In recent weeks I have been asked numerous times to comment on the continual distribution of marijuana in and around our city.

The promotion and proliferation of marijuana production and sales in America has been brought upon us by highly-organized lobbyists and financiers who have systematically argued for marijuana legalization over the years.

Even with the state of California’s legalization of marijuana growth in homes and Lancaster’s approval of medical marijuana growth in the city, illegal growth and sales abound all around our community.

Within a few miles of our city limits are hundreds of acres of illegal marijuana production, and illegal marijuana purchases are made daily within our city by many citizens. Our church staff includes twelve ordained pastors, all of whom deal with the downside of the drug abuse issue in our community on a daily basis.

Even as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of the early 1900s opposed the proliferation of alcohol, we oppose the further legalization of marijuana in our city. The women’s temperance movement ultimately lost their battle in 1933, and our battle against marijuana seems to be following the same course. Since 1993, the CDC reports over 10,500 annual deaths due to drunk driving.

However, we still believe marijuana to be a danger to our citizens, and we will continue to fight against its encroachment upon our city.

The National Institute of Health indicates that today’s marijuana is far more potent than any of the past. The NIH also states that any use of marijuana impairs brain memory. The American Journal of Psychiatry states that cannabis use is “associated with a substantially increased risk of nonmedical prescription opioid use.” It has also been linked to higher risks of developing schizophrenia and psychosis in our population.

The Scriptures command us to pray for our political and civil leaders (1 Timothy 2:1–2). Throughout my thirty-five years in Lancaster, I have tried to show appreciation and have prayed for our city leaders. I will always do my best to prayerfully help our leaders. This statement is part of my desire to help.

Today, I want to go on record as to why I believe that cooperating with the businessmen who want legalized marijuana in our city is a mistake.

  1. Our city council unanimously voted in the city council meeting conducted February 28, 2017, that our city would not produce or sell recreational marijuana. Each of our council members are on the record via YouTube and the published city council minutes stating that they would not allow the production and sale of marijuana for recreational purposes. I believe it is a mistake to go back on this decision.
  2. There’s absolutely no way to prove that legalizing marijuana sales will help in the fight against the cartels or whoever is growing the marijuana around our city. Legalizing marijuana production will not stop crime any more than legalizing gambling helped to improve the public schools of our state. The criminal world will continue to grow marijuana with or without legalized or regulated production.
  3. On February 28, 2017, our city council and mayor voted for ordinance NB2 prohibiting the non-medical marijuana business. It has been stated that there are signs in our community promoting the sale of marijuana. I strongly believe we should simply enforce the law that was enacted on February 28, 2017.
  4. The city has been well-managed and is financially strong. There is no compelling case on the city side to legalize marijuana growth for financial purposes.
  5. Many citizens are concerned regarding the potential for deals with growers already in the making. I would like to see our city stay free of such accusations and investigations.
  6. Even if our city leaders abolish existing law, revoke their previous statements, and allow for marijuana growth, there will still be a conditional use process for each and every business license in this industry. These licenses will no doubt be fought by the citizens in every planning commission meeting.
  7. Even as alcohol was ultimately legalized nationwide, there are still counties, known as dry counties, across America where alcohol is not sold. Lancaster has had a history of standing against illicit shops and various criminal behaviors. Keeping Lancaster out of the pot business actually makes our city attractive to people who are looking for a wholesome family environment. Conversely, engaging in the proliferation of more marijuana could potentially hasten the loss from this community of people already at the tipping point with issues in the state of California.
  8. Although it has been stated that demographics have changed and a majority of citizens are in favor of marijuana use in the state of California, legalizing marijuana will bring about an incredible loss of support by the conservative citizens of this city for the current city leadership. This single move could very likely open the door for a progressive and liberal era of leadership to come upon the city. I believe it would be wise for our leaders to heed the old saying, “Dance with the one that brought you.”

As a Christian pastor, the Scriptures inform my position regarding marijuana. I am commanded in my faith to be of a sound mind at all times, to treat my body as the temple of the Lord, and to maintain a distinct testimony towards friends around me. My position should not be determined by polls, contracts, or trends of culture. I intend to stand by the Word of God and for our church family.

For our community, the Scriptures tell us that “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). The lesson for us is that our communications or relationships with people in this industry will ultimately corrupt the good behaviors that still exist in this community. With these types of moral decisions, we can choose to be what the Bible refers to as “salt and light” and preserve our city, or we can continue to crack the door open to an industry that will debilitate our youth, demoralize our law enforcement, and discourage many good citizens.

For these reasons, I offer this statement as a best course of action for our future generations. I believe the farmers and neighbors of our church deserve to have the sheriff’s department immediately commence the eradication of the illegal grows outside the city and that our city must not allow further growth within the city.

This is where I stand.

Prayerfully submitted,

Paul Chappell

Pastor, Lancaster Baptist Church

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