“One thing Christians are often accused of is being narrow and judgmental,” says GodsGreenery.com editor Natalie Gillespie. “I think that’s because we’re afraid to even learn about something that we think might not be good for us.” Though she had never been a big cannabis user before she got the job, the longtime Tallahassee-based journalist has populated the faith-based CBD educational site with health and scriptural findings, many conveniently aggregated into features like “Top 10 Scriptures that Could Give Christians a Thumbs-Up for CBD.”
Gillespie is part of a growing wave of Christians promoting cannabis. Her contemporaries include anti-porn pastor Craig Gross, who has gained acolytes hyping, in his words, “a conversation about the emotional, physical and — dare I say? — spiritual effects that I’ve had with this controversial plant” at SoCal’s music fest Coachella in May. Gross promotes his own “coming soon” line of marijuana products, including mints called “People.” (From the product description: “the perfect aide to help you turn your eyes outward, so that you may love your neighbor as well as you do, yourself.”) The ex-porn crusader told Vice that, “inside the Christian world — and it’s the thing I hate about it — you have to have your own products.”
Perhaps this is all a bit confounding for those who remember the dire anti-drug sermons that have roared from the gullets of Christian television preachers throughout the decades of the prohibition era. But times are changing. Recent polls show U.S. residents are more concerned about e-cigarettes than Reefer Madness — and 65 percent of the country identifies as Christian.
Even so, the nerve of a faith-based site sending a press release to such a decidedly heathen publication as High Times would seem forged of Jesus’ finest stainless steel. One line from the God’s Greenery communiqué stood out (indeed, it was in bold text): “God’s Greenery has a visionary plan to monetize the use of CBD as a tool to assist churches in combating the massive decline in their parish numbers.” The line raises its share of questions, and the press release suggests we interview Gillespie to learn more.
The editor jumped on a quick three-way phone interview with the GG press representative, during which she spoke of her recent Biblical studies with all the enthusiasm of a new convert, which she is. “I really learned about the CBD oil and CBD industry and the science and the medicine of it on this same journey with my reader, with my audience,” she says, sunnily. “It’s kind of why I think that they thought I might be the perfect editor, because my knowledge of CBD was not deep.”
Albeit brief, her journey has led her to many scriptural teachings that apply specifically to CBD. Gillespie cites God’s Genesis 1:29 creation of “seed-bearing plants,” and she is not the first Christian to identify those words as God’s go-ahead for cannabis consumption. A Texas-based Christian medical marijuana organization founded in 2010 was named after the very same verse. But Gillespie bridles at that group’s conclusion that access to THC could be part of His plan.
Apparently, the key to Our Heavenly Father’s CBD-only approval lies in the Thessalonians reference to “sobriety,” a word that could mean “thoughtful” and “considerate” in ancient Greek, but which Gillespie and other scholars have deciphered as “drug-free.” “If it’s benefiting the body, mind, and spirit that’s one thing,” she says. “If it’s taking away from our passion and purpose that God created us to be able to do, then therein lies the line.”
She is not the only person who has seen fit to disassociate CBD from full-spectrum marijuana products. Indeed, it is commonplace in the marijuana industry to refer to the cannabinoid as “non-psychoactive,” even though CBD is often prescribed to treat the symptoms of psychological conditions like anxiety. (God’s Greenery’s Toronto-based parent company Miraculo also operates cannabisMD, a consumer education platform that includes information on the benefits of THC and full-spectrum cannabis products.)
“God’s Greenery is specifically on hemp-derived CBD,” says Gillespie. “That, through a faith lens, doesn’t cause any controversy — well, ‘controversy’ is not the right word. It doesn’t cause — I guess — an unsettled feeling in people’s spirit.” Surely it doesn’t hurt entrepreneurial Christian sensibilities that CBD is commercially available in 14 states that ban all other cannabis products.
Question Of Monetizing CBD
When asked about the GG press release’s mention of the “monetization of CBD” to save her faith, Gillespie tries. “In 2020, I think you will see God’s Greenery release a line of CBD products,” she says. “We are in independent third party testing right now to make sure that it’s working, that it absolutely does have the CBD that it purports to have and that it does not have any ingredients that it should not, and that it will pass muster every single time.”
But how, we pressed, will such products reverse downward trends in church attendance? The PR person who is also on the line jumps in. “The plan is to market actually inside a church. So imagine a church bake sale? It’s going to be more like a church CBD sale.”
Later, Miraculo CEO Michael Klein — a former VP of programming and content strategy for Condé Nast Entertainment who has also worked at the Travel Channel and MTV — sends a qualifying email. Ten percent of the CBD line’s sticker price will be funneled into “donations to institutions, churches and other causes important to our audience,” he says. Klein is not ready to specify what those groups would be or what kind of CBD products will drive this philanthropy, and is certainly not committing to the idea of any multi-level marketing scheme involving churches and CBD bake sales. “We are still in the planning stages,” Klein concludes.
Surely, not all Christians have seen fit to promote cannabis access solely through the lens of personal consumption or financial gain. “Given the proven racist intent of the war on drugs and the criminalization of marijuana, it’s time for Christians to think critically about this issue and not just default to abstinence,” said Christian rapper Jason Petty. It stands to mention that Petty is Black, and has a cousin who served a 25-year sentence for a nonviolent drug offense.
But one might hope that Christian nature would extend to the thousands of individuals currently incarcerated for possession or distribution of that same godly family of plants.
Gillespie demurs when asked if people should be in jail for marijuana-related charges. Instead, she delivers a line that serves as the most perfect example of — let’s call it multi-level reasoning, if only to avoid the word hypocrisy — from a would-be CBD purveyor, partially-prepared faith journalist, or any combination of the two, that has yet to be delivered.
“That’s not a God’s Greenery question, honestly,” she says.
Even to a non-believer, selective contemplation of cannabis’ sanctity sounds like a leap of faith.