Note: This article was originally posted in early February, but both it and the comments on it inexplicably disappeared a few days ago, so I’m reposting now.
One of the reasons for the length of time between this post and the last is simple disobedience. I KNEW the God wanted me to write this; I simply didn’t want to because of the reactions I am almost certain I’ll get from most readers.
And, no, it wasn’t because I was afraid of offending anyone or because I was overly concerned with being taken the wrong way, or even that I would be ignored or my stand rejected without consideration. Even though the majority of conversations I’ve had on this topic (which is coming up quite often lately) gets one of those responses, my main excuse for not posting this is because, based on previous conversations, I felt it was a waste of time.
“Why, Lord,” I asked, “Should I put all this effort into something that I know will just come to nothing?”
And, of course, the answer was the same as always in these cases. “Because that is what I want you to do, and I know the outcome – you don’t. Read your Scripture and thing back on church history. Are you so arrogant to think that you are the only one I’ve asked to do something that seems silly at the time? Get on with it!”
So, there are really two questions to be answered. You will notice that the second presupposes a “yes” answer to the first, and that a “no” answer to the first makes the second irrelevant. Here they are:
“Is it OK for a Christian to use recreational marijuana in those states that have legalized it?” and “How much of a buzz can I get without sinning?”
Before I answer, I want to make it VERY clear that I am NOT addressing the issue of medical marijuana. I am looking at the use of recreational marijuana, even if used for medical reasons but without a prescription. There are legitimate PRESCRIBED MEDICAL uses for it, most of which do not contain significant amounts of the compound primarily responsible for the psychoactive effects.
The reason I stress PRESCRIBED AND SUPERVISED MEDICAL USE is because over thirty years in various ministries and two decades of my wife working at a resident teen treatment center I can without reservation state that of all of the many acquaintances, friends, and family members that I have observed self-medicating with controlled substances (including both alcohol and marijuana), it has NEVER turned out well.
Back to recreational use. As a follower of Christ, the primary authority should be the Bible. However, Scripture does not directly mention marijuana. Therefore, we must look at what God has said in His word about similar substances, and draw a correlation from that.
There are two topics in the Bible that most directly relate to the issue: sorcery, and alcohol. The first requires a bit more explanation, so let’s look at sorcery first.
Although Scripture does not explicitly mention narcotic and mind-altering drug use other than alcohol, extra-Biblical writings of the times as well as the writings of early church fathers and contemporary historians indicate that the use of such drugs was an integral part of many sorcerous practices. For example, sorcerers and magicians frequently used psychoactive potions to induce visions and help in divination. The Bible very clearly forbids the practice of sorcery and occult magic in Ex. 22:18, Mal 3:5, and Gal 5:19-21
As for alcohol, we are repeatedly reminded that we are not to get drunk. A few passages that emphasize this are Rom. 13:13, 1 Cor 6:9-10, Eph. 5:18, and 1 Thess.5:7-8.
So, the obviously most valid conclusion from these and other passages is that we are forbidden by God to purposely become intoxicated. In other words, getting high and getting drunk are equally sinful.
But, I’ve been asked, since we aren’t forbidden from the use of alcohol as long as we don’t get drunk, doesn’t the same apply to recreational use of other drugs?
That’s a good question, but when the effects and common uses of non-prescribed mind-altering drugs such as cannabis are examined, it becomes clear that the real questions is “Can I use marijuana anyway?”.
Here’s the BIG difference: while for the average adult it takes about two to 4 servings of an alcoholic beverage to become intoxicated, for cannabis clinical studies have concluded that in order to become intoxicated to the point of impaired judgement and reflexes takes on average 4 – 6 puffs. In other words, most adults will get a buzz from less than one joint, and a full one can get you flat out high unless you are using it frequently enough to build up a tolerance.
Coupled with the fact that no one I have interviewed or read accounts from uses cannabis in cooking (brownies or cookies, y’all?) does it as a flavor enhancer or for any reason other than to get high, it is safe to conclude that there is no safe, legitimate, or Biblically sound used for recreational marijuana. Remember, as I said before – self medicating with controlled substances has, in my observation, never turned out well.
But there are other reasons to refrain from recreational use. First of all, in Romans 13:1-2 Paul reminds us that we are to obey the laws of the land. While Scripture does give us the obligation to break this general rule when obeying the law forces us to violate GOD’S commands, this practice clearly does not fall under that exception. So, since use of recreational use of marijuana is still prohibited under Federal law anytime you use cannabis without a prescription you are willingly disobeying the law.
Finally, Paul spend a large portion of his letter to the Romans (Rom. 14) giving instructions about how just because we CAN do something it is often the case that we SHOULDN’T. He emphasized that if indulging in something that is pleasurable or even possibly personally beneficial in some way is likely to cause a sibling in Christ to stumble in their relationship with God WE SHOULD NOT DO IT.
Additionally, we must keep in mind that Jesus, in Luke 9, talks about the necessity of personal sacrifice even to the point of death and torture in order to be an authentic disciple. If we as Warriors of Faith are not willing to sacrifice even in relatively small ways by refraining from what is clearly not in keeping with God’s will or commands, then are we truly ‘warriors’ at all? I think not.
For those who either dispute my assessment of the physiological effects of cannabis, or are unfamiliar with the research, here are a couple of sites to take a look at: