Attitudes about “legalizing marijuana for adult use”... 

Almost half of all Protestant ministers support

legalizing marijuana for medical use

(Original release date:  September 13, 2000)  A nationwide study conducted by Grey Matter Research among a representative sample of over 500 Protestant church pastors asked ministers whether marijuana should be legalized for adult use.  It’s probably no surprise that eight out of ten ministers strongly oppose legalizing marijuana, and another 12% somewhat oppose this idea.

 

What may be a surprise to many people is that just 31% of all ministers strongly oppose “legalizing marijuana only for medical use, when prescribed by a medical doctor.”  In fact, 44% of all ministers support legalizing medical marijuana.

 

In the study, ministers were asked whether they support or oppose changes to the status quo concerning a number of controversial social and political topics, such as school vouchers, abortion, and capital punishment.  When asked whether they support or oppose “legalizing marijuana for adult use,” 3% of all pastors express strong support, 5% somewhat support it, 12% somewhat oppose it, and 80% strongly oppose it.

 

Although most pastors are strongly opposed to legalizing marijuana overall, there are some groups who show particularly strong opposition.  While younger people are sometimes viewed as having a more free attitude towards legalizing marijuana, this is certainly not true among pastors:  12% of the pastors age 60 or older support legalizing it, compared to 9% of ministers age 45 to 59, and just 4% of pastors under the age of 45.  And while the western United States is often portrayed as having a more relaxed attitude toward marijuana, just 7% of western ministers support legalizing marijuana, compared to 12% in the northeastern U.S.

 

Three percent of the pastors from churches which are members of the conservative National Association of Evangelicals want marijuana legalized.  Among churches from congregations with membership in the mainline National Council of Churches, 16% support this position.

 

Not surprisingly, pastors are often split along political lines.  Among registered Democrats, 18% support legalizing marijuana, compared to 9% of independents, and 4% of Republicans.

 

Even among ministers who describe themselves as political liberals, just 30% think marijuana should be legalized for adult use.  And while this is far higher than among self-described moderates (6%) or conservatives (5%), it still shows that the vast majority of ministers oppose legalizing marijuana overall.

 

The situation changes considerably, however, when the concept of medical marijuana is introduced.  When asked whether they support or oppose the idea of “legalizing marijuana only for medical use, when prescribed by a medical doctor,” 11% strongly support this position, 33% somewhat support it, 25% somewhat oppose it, and 31% strongly oppose it.

 

Many of the groups that have a greater propensity for supporting legalized marijuana in general also show a higher level of support for legalized medical marijuana.  While 36% of the youngest ministers support legalizing medical marijuana, this is supported by 48% of the ministers age 45 to 59, and by half of all older ministers.  Support for legalized medical marijuana is strongest in the Northeast (56%), compared to 48% in the South, 43% in the Midwest, and just 34% in the West.

 

Among churches from denominations in the National Association of Evangelicals, 31% want medical marijuana legalized.  Support is considerably stronger within the National Council of Churches (67%).

 

Again, responses vary considerably along political lines.  Seventy-four percent of all Democrats support legalized medical marijuana, compared to 53% of independents, and 32% of Republicans.  Self-described political liberals are fairly united in their support for this cause, as 92% call for legalizing medical marijuana.  Among moderates, 51% support this, along with 30% of the self-described political conservatives.

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, suggested that the medical issue may have created a real struggle for many ministers.  “Eight out of ten pastors don’t want marijuana legalized in general,” Sellers said.  “But when the medical issue is introduced, almost six out of ten ministers did not take a strong position, suggesting some conflicting feelings on the issue.  Many ministers may be trying to balance a strong anti-drug position with compassion for people who have medical problems.”

Sellers also pointed out that the lack of strong feelings on this issue also suggests many pastors could change their minds if presented with persuasive arguments or evidence regarding the positive or negative impact of medical marijuana use.  “The number of ministers who ‘somewhat support’ or ‘somewhat oppose’ this issue also suggests that most of them aren’t going to be highly vocal supporters or critics on this topic, particularly if they aren’t yet completely sure how they really feel about it,” Sellers added.

 

And while the amount of support medical marijuana receives among traditionally conservative elements (such as Republicans, political conservatives, and members of the National Association of Evangelicals) may be surprising to many, Sellers was quick to note that few conservatives strongly support the cause.  For instance, while 32% of Republicans support legalizing medical marijuana, only 6% feel this way strongly, with the rest expressing only lukewarm support.

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, AZ.  Although Grey Matter Research has numerous clients, this study was funded and conducted independently by the company.  The sample of 518 Protestant ministers included only those who were actively pastoring churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±4.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level with a 50% response distribution.  The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure accuracy.

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Attitudes about “Legalizing marijuana only for medical use, when prescribed by a doctor”:... 

 

Type of Pastor/Church

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

All Protestant ministers

3%

5%

12%

80%

Under age 45

2

2

12

84

Age 45 – 59

3

6

12

79

Age 60 or older

5

7

11

78

Northeast U.S. location

7

6

9

78

Midwest U.S. location

2

6

14

78

Southern U.S. location

4

3

10

84

Western U.S. location

2

5

12

81

Democrats

7

10

19

64

Independents

2

7

17

74

Republicans

1

2

8

88

Self-described political liberals

10

20

39

31

Self-described political moderates

2

4

15

79

Self-described political conservatives

3

2

4

92

From an NAE-member denomination

1

2

4

93

From an NCC-member denomination

7

9

19

65

 

Type of Pastor/Church

Strongly Support

Somewhat Support

Somewhat Oppose

Strongly Oppose

All Protestant ministers

11%

33%

25%

31%

Under age 45

7

29

31

33

Age 45 – 59

12

37

23

29

Age 60 or older

16

35

18

32

Northeast U.S. location

18

38

20

24

Midwest U.S. location

10

32

26

32

Southern U.S. location

10

38

25

27

Western U.S. location

9

25

26

41

Democrats

22

51

12

14

Independents

12

42

25

20

Republicans

6

26

28

40

Self-described political liberals

29

63

7

1

Self-described political moderates

9

42

26

22

Self-described political conservatives

7

22

28

43

From an NAE-member denomination

8

23

28

41

From an NCC-member denomination

16

50

16

17