(Photo by Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
In the Bible Belt of the Deep South devout Christians are challenging the notion that smoking pot is sinful. In fact, they believe God even encourages it.
An old joke sparked something deep inside Darryl Decker. A life-long Christian, Decker never really thought about marijuana beyond what people told him in school. But in 1995, when he heard, “God made weed. Man-made Whiskey. Who do you trust?” it forced him to answer the question. That idea steeped inside of him for a long time. Eventually, it led to the creation of Genesis 1:29 with his wife, Lydia.
Genesis 1:29 aims to proliferate information about marijuana, and the biblical justification for its use. Their ultimate goal is to bring more access to the plant to people in their home state, Texas. The name Genesis 1:29 comes from the verse that served as evidence to the Deckers about God’s stance on smoking weed. The verse reads:
And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you, it shall be for meat -Genesis 1:29.
The Deckers think this verse makes it clear. ‘Every herb’ isn’t exactly coy. However, this passage still remains contentious among bible scholars. Most scholars believe that when Genesis 1:29 refers to Earth, it’s talking about Eden, where everything was perfect. In this case, there was no plant with thorns, no bitter fruit, nor psychoactive chemicals.
The Decker’s don’t buy it, though. Their understanding of the bible is as personal as any other aspect of faith, and they think if more people tried to understand it themselves, we’d all be better off. “Human suffering and healing are all told about in the bible. If more people realized that and went back to the Bible, it’d be a lot better,” Lydia Decker tells me.
While the Decker’s awakening to weed was spiritual, it was the medical benefits that really started to convert critics at their church into believers. In 2014, Lydia was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease after being rushed to the hospital heaving for air. After that Lydia would drag an oxygen tank with her everywhere she went. When she started using CBD oil capsules and her condition dramatically improved, much of the congregation started to take notice.
“Most of our friends and family our pastor and his wife are completely on board with it. They saw me on the oxygen, and then they saw me when I didn’t need it anymore. That’s all they needed.”
The curative powers of cannabis weren’t enough for everybody in the Decker’s community. “We live in the Bible Belt,” Lydia points out. “I’ve had so many people attack me on Facebook. They tell me you’re trying to use the bible as a platform to promote your drugs.”
For Darryl, the attacks are more upsetting. “I have scientific proof this is working. Are you trying to tell me I’m using the bible wrong?”
The Decker’s aren’t angry at their fellow Texans, though. They understand where the reaction comes from; they were raised that way, too. “It was a darn no-no for me,” Lydia explained. “We were both raised in a Christian family, that’s just something you did not do.”
The driver of the fear around marijuana in the bible belt is based on years of vilified media portrayals and persisting attitudes that assume the law is inherently moral. “A lot of people are concerned with doing the legal thing, rather than the right thing,” says Lydia.
That’s why a primary focus for Lydia and Darryl is spreading awareness to the uninitiated in a crusade to gain support for public policy changes that would increase critical access to medical marijuana products. In the God-fearing south, their mission isn’t just perceived as rebellious, some critics see it as downright sinful.
“1937 is when it changed. They say, ‘whoa this is illegal in Texas, so it’s bad.’ Well, it’s medicine in 29 states. Why do you think that is?” Lydia said.
Even if they are successful in influencing public perception, the Deckers acknowledge that there are larger fights ahead. As corporate interests expand in an industry projected to be worth 25 billion dollars by 2025. “Money is the root of all evil. Along come the government and along comes big pharma,” says Lydia.
The Deckers aren’t bible scholars, but they are devout believers. Lydia is trying to use the bible to hold lawmakers and others accountable to facts. In the Decker’s mind, if God didn’t want humans to use marijuana, he probably would have said so.
“God made his medicine perfect; it’s man that has chosen to make it illegal,” says Lydia.