Ohio Pastor Among Investors To Open Medical Marijuana Dispensary

An Ohio pastor is among the lead investors in a proposed medical marijuana dispensary to be located in a Cincinnati neighborhood, The Cincinnati Enquirer is reporting.

Rev. Damon Lynch III, pastor of New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn, is putting his name and his money behind efforts to bring a medical marijuana dispensary to the Cincinnati neighborhood of Hartwell. Lynch, like the majority of investors in the Green Rx LLC application, are African American – and Ohio’s new medical marijuana law requires that a certain percentage of dispensary licenses be issued to “economically disadvantaged” groups.

Damon Lynch is a big name among Cincinnati’s African American community. According to a February 2016 Cincinnati Enquirer report, Lynch, and his father and son, are some of the city’s most prominent black pastors and civil rights activists.

“I don’t want people to be afraid, especially black people, to say that right now it’s worse than it was in the 1950s or the ’40s.”

His group, the Cincinnati Black United Front, has organized boycotts of business as well as marches, in particular after the shooting death of an unarmed black man, Timothy Thomas, by a white Cincinnati police officer.

So why would a man of the cloth be interested in putting his brand behind legal marijuana?

Featured image credit: Mike SimonsAP Images

While Mr. Lynch is keeping his reasons to himself, other pastors in the African American community have supported legalizing marijuana, either recreationally or medicinally, in part because it’s a social justice issue.

For example, as The New York Times reported in March, several black pastors – as well as the NAACP – say that harsh marijuana laws disproportionately affect people of color. Dianna Houenou, a lawyer with the ACLU of New Jersey, says that legalizing pot can right some of the wrongs inflicted against minorities in the name of the War on Drugs.

“All the collateral consequences that come with an arrest — jail time, losing your job, losing your housing — are disproportionately falling on communities of color. Through legalization we can begin to address the harms that have been inflicted.”

Beyond that, there’s the issue of the money being generated by the legal pot industry, the vast majority of which goes to whites. The clergymen and -women profiled in the New York Times article linked above also say that they want their own flocks to be able to get in on that money, not just as workers, but as owners and investors.

It’s not just black pastors who support legalizing marijuana, either. As The York Daily Record reported in 2017, Pastor Shawn Berkebile was against marijuana – that is, until his daughter got sick and found relief from cannabis. He’s now one of the biggest advocates for legal pot in Pennsylvania.