pew Research Center survey, 44% of white evangelical Protestants supported legalizing cannabis for both medical and recreational use, and 43% supported legalization for medical use. Only 14% said it should not be legalized for any reason. Catholics had a very similar statistical breakdown, and no other religiously affiliated demographic showed levels as low as these.
So, what now?
I won’t be indulging with my parents or many of my Christian friends in the near future, but it is interesting to know that attitudes have shifted so drastically in the ten or so years since cannabis was legalized. Those of us who do partake can lift a blunt or a gummy and toast the winds of change.