Clergy join push to OK medical marijuana

? Illinois’ latest attempt to legalize medical marijuana is getting support from a surprising source – religious leaders.

“The moral issue is relief of suffering,” said the Rev. D. Jay Johnson of the Union Avenue Christian Church in Litchfield, Ill.

Johnson is one of more than 40 state religious leaders named in a letter distributed to legislators as they consider changing Illinois law to allow use of marijuana for treating pain and nausea in medical patients.

But opponents also are leaning on religious morality as a central part of their argument. They say that the real purpose of the movement is to legalize recreational pot and that well-meaning clergy are being duped.

“I think they’re using the compassion of people who don’t understand what the goal is,” said Anita Bedell of the Illinois Church Action on Alcohol & Addiction Problems, the group leading the fight against the bill.

Legislation pending in the Senate would allow people diagnosed with “debilitating” medical conditions to legally possess up to 12 cannabis plants and as much as 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis.