Half-legal Weed: Reverends Reflect on Recreational Reefer

By Erick George

Editors Note: This story includes discussions of drug use and may contain foul language. While it has been edited through Associated Press Guidelines, some readers may find this offensive. This story was submitted to The Advocate through Chris Walker’s Digital Storytelling class, it is part of a ten-part series of stories examining Minnesota’s legalization of Marijuana. Each story investigates the background and implications that come with the legalization. The series, which began on April 28th, will run until May 5th. The final three stories will be released July 15th through the 18th.

ROGERS CITY MICH. – Greg and Karen Zurakowski are the husband-and-wife Reverends of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Rogers City, Michigan. They have led their congregation in worship on Sunday mornings addressing everyday issues facing the Christian world for years.

Karen stresses why she believes preaching like this is so important. “In seminary,” Karen said, “we were taught when you’re preaching, you should have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.”

In 2018, the Reverends Zurakowski had a new issue to address. In that year’s midterm elections, Michigan voters voted 56-44 percent to approve recreational marijuana in the state; making it the 10th State to legalize in America.

With the measure passed, how did Greg and Karen respond?


“When it was legalized in Michigan, I was not happy about what the possibilities might be for the use. Because even though you had to be of a certain age to legally buy it, I was concerned that it would grow in usage, because of the legalization, with the young population,” Karen recalled.

Greg didn’t feel too dissimilar. In fact, he cites his own personal history with dealing with the drug as a factor for why he feels the way he does.

Karen’s Observations

According to Karen, not too long after the measure was passed, a recreational Marijuana shop called the Meds Cafe opened its doors in the town of Rogers City, Michigan (which had 2,886 population total as of 2021).

“Shortly after the legalization in our tiny little town, we had the Meds Cafe open. I thought ‘oh, no,’” she said, “It’s one mile from the high school. This is just way too easy. And I don’t know, I just had very negative feelings about it.”

The Meds Cafe, only 3.3 miles (or a 5-minute drive) from Karen’s church, she has noticed a different customer demographic than she initially thought.

“As it turned out, it’s not the young people so much being given marijuana products by people who can legally buy there. It is my senior citizen congregation who is supporting the Meds Cafe,” she said.

“Largely, it’s the edibles and anything that can help alleviate pain,” Karen notes.

Karen also noted an example of who would use these types of products. “Members of the congregation using marijuana have been people who are on chemo who have been given a prescription so they can have some relief from their suffering”, she said.

Karen, having never used herself, does have religious observations when it comes to marijuana consumption. She believes “when somebody’s in pain, that can keep them from being able to be fully engaged with their Lord,” and so light usage may help with that. However, she does feel that what the Bible says about sobriety is important. Something her husband Greg can elaborate on.

Greg’s Biblical Perspective

“It is a natural substance created by God, for the betterment of man for the use of man mankind,” said Greg. “But with one of the things that is implicit in all of God’s creations, so that we are to be good stewards of it, including ourselves. And if we are being a good steward of God’s creation, being good stewards of the bodies we have been given, we will not abuse that stewardship by using too much of any of the goodness that God has given to us”.

Greg adheres to the ideology of sobriety as it is talked about within the Christian Bible. This line of thought is a reference back to the scriptural verses that talk about sobriety in relation to drunkenness and how Christians ought to stay sober-minded to further the cause of the Christian faith.

However, Greg believes there is a little more gray than many might think.

“Throughout the Bible, both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, wine is prominently featured, and in many cases celebrated. And wine, of course, we know has an intoxicating effect if taken to excess. So the same I think is true. And again, I’m not a marijuana user. But if someone takes it and smokes a joint at the end of the day, and just to kind of unwind, why is that different if in terms of a sense of sobriety than someone having a glass of wine or in my case, a single malt scotch to kind of calm the nerves at the end of the day.”

Greg elaborates further. “The admonition it seems to me is much more about taking things to excess and being in control of yourself. So being sober minded doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t, you can’t have or should not perhaps have, again, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer at the end of the day. It’s a question of degree.”

The Christian Responsibility

Greg believes that Christians shouldn’t take a passive role when it comes to issues in the culture. Rather they ought to engage with them.

“I think the church, the ecclesial world, has a responsibility to speak to the secular world on things like this” said Greg as he passionately described his perspective on the subject further stating “we cannot disengage from the world and expect to be taken seriously. Just to say, ‘nope, don’t do that. You can’t do that under any circumstances.’”

Greg says Christians ought to engage, “from the perspective that God loves you, God has given everything on the earth to us and human beings have been given dominion over it and over all things. But that also brings with it a level of responsibility.” He says the need for this change in approach is necessary because “if we want to truly advance the cause of Christendom in the world, we have to do so by engaging in the world around us. And, well, Paul writes, ‘be in the world but not of it.’”

Karen echoes this sentiment when she says “I do believe everything that God created is good. I believe that God created … the universe, our planet, everything in it. And that, and I believe that, if it has turned into something bad, it’s because of what human-ness has done to it.”

“I think if our message is one of moderation, and caution, and taking care of ourselves and the creation around us, then we can begin to influence the society at large to a more moderate position on all things,” Greg states.

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