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Incarcerated Pagans and Drug Laws.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_658px-DEA_mar_loose.jpgIn her 2002 editorial on incarcerated Pagans Anne Newkirk Niven writes about the value of ministering to that population. She sensibly points out that such folks will not be confined forever and will at some point exit the system. Cherry Hill Seminary offers literature for incarcerated Pagans at a very nominal fee. *

Niven tells us that not all Pagans feel such ministry is worth the effort. But it is worth noting that the US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Since the 80s, incarceration in federal prisons has soared 800%. A great many of those who are confined were committing nothing that Pagans would view as an ethical violation: they were taking some form of illegal drug. And such policies are inherently racist. People of color are locked up in far greater numbers than those with fair skin.

Last week, California reversed this trend by voting to de-criminalize drug offenses committed by individuals in private. This could lead to many who are incarcerated to petition for release. Other states have legalized marijuana and are now reaping tax revenues. But as Pagans, we must ask ourselves, were these people criminals in the first place, or did the law just make them so? Making more laws, made more criminals.

I have not yet met a Pagan who believed that drug use – assuming no one got hurt - was a violation of religious ethics. Indeed, I personally know Pagans who value the use of drugs as a path to connection with the sacred (entheogens). I believe the Harm None ethic demands that we stand against such laws. Both for our fellow practitioners and for the greater culture.

*Disclaimer: I work for Cherry Hill Seminary and wrote all but one of the rituals. CHS owns the copyright and makes no money off it. The fee covers the cost of printing and shipping.

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Selina Rifkin, L.M.T., M.S. is a graduate of Temple University and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. In 1998 she graduated from the Downeast School of Massage in Maine. She has published articles in Massage Therapy Journal, been a health columnist, and published The Referral Guide for Complementary Care, a book that describes 25 different healing modalities. In 2006 she completed her Masters program in Nutrition with a focus on traditional foods, and the work of Weston A. Price.
Currently she is the Executive Assistant to the Director of Cherry Hill Seminary, the first Pagan seminary to offer Master’s degrees.


  • Carol P. Christ
    Carol P. Christ Wednesday, 12 November 2014

    You are very right that arrests for minor drug crimes are primarily of young black men. Why are the police not stopping and frisking in the halls of academe, and even more not at frat parties. Because they know "all hell" would break loose as white people complained: why are you persecuting my kids????

  • Maureen Juarez
    Maureen Juarez Wednesday, 12 November 2014

    It's crazy how many times I have seen people mention the use of drugs and the select behavior of law enforcement persons. There are sadly no ways to openly complain without being targeted in one way or another after said complaint is made. The laws should be for everyone, not allowing for a select few to be ignored!

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