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600 U.S. Churches Call for an End to the 'War on Drugs'

The New England Conference of The United Methodist Church voted for an end to the drug war, citing its disproportionate impact on minorities.
A Drug Enforcement Administration officer patrols outside of a medical clinic in Little Rock, Ark., Wednesday, May 20, 2015.Danny Johnston / AP

A group of more than 600 churches has joined a small but growing movement within the religious community to call for an end to the war on drugs through legalization.

The New England Conference of The United Methodist Church, representing more than 600 congregations, voted last month to support efforts to address the nation's drug abuse problem through "means other than prohibition."

The resolution was passed during an annual conference in which supporters argued that the war on drugs had unintentionally left countless dead, overwhelmed courts and prisons, wasted taxpayer money and destroyed innumerable families — most of them black and Latino.

"To people of color, the 'War on Drugs' has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery," the resolution says.

The move put the conference on the leading edge of outspoken religious groups who are questioning the impact of the decades-old war on drugs. The Unitarian Universal Association has come out against it, and in Illinois, a marijuana decriminalization bill is being pushed by Clergy for a New Drug Policy, a coalition that includes Protestant pastors and Jewish rabbis.

The motivation behind this stance, the religious leaders say, is the drug war's disproportionate impact on minorities.

"It’s a justice issue," said Eric Dupee, the pastor of Crawford Memorial United Methodist Church in Winchester, Mass., which wrote the resolution passed by The New England Conference on June 18. "Basically what I wanted to do is put forth the idea that our drug war is creating more harm, more problems than it’s solving, and I wanted people to be aware of that."

Dupee said he hoped the resolution would be taken up at the church's global conference next year.