Christian pastor Craig Gross refers to cannabis as “Something that has brought me so close to the Lord. Something that I believe He, himself, revealed to me.” With this message (and some compelling statistics and scriptural quotes peppering his investor pitch), Gross is attempting to bring marijuana to the Christian masses with Christian Cannabis. Touting cannabis as a “gift from God”, Gross has developed numerous products and platforms (including a mobile app, church literature and support groups) to engage current users and educate those who may be on the fence, using illicitly, or in outright opposition to marijuana use in the faith community.
Christian Cannabis is launching its line of high CBD, low THC products (which include pre-rolls, incense sticks, tinctures, topicals, flower, sublingual strips, and edibles) in California and Michigan, two of the more hospitable and trendsetting U.S. markets. According to a Pew Research poll, in California the licensed cannabis industry is expected to exceed 7 billion dollars by 2024, and of the 75% of Californians 21 years and older who approve legalizing cannabis, 13.5 million are Christian. Over half of those Christians are admitted cannabis consumers and with value-based brands growing in popularity, the opportunity is ripe for Christian Cannabis as the first ever faith-driven brand to hit the shelves. The company has recruited industry veterans with strong reputations and records of success to the cause, such as Guy Rocourt, advisor and Chief Product Officer at Papa Barkley and Jacqueline Rubasky, former Origination CMO at Canndescent California.
The “About Me” section of Pastor Craig Gross’s personal website reads like a spoken word poem. His offerings include business coaching, product development and website design, but Gross steadfastly resists definition. For him, “ultimately the “what?” is fun and the “why?” is freedom.” Gross, who grew up in a conservatively religious household which led to his professional trajectory as a pastor, experienced repeated hospitalizations for “excruciating headaches” that baffled doctors and threatened to leave him and his family deeply in debt before he decided to defy the longstanding Christian taboo against marijuana and give it a try.
The real turning point occurred when Gross watched a CNN airing of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, Weed, after which he obtained a medical marijuana card despite wrestling with internal guilt and a fear of condemnation from the church. That is until one day, the Lord instructed Gross to “come out” as a cannabis consumer and work to destigmatize cannabis in the Christian community. Since that day, Craig Gross has been on a crusade to open up conversations around the use of plant medicines for greater health, well-being, and spiritual growth and eliminate barriers to access among Christians.
But despite his notorious zeal (which he first brought to the founding of XXX Church, a ministry “for those seeking freedom from unwanted sexual behavior”) and certain favorable market indicators, Christian Cannabis remains a hard sell for some. Todd Miles, professor of theology at Western Seminary and author of Cannabis and the Christian: What the Bible Says About Marijuana believes there is sufficient biblical text and current medical evidence to suggest that cannabis use is not for the faithful or health-conscious. Pastors Joshua Ryan and Thomas Terry of The Gospel Coalition podcast reinforce the perspective that “by causing users to disengage from life, marijuana works against the love of neighbor Jesus demands,” and a 2021 Lifeway Research study found that fewer than 1 in 5 pastors think marijuana should be legalized in the U.S. for any purpose. Still, while all may not be smooth sailing for Pastor Craig Gross and Christian Cannabis, the disconnect between pastoral support and public approval may provide just the opening that products like Christian Cannabis need to gain a foothold in the faith community.