I’ve searched your site regarding marijuana use, and have found a few articles. However, they are a bit dated, and I’m wondering if you have any updated information given its current legal status in some states – and pending legal status in California. My husband and I lead a group where two women smoke marijuana for medical reasons. We’re stumped – and surprised – by this. I also have a 19 year old son (not a Christian – yet) whose biggest issue is with questions on why marijuana use is wrong. There are other issues here, but I want to answer this one definitively. I am aware that even if it were legalized he couldn’t use it because the law stipulates use by 21 and over. Given the prevalence of marijuana use in society today – medical or recreational – I’m wondering if you have any updated data, references, etc. Thanks!
I recently did a Q & A in Seattle with campus and teens in which nearly half the questions were on this topic, which is understandable since marijuana is now legal in Washington. I believe it will be legal here in California soon if not after this year’s election. In the Q & A session, both issues you raise were dealt with. Here is my fairly brief response.
There are several issues in play here. Each involves a biblical principle, not a direct biblical command because, obviously, marijuana is not specifically mentioned in the Bible.
First, there is the issue of doing something illegal. For most of us, the use of marijuana is sinful simply on the basis of it being illegal and the Bible does provide commands that we should obey the law of the land. (Romans 13:1-14).
But, as you mentioned, this fact which made the question straightforward in the past is rapidly changing, so we will have to think carefully about other reasons marijuana use is sinful, or perhaps that in some cases it is not sinful.
First of all, if medical marijuana is legal and if one can reasonably infer that the use of the drug will so greatly improve the condition of one’s life so as to justify its use, then I would say it certainly is not sinful. For example, if a person is suffering mightily with pain or with lack of appetite or is losing eyesight due to an illness and one can reasonably predict that the loss of health and even the mental/emotional damage caused by marijuana is far more than outweighed by the potential good of health improvement, then it is not sinful to use marijuana. If we do not agree with this, then it would be sinful to receive sedation for surgery as it is sinful to get “high” on drugs during surgery. Obviously, no one will agree with this logic. Christianity includes compassion and a desire to relieve suffering. The fact that use of a drug creates a somewhat grey area because it causes mind alteration while at the same time it causes relief of pain or other kinds of suffering does make the issue somewhat difficulty, but I believe we can concede that at least in some cases in which the drug is legal and in which we can predict the “harm” is less than the benefit, it would not be sinful to use marijuana.
This takes care of a rather small percentage of the cases of marijuana usage. What about “recreational use” of the drug, which is by far its greatest usage. It is my opinion that such recreational uses of marijuana are either blatantly sinful or at the absolute best grey areas which are so close to being a black area that no faithful Christian would go near this area. There are a few reasons, based on biblical principles, I reach this conclusion.
First of all there is the fact that we are disciples of Jesus and we, as disciples of Jesus, want to do what he would do and not do what he would not do. Here is the bottom line for me. There is NO WAY Jesus would smoke dope. It is beyond reasonable to imply that Jesus would get high on marijuana for mere pleasure. If Jesus would not do it (and anyone who says he would should probably check out their heart), then we should not do it and it would be sinful for us to do it. This is a simple but compelling argument.
Another reason I believe it is sinful to smoke marijuana is that it is harmful to our brains, with no benefit to compensate for this fact (assuming we are talking about recreational use). THC has the property of interfering with brain function. It inhibits certain neurotransmitter functions. Add to that, the evidence is that the damage is semi-permanent. Marijuana has a significant negative impact on short term memory and on other cognitive functions. Again, all of this is with no conceivable benefit that a spiritual person can really defend. If our bodies and our brains are “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), then we have no right to defile those bodies or brains for temporary pleasure.
Thirdly, the only reason people smoke (or eat or…) marijuana is so as to get high. Some would compare the drinking of coffee or alcohol in small quantities to the smoking of marijuana. My personal experience tells me that one or two cups of coffee or a single beer has only a very slight effect of making one “high”. Drinking coffee or having a single glass of wine are perhaps a grey area, but marijuana is only smoked, not for a teensy bit of relaxation, but to get high. Galatians 5:19-21 includes drunkenness and witchcraft (the word is pharmaceo which means drugs) as sins. I could list other passages which, as a principle, would lead to the inexorable conclusion that getting high for its own sake as sinful.
Fourth, there is the concern over addiction. Paul said that he would let nothing master him (1 Corinthians 6:12). A Christian should not take part in any activity which one can expect would tend to conrol them. Clearly marijuana can have this effect. This argument is not the strongest one I have to offer because the fact is that other drugs such as heroin, cocaine, alcohol and crystal meth are even caffeine are more strongly physically addictive that marijuana, but, still, a disciple of Jesus should, as advised by Paul, avoid activities with a high probability of producing addiction.
The fifth principle I believe implies the use of marijuana is sinful is the effect it can have on other people–both believers and non-Christians. It is a bad example of Christianity. We should not do things which could be a stumbling block to others and we should not do things that a large majority will consider as a bad mark on our character. This principle is found in Romans 15, in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, 10:23-34 and elsewhere. God tells us through Paul that if what we do offends the consciences of others then we should not do such things. Clearly, smoking marijuana is questionable at best, and it would be a stumbling block to many. I would put myself in the list of those who would be highly offenced by a Christian who claims to be spiritual and who smokes marijuana for pleasure. I would be one of those to stumble at this activity.
My conclusion is that those who have a serious medical issue, who live in a location where medical marijuana is legal, and who, on the advice of a legitimate medical expert, can reasonably conclude that the negatives associated with the use of marijuana are significantly overcome by the benefit to health, that it is not a sin for that person. However, the use of marijuana to get high is clearly sinful for several reasons and no spiritual person would ever smoke marijuana for pleasure. In the big picture, this is a black and white issue outside the mediacal use realm.