Episode 57 - Pastor Gone To Pot!

Pastor Craig Gross is bucking the tide of the conservative churches by urging his flock to embrace cannabis. That's going to be a long, lonely struggle. Onward Christian Soldier!


This episode of the Brave New Weed podcast is brought to you by It's Great to Suck At Something, author Karen Rinaldi's new book on "the unexpected joy of wiping out and what it can teach us about patience, resilience and the stuff that really matters."

Would Jesus love porn addicts? “Absolutely!” says Pastor Craig Gross, explaining why, in 2002, he formed the XXXChurch to help the estimated 50% of Christians who struggle with porn. Would J-man have been cool with cannabis? Gross also thinks yes, and has launched Christian Cannabis, his new crusade to change the millions of god-fearing minds who are dead set against it.  

“Putting three Xs in front of the word ‘church’ is similar to putting the word ‘Christian’ in front of ‘cannabis,’” says Gross, 43. “It’s the dumbest thing… but I needed it to be so clear and so direct. It means Christians talking about cannabis. It doesn’t mean we have more holy spiritual weed than you do.”

Radical though he may be among his tribe, I was skeptical about Gross before we spoke. I’m allergic to organized religion, especially Christians who are all sanctimony yet give people like pussy grabbing Trump a pass because he restricts reproductive freedoms. But almost from the start I knew I was talking to a Christian of a different stripe. One I could relate to, argue with, be friends with. He’s tightly wired, and not at all shy about sharing his vulnerabilities. He wears a self-consciously asymmetrical haircut that enables him fit right in at the music festivals he attends, like Coachella. He’s a thinker, a talker, and a challenger. He is also the son of a Baptist preacher, raised in a home where dancing, music, even lifting his arms to praise the lord, were blasphemous acts worthy of punishment. He learned the horrors of fundamentalism early on. No wonder he bucks against them so flamboyantly today.

What shocks me and Gross is the blind eye church hierarchies turn to what is obviously a medicine as well as an intoxicant. “People sitting in their pews deserve something more than just ‘I don’t know. We don’t talk about that here,’ writes Gross in one blog. “I have a friend who is a pastor, he’s off his depression medication because of weed. So he is buying it illegally and he’d get fired from his job if his church knew.

“Christians are always late the party. We’re the last ones to change, and yet we serve a creator God whose work is the epitome of innovation.”

Is Gross a real change agent or more showman? Or is he a smart salesman who knows that Christians will only buy products that are marketed specifically to them? I couldn’t decide from our 45 minute interview, but I'd happily sit down with him again for more, especially, we aligned on many topics, including the ways cannabis can be used for deeper spiritual investigation. There are very few people I know -- religious or not -- who wouldn't benefit from more of that. 

But don’t take my word for it. For technical reasons I had to record this episode on a Zoom call. The audio is a bit tetchy but the video allows you to look the pastor in the eye as he makes his case. Judge for yourselves.

PS: Speaking about clearing cobwebs out of other musty spiritual closets...I am reminded of the many great spiritual teachers I know who use cannabis but who don't or won't speak about it. If you’re in touch with any of them, please ask them to contact me if they'd like to discuss as openly as Craig.

Joe Dolce