Cannabis (aka. Marijuana) is steadily becoming legalized throughout many states and several nations worldwide. In this article we will assume the reader already agrees with legalizing medical marijuana and I will argue in favour of legalizing for recreational use as well. In part 1 of this series we look at why legalizing marijuana is actually a righteous cause. In part 2 we examine whether recreational use is a bad habit and sin, or if it is okay.
The herb tends to be polarizing in people’s personal opinions. Some praise it as the solution to world peace and the cure-all for every disease, with no harms attached. Others rail against it as if a user must be lazy, couch-potatoe, irresponsible, lacking intelligence, or even a victim of the supposed “reefer madness.” It is time to take an honest and open-minded look at cannabis. What is God’s opinion on it? If cannabis is legal in a state or nation, is God okay with us using it, or is it counted a sin?
Part 1: Why Legalizing Cannabis Is A Righteous Cause
To argue is favour of legalization is not to argue that marijuana is a ‘good habit.’ Many believe weed is a bad habit, yet still support legalizing. Think of it this way: Junk food is a bad habit. It is causing a diabetes crisis, countless deaths, and brings no lasting good to society. Predatory marketing tactics target children, such as flashy colors, animated characters, or toys included. Despite all of this, there are no petitions to ban candy, pop, or potatoe chips, and no politician includes blockades on junk food in their political platform.
Unlike junk food, a surprising fact is that there is no recorded case of anyone having died from ingesting too much marijuana. There have probably been some indirect deaths due to reckless drivers trying to operate a vehicle while stoned, but overall cannabis is pretty safe compared to the other legalized vices: alcohol, cigarettes, junk food.
Let’s take a look at another addiction: cellphones. Cellphones are addictive and they also result in greatly impaired driving. According to SGI Insurance: “Drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to be in a collision than those who don’t. Talking on a cellphone makes the driver 3 to 6 times more likely to be in a collision.”[i] Are we going to ban cellphones because some people will use while driving? Are we going to ban bars from having parking lots, since even one drink raises the risk of a crash? Most people who are going to drive while impaired by cannabis are already doing so, using it illegally. States that legalize have lower levels of alcohol-related automotive crashes (due to cannabis substitution), and no increase in auto accidents overall.[vi]
Much of the harms and lives destroyed from using weed was not due to the weed itself, but due to the governments “war on drugs.” Making criminals out of ordinary people who are generally minding their own business and not harming anyone. It was not the herb itself that destroyed their lives, it was the criminal record from being caught possessing, growing, or selling the plant, making it impossible to get hired in a decent job. This person could have been a productive law-abiding citizen with a great life ahead, but due to being caught with some herb now has a criminal record, despite not harming anyone. Drug laws are also selectively applied in a very racially-biased manner which is used to target minority groups. The “war on drugs” has resulted in a highly disproportionate number of minorities being imprisoned for these offenses. Soon after the war on drugs began, five times as many blacks were being arrested for drug offenses as whites, even though they were not committing anywhere near five times as many offenses.[ii]
Luke 4:18,“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,”
Christ came to preach deliverance to the captives. Not harsher penalties and more prisons. The United States has the highest rate of imprisonment of any nation on earth. It is surprising that much of the desire for harsh penalties comes from the church. Legalizing is the Christlike thing to do. Wanting to fill prisons and give people unnecessary criminal records is the opposite of Christ.
One final thing that should be mentioned is the opiod crisis. According to data from the Canadian government over 4000 Canadians die annually due to opioid use and 17 are hospitalized every day. In light of these numbers, it makes sense that the national resources should be prioritized to target the harms of truly dangerous drugs such as these. There are limited resources to spend and we should not wasting them being focused in the wrong direction. Targeting Marijuana use is a distraction from more serious dangers.
Is 'Decriminalization' Good Enough?
Some say we could meet in the middle with ‘decriminalization’ (as opposed to full legalization). It would take away some of the huge burden off of the police resources, who could spend more time stopping real criminals. This would be better than the status quo, but would only go halfways in solving the problem of lives destroyed with criminal records. Usually, decriminalization only applies to 'possession' offenses. Those who have records from 'growing' or 'selling' the plant would not be helped at all by this measure. Decriminalization goes not go far enough. The black market would continue to sell marijuana and would collect all of the profits without paying any tax. There would be no clear safety or quality standards for the industry to prevent product from being 'laced' with dangerous contaminants. Millions of people would still be forced to deal with sketchy drug dealers to get their supply…. Full legalization is simply a far better choice. Instead of money going to black market cartels so they can upgrade their weapons and smuggling capabilities, the tax dollars can instead go to healthcare, education, and awareness for those who may be susceptible to addiction. Labels of health risks with cannabis use are applied to each package. Potency can be controlled and regulated. Last but not least, it is simply “free will.” As humans we were not created to live in bubble-wrap. We were meant to learn to make the right choices through experience, and learn from the wrong. We do not want an Orwellian government which makes all the “right choices” for us and forces us into “good habits.”
An argument against legalization is that marijuana will be a “gateway drug” which will cause users to want to experiment with harder drugs. The truth is, the dealer is the gateway to harder drugs. Legalizing marijuana means curious individuals do not have to encounter a dealer at all. Thus they are less likely to encounter the ‘harder’ drugs such as heroin, crack, meth. The best way to close the gateway to harder drugs is to legalize marijuana so that people do not have to encounter a ‘dealer’ which will lead them to harder drugs. All in all, legalization is clearly the right choice.
Part 2: Is Marijuana sinful?
Is it bad to light up a few naughty nuggets?
It can been called: Satan’s Spinach --- Lucifer’s Lettuce --- Belial’s Brownies --- Beelzebub’s Broccoli…..
Does bud deserve the bad rep it has in the Christian community?
High vs. Drunk
The Bible talks a lot about alcohol. We can list plenty of scripture verses showing alcohol in moderation can be acceptable but that drunkenness is always a sin. The obvious temptation is to cut-and-paste these drunkenness scriptures to apply to being ‘high.’ There are some similar effects: judgement is impaired, a person becomes less productive. The impaired judgement effect is an important one to consider. Using an excuse of “I was high” or “I was drunk” to excuse a poorly made decision is not acceptable in God’s sight. To get to the point where you can no longer trust your own decisions and judgements is to cross the line into entering a sinful state. The same biblical principles for moderation in wine should apply to moderation in cannabis usage.
Seeking a direct equivalence may be unadvisable however. ‘Drunk’ is a very different state of mind than ‘high.’ First of all, drunkenness is far more dangerous to society. Alcohol makes a person more violent, reckless, and without personal responsibility and restraint. Cannabis tends to sedate and does not make a person aggressive or seek reckless and destructive behaviour. The only ‘aggressive raid’ will be of the refrigerator when the munchies hit. The high is definitely far less destructive than being drunk. For this reason, we cannot expect an equivalent application to cannabis of the biblical verses related to wine. There will be some relation, but they are not at all equal.
Consumption As Smoke
Smoking anything is not healthy. Although studies have not found the same cancer-causing effects in marijuana as in tobacco, it still pollutes the lungs with tar and toxins. Neither does it smell particularly nice. Marijuana has a lingering stench most people do not at all enjoy. This is a social impact on others. It could also cause a brother to stumble or weaken their faith if it causes them to believe you are compromising yours.
Romans 14:20-21, “All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”
Going with the rule that the body is the temple of the Lord, smoking anything is not good. There are healthier methods of consumption. Vaping releases less combustion products and some vape pens also can control odour, minimizing social impact on others. Then there is oil drops under the tongue which is also a heathier alternative. Lastly, there is ‘edible’. Although healthier than smoke, these have the problem of lasting in a person’s systems so long, that there is a greater chance of being impaired while needing to drive. This would be a sin, by putting others at unnecessary risk. A method of consumption should be chosen that minimizes negative impact on our body and on others. Furthermore, the Bible says the herbs are created for consumption, not combustion. We were not made to smoke things. If a Christian wants to use cannabis, a healthier method of intake should be used such as vaping it, or oil drops under the tongue.
Genesis 1:29-30, “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
….I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.”
2:3, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.”
The Pork Precedent
A precedent for cannabis consumption can be found based on how the new testament believers treated pork and shellfish. These were previously forbidden in the old testament but allowed in the new. Pork and shellfish are not the most healthy foods, but they are not sinful to consume. Many people in the early church (Judaizers) resisted this ‘legalization’ however, and judged those who consumed these forbidden foods. In the same way, we can see marijuana as something that may not be healthy, but is not a sin either. It is a personal choice. Some people may choose to use in moderation and should not be judged for it or seen as ‘sinful.’ Paul speaks of these things as lawful as long as you are not “brought under its power” (addicted):
Colossians 2:16, “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:”
“20-21 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not;)”
1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”
Weed is not usually described as inspiring a person toward productive activity. The association is usually with junk food, couch-lock, and watching television. There is a need for a certain amount of rest, but where is the line where rest for well-being transitions into the sin of slothfulness? In the end, there is no getting around the fact that being a ‘stoner’ fits the biblical description of the ‘sluggard’ to a T.
Now we should make a distinction. Not everyone who uses cannabis has a desire to get stoned out of their mind or launched into orbit mentally. There are plenty of people who use just a small amount to relax in the evening or on weekends. Others would hold to the opposite argument, and claim that the THC in cannabis increases their creativity and imagination. If this is true, then it could lead to more productivity in certain persons if used responsibly. Overall, it is a personal decision between the user, their conscience, and God. There is a major moral difference between using a small amount to relax, take the edge off, get a pleasent buzz.... and between living the lazy stoner lifestyle. A person needs to use their judgement and listen to the conscience, and observe whether their productivity and ambition in life becomes lessened with cannabis use.
Less Is More
Many drugs and medications such as cannabis are “biphasic.” This means the positive effects are experienced at low or moderate amounts. Past a certain point the positive effects start to decrease and negative symptoms such as anxiety and paranoia take over. One example: cannabis lessens pain in small amounts, but larger doses will amplify the pain experienced. Most of the negative effects do not happen at small doses. Ezra helps described this paradox, “the number one reason why people use medicinal cannabis is because they feel it helps their anxiety. And the number one reason why people stop smoking marijuana is because they feel it increases their anxiety.”[iii] Christ taught “be anxious for nothing” and that worry is a sin. If cannabis helps a person calm down and become peaceful, an interesting thought is that using a small amount may actually help them to avoid sin.
There are two major compounds in cannabis. THC is responsible for the “high” as well as some medical benefits. CBC on the other hand, does not give a ‘high’ but has enormous medicinal and therapeutic benefits. CBD also blocks many of the negative effects of THC. One unfortunate fact is that modern day cannabis strains are usually grown to maximize THC content while having almost no CBD present. It is a safer and better idea to use a more balanced strain with an even ratio of THC:CBD rather than maximum THC.
Who Is In Control?
Cannabis can be addictive. A frequent user builds a tolerance and needs to take larger and larger amounts to get the same benefit as originally experienced. Some people end up being weed-worshipers, smoking daily and promoting the plant as a type of cure-all. It has in a sense become their god. Such a person no longer has control over their use. The plant has control of them. It might not be as harmful as other drugs, but it can still take over a person’s life. Psychological addictions can be just as destructive as physical ones. Some people have a compulsion to gamble constantly, even after years of heavy losses. Overeating or extreme dieting is mentally addictive to some. Others can spend all day playing video games or watching television series. Even exercise or work can be a powerful psychological addiction. One out of every 11 cannabis users will end up becoming addicted. This number is not near as bad as the statistics for cigarettes or alcohol but is still something to consider. Besides addiction, taking large amounts of cannabis at once could cause a person to mentally lose control, becoming paranoid and anxious. This could open the gateway to a spirit of fear. We should agree that to take large amounts at once and get to a point of heavy intoxication without a medical need is a sin.
Risky for the Developing Brain
Cannabis is most popular among youth. This is unfortunate because the human brain does not finish developing until around the age of 25. One study showed heavy cannabis use as a youth causes an average 6-point permanent decline in IQ as an adult. These points were not recovered after abstaining.[iv] (Not all studies show this link though). There is also a risk for cannabis addiction to be hard-wired into a person’s psychology when consuming at a young age as well as a far greater danger of developing psychosis, schizophrenia, and other mental illnesses (Most of cannabis negative effects relate to mental health not physical health). The legal age was set at 18 or 19 only to take the profits away from black-market sellers. This does not mean it is safe at this age. To consume weed for non-medical purpose while the brain is developing would be a sin because it harms the developing body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Coffee And Tea
Going into a church it is normal for coffee to be brewed for socialization 15mins before the meeting. This despite caffeine being an addictive drug, and its disruption of the service in that users will be more fidgity and restless and also more likely to need the restroom. What would happen if instead of coffee, cannabis had been normalized in our culture? Would there be a communal smoke session to help calm your mind before service? Some religions, such as Rastafarianism practice taking cannabis before service. In some cultures, the cola leaf or beetle nut is used as a mild psychoactive. In church youth groups, pop and chips are always common, despite being very unhealthy. So why is a mild psychoactive herb considered so sinful in comparison? I like to wonder, if Christianity had thrived first in a non-European culture, if cannabis would have become the drug of choice before church service, in place of coffee.
In the early church, Paul the apostle had to rebuke members for getting drunk in church at the communion. Some people only came to church to eat as much food as possible and drink wine to the point of getting drunk. There would be no food or wine left for the other members:
1 Corinthians 11:21-22,
When ye come together therefore into one place, this
is not to eat the Lord's supper. 21
For in eating every one taketh before other
his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken.”
The point is, the stigma of a cannabis user being called ‘pothead’ or ‘stoner’ is an unfair stereotype, implying all users are heavy users and addicted. Members in the early church used alcohol during service. In the modern church coffee is served. Someone who likes to enjoy a little bud once and a while on their own time and dime at home or with friends should not be judged as if they are sinning. Everyone has their own preference. It is time for us to take a chill pill and set aside cultural stereotypes against cannabis users.
Holy Anointing Oil
Cannabis is a possible ingredient (Kaneh Bosom) in the biblical holy anointing oil.[v] This would be applied to the surface of the skin when a king or priest was anointed, causing them to absorb the THC and perhaps get a mild buzz. No one can prove for certain whether the biblical Kaneh Bosom is the same as the modern day cannabis plant, or if it was perhaps just “sweet cane” as it is often translated. A verse in Psalms mentions it as “oil of gladness,” which lends support to the idea that the mystery ingredient was the cannabis, which could make the anointed person ‘glad’ (happy).
Psalm 45:7-8, “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby they have made thee glad.”
Water Into Wine? Spinach Into Bud?
The last thing we should consider is that Jesus first miracle was to turn water into wine. If Jesus turned water into something as dangerous as alcohol, it begs the question what he would do in a different culture. It is not unreasonable to think that if Christ was to repeat this miracle in our culture he may just turn someone’s bowl of spinach into some high-quality herb. Of course, we cannot know for sure, but it does get a person thinking....
In the end, many people decide to quit using marijuana because they simply do not enjoy its effects anymore after a certain age or feel like it leads to a downward path in life. Young persons, mentally ill, and people with heart problems would be better off simply abstaining from marijuana. What a person uses to relax or feel happy is their own business however, if they are being responsible and have control over its use. If a person has weighed the positives and negatives of cannabis usage and can do it in a way that does not hurt their heath, impair their ambition, or harm others, and can keep restraint, minimizing the amount and frequency of use, then for them it is not a sin or immoral. Cellphones, junk food, alcohol, can all be sinful when not kept under control and moderation. Cannabis is no different.
10 “And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.”
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