Will Pope's Meeting With Man Jailed For Pot Change His Mind On Weed?

Pope Francis may go down in history as one of the most progressive pontiffs of all time.

He has given his blessing to forgive women who have had abortions, told priests around the world to allow divorced people back into the church and hopefully after meeting with prisoners, the pope will also forgive the sins of pot smokers.

The pope is heading to Philadelphia on Sunday where he is expected to visit the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and meet with 100 inmates, including Ed Gilchrist, a prisoner who spent the last year and a half in prison for attempting to sell seven pounds of marijuana.

Pope Francis condemned marijuana legalization in the past, telling delegates at a drug-enforcement conference in Rome attempts at legalizing recreational drugs "are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce the desired effects."

While he has yet to get behind legalization, what he is behind is corrections reform, and those two go hand in hand.

According to data released by the Federal Bureau of Prisons in 2014, over 50 percent of inmates in the United States are there for drug-related charges.

Of those drug offenders, about 27.6 percent are there for marijuana-related offenses.

So if the pope wants prison reform, he may have to rethink his stance on pot.

Gilchrist told Huffington Post "it kind of ticks [him] off" to think he is in prison for selling a drug President Obama said is no "more dangerous than alcohol" and is also legal across several states.

He added,

They're going to be looking back at it in 20 years and say, 'That guy actually did time for selling marijuana?' and feel how stupid it is... It's like going to jail for getting caught with some liquor. People used to go to jail for that.

Pro-pot advocates are hoping the papal visit will inspire him to embrace marijuana a little bit more as a part of his stance on corrections reform.

Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, told The Hill,

Any attention the pope brings to mass incarceration and racial disparities will boost marijuana reform efforts, because marijuana arrests are a gateway to the criminal justice system for many.

Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority added,

So it makes sense that a growing number of religious leaders and people of faith are calling for reforms, particularly when it comes to draconian drug policies... It will be interesting to see if the pope chooses to shine a spotlight on this.

Citations: Pope Francis Will Meet A Guy Locked Up For Selling Pot (Huffington Post), Pro-pot lobby hopeful for positive message from pope (The Hill)