There have been a lot of questions raised by Christians regarding pot usage ever since Washington Initiative 502 (I-502) on “marijuana reform” appeared on the November 2012 general ballot and was passed by voters.
The historical – and honestly, the easy – answer to the question “Is it okay for a Christian to smoke pot?” was that it was a crime to do so and Paul instructed us all to adhere to the laws of our nation for the common good.
Let every soul be subject to higher powers: for there is no power but from God: and those that are, are ordained of God.” (Rom 13:1)
Today, if you live in Washington or Colorado, that argument falls somewhat short of creating the same conviction. Currently marijuana possession and usage remains a criminal activity under federal law so Paul’s injunction to obey the laws of the land can still be applied. With the current state of law being in an odd conflict, we can assume that more changes are on the horizon, but even if local laws are reversed, there is still a need to address the question at a deeper level.
Let’s start by defining a couple of big scientific words:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC is the principal psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.
- Psychoactive “A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic is a chemical substance that crosses the blood–brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, resulting in alterations in perception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior.”
The bottom line of the science is that cannabis deserves to be called a “drug” with demonstrable effects on the brain and body, both positive and negative. While the following are not complete lists, here is a sampling of what is known.
- It is established that marijuana can ease the suffering of AIDS and chemo patients by increasing the appetite and decreasing nausea.
- It’s also known to help glaucoma patients by reducing pressure within the eye, and multiple sclerosis patients to alleviate neuropathic pain and spasticity.
- Chronic long-term use is known to damage the brain’s ability to store short-term memories.
- Some studies have shown that cannabis users have a greater risk of developing psychosis than non-users.
- Use by teenagers while their brain is still developing has been shown to lower IQ by an average of 8 points.
- Many of the respiratory health concerns of smoking tobacco cigarettes are also a concern for marijuana smokers.
The truth is, there are times when drugs provide for a greater good as Proverbs 31:6 suggests:
Let beer be for those who are perishing,
wine for those who are in anguish!
This suggests there is a legitimate medicinal usage for marijuana that has justification as a compassionate treatment for suffering.
This also means that we cannot label pot as “inherently evil”. God created marijuana. When God created the herbs of the fields at creation, cannabis was included (at least in some early form) and He did remark that they were all good. He also created Hemlock, Foxglove, Baneberry and Belladonna – all of which would likely kill you if misused. While the ingestion or inhalation of marijuana has never killed anyone directly, there remains plenty of opportunity to misuse it.
Nowhere in scripture will you find a command such as “Thou Shalt Not Smoke the Doobie” and for many people today, this is all the excuse needed to light one up. But the tablets of stone were small and heavy so Moses only got 10 commandments. As time went on, we humans invented more and more ways to misuse our bodies and our minds and our souls, as well as more ingenuitive ways to dishonor and disobey our Creator. You might expect Jesus would have needed a whole mountain side to carve all the needed addendums to the 10 commandments – instead he shortened the list to 2.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“There is no commandment greater than these.”
There are few specifics here, no injunctions to not worship a false god, no commands to not kill or cheat or sleep around. All of the commandments – even those forbidden evils we haven’t gotten around to making up yet – all are summarized with an expectation to love God and others. Jesus just assumed you were smart enough to apply this for yourself.
So how does this relate to our topic on hand? Jesus might also assume we are smart enough to understand that it is difficult to love the Lord your God with all your mind when your mind is being diminished by a psychoactive drug. It is difficult to love your neighbor who may be struggling with reality when your own ability to engage with reality is on hold.
But what about moderate usage like is often practiced with alcohol?
There may be a distinction between moderate alcohol usage and drunkenness. The line between is not the same for everyone. For some, zero tolerance is the only choice they can make for themselves honestly. For others, moderate alcohol use can be handled responsibly without leading to drunkenness. Each individual needs to work out these decisions with the Lord through prayer and study and in counsel with trusted and mature Christians.
A good rule of thumb might be Paul’s discussion of the body and sexual immorality in 1 Corinthians 6:12
“I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial.
“I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.
It is true, we have the “right to do anything” and there is liberty provided by the gospel – however that same liberty can be misused and the result will often be further enslavement which is why Paul says, not everything is beneficial and why he refused to be mastered by anything. Marijuana use is neither safe nor harmless ), even though it’s current legalization may imply that it is. The majority of healthy people will not gain anything truly beneficial from it, even in “moderate use”, and sadly – many people have been enslaved by it either directly or indirectly.
The choice of whether or not to smoke cannabis now that it is legal is, of course, always yours. Your leadership teams at AC3 hope that the current legalization of this psychoactive drug does not lead you to an uninformed choice with potentially dangerous consequences. As with alcohol use, we reserve the right to look at a person’s marijuana usage and it’s connection to their heart condition as a potential obstacle for any AC3 member seeking greater responsibility and leadership.