12 June, 2021

Surveys Share Opinions on Morality, Legality of Marijuana by Faith Group

by | 8 June, 2021 | 4 comments


By Kent E. Fillinger

Overall, 43 percent of U.S. adults now live in a place that has legalized the recreational use of marijuana at the local level, according to 2019 population estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Three dozen states have approved some form of a medical marijuana program and 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, have legalized small amounts of marijuana for adult recreational use as of April 2021.

Lifeway Research surveyed Protestant pastors in the fall of 2020 to learn how they viewed the morality and legality of using marijuana. Overall, 78 percent of pastors surveyed strongly or somewhat agreed that it is morally wrong to get high smoking marijuana. Evangelical pastors were more likely than mainline pastors to say it’s morally wrong to get high smoking marijuana (89 percent vs. 47 percent).

Pastors from the Restoration Movement were somewhat in the middle of the spectrum compared to other religious groups on this topic. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of Christian church and church of Christ pastors agreed it was morally wrong to get high smoking marijuana. This trailed Pentecostal and Baptist pastors (97 percent and 92 percent respectively), but was higher than Methodists (66 percent), Lutherans (63 percent), and Presbyterian/Reformed (57 percent).

The same Lifeway study found that 77 percent of pastors overall either strongly or somewhat disagreed that marijuana should be legalized throughout the country for any purpose. Nine in 10 (90 percent) of Evangelical pastors were against legalizing marijuana compared with only 57 percent of mainline pastors.

Among Restoration Movement pastors, 79 percent disagreed with legalizing marijuana for any purpose. Again, this was in the middle of the pack by comparison. Ninety-three percent of Baptist pastors, 90 percent of Pentecostal pastors, and 85 percent of Lutheran pastors disagreed with legalization. About two-thirds of Methodist and Presbyterian pastors (63 percent and 65 percent, respectively) disagreed with legalizing marijuana for any purpose.

An April 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that 60 percent of U.S. adults say that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use. Almost one-third of U.S. adults (31 percent) say that marijuana should be legal for medical use only. Only 8 percent say the drug should not be legal in any form.

From 2000 to 2019, the share of Americans saying marijuana should be legal more than doubled from 31 percent to 67 percent (when not specifying for recreational or medical use).

A May 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that only 44 percent of White Evangelical Protestants say marijuana should be allowed for both medical and recreational use. It should be noted, frequency of worship attendance and prayer and how important someone says religion is to them impacts their views on marijuana.

Only 29 percent of White Evangelicals who say they attend worship services at least weekly favor legal marijuana for both medical and recreational use compared with 64 percent of White Evangelicals who attend church less often. Among people who pray every day, only 46 percent support legalizing marijuana for both medical and recreational use compared with 72 percent of those who pray less often. Finally, 44 percent of those who say religion is “very important” in their lives favor broadly legalizing marijuana compared with 71 percent who say religion is less important.

Despite the high percentage of adults who advocate for the legalization of marijuana, fewer than half (46 percent) of U.S. adults say they have ever used marijuana, according to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. This same survey found that 18 percent of U.S. adults say they have used marijuana over the past year, while only 11 percent say they have used the drug over the past month.

Kent E. Fillinger serves as president of 3:STRANDS Consulting, Indianapolis, Indiana, and regional vice president (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan) with Christian Financial Resources.


  1. Jason Carnley

    Sounds like a significant number of “pastors” can’t comprehend basic Bible teaching on the clear call for mental alertness and the imperative to avoid drunkenness. What’s more, the even stronger condemnation of “Pharmakia.” Recovery teaching should be a basic course at our Bible colleges— a strong stand must be taken. Been preaching for 25 years and I’ve seen the destruction. God is always right!

  2. Michael Mendez

    For me, I favor decriminalizing cannabis in order to defund the narco gangs and the violence that follows them. Just like alcohol prohibition caused a dramatic upturn in violence by organized crime (think Al Capone), the prohibition of cannabis has caused a upturn in violence.

    If we end the prohibition, we can decrease the amount of violence that accompanies it.

  3. Cal Habig

    I find it very sad that 79 percent of RM preachers believe it should not be legal for any reason. Medical marijuana has a relatively long history of helping patients with pain and nausea. One of my youth coaches back in the early 1980s found that her legally prescribed marijuana allowed her to function during her battle with cancer (which she eventually lost). Basic Christian compassion would seem to lead one to approve of its use medicinally.

  4. Doug Vandiver

    Why do they have to put it into terms like “44 percent of White Evangelical Protestants” in this day and age let hear from all people white and non white.

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