Black Pastors Have Faith in Medical Marijuana Treatment

By Special to The Florida Star | The Georgia Star

Marijuana has long been a target of condemnation in Black churches. And for good reason: Pastors have seen how the racially biased enforcement of marijuana laws has impacted their communities and congregations.

But three Black pastors in Florida reflect a national trend in changing attitudes toward cannabis, particularly its legal use for medicinal purposes. Dr. Erta C. Livingston Jr., Pastor Leo Stoney and Dr. Lonnie Davis Wesley III, all support medical marijuana as a physician-authorized treatment, saying its use is no different than taking any prescribed drug.

Dr. Livingston is the Senior Pastor of the Church of God by Faith #1 in Gainesville and Director of Patient Services for UF Health Jacksonville. Working in hospitals has changed his perspective when it comes to using medical marijuana to treat people in pain.

“I see pain every day. I lay hands on them, I do all the spiritual things I need to do, but sometimes the pain continues. So, in a compassionate way, I want to support whatever it takes to relieve pain. If medical marijuana is prescribed by a doctor, you have my support. I’m not going to put you on the altar and send you to hell.”

Pastor Leo Stoney

Added Pastor Stoney of The MaxOut Church in Melbourne: “This is definitely a taboo topic because we are pastors, right? I go back to this. If there’s medicine for cancer, there’s medicine for COVID now, and there’s medicine for everything else, why can’t there be a medicine prescribed by a doctor that has been tested and proven to make someone in pain feel better?”

Dr. Wesley of the Greater Little Rock Baptist Church in Pensacola said congregants really shouldn’t concern themselves with a church’s position on medical marijuana.

Dr. Lonnie Davis Wesley III

“It isn’t the church’s business what medicine your doctor has prescribed for your medical care,” he stressed. “Do what you have to do medically to help you have a better quality of life.”

The pastors all agreed that education about medical marijuana was key to their acceptance of the drug.

On the topic of recreational marijuana, all three voiced reservations on legalizing it regardless of whether that’s done by the state or federal government.

For more information on qualifying conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana under Florida law, go online to

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