In recent years marijuana has been legalized in a handful of states, including my own home state, Oregon. In a few weeks the state of California will likely legalize marijuana, continuing the trajectory toward universal legalization of the drug around the United States.
For nearly all of my lifetime, the question of whether a Christian should use marijuana for any reason was an easy answer: no. No, because it broke the law outside of some allowances for “medical” purposes available in some states. Today this question is more convoluted. Now marijuana is legally available to nearly every adult for medical or recreational purposes, but does that mean the Christian should take part?
What is Marijuana?
To get a clearer picture of marijuana use for the Christian we must understand what it is first. If you want a longer answer, check out this helpful video below or read this article which I found very informative:
A shorter summary of marijuana is that it is a plant named Cannabis. The term “marijuana” is the unprocessed use of the entire Cannabis plant and its extracts. When people refer to “medical marijuana” they are referring to studies that have shown some medicinal benefits from marijuana use, but these benefits have not been recognized by the FDA or given support through extensive medical studies.
In other words, there is no difference between the use of medical marijuana and recreational marijuana, the whole unprocessed Cannabis plant is used in both instances.
The FDA has approved the medicinal use of two compounds from the Cannabis plant. One helps with patients struggling with nausea, the other helps increase the appetite for patients who aren’t eating enough.
How Does Marijuana Work?
In referring to marijuana here, again I’m referring to the whole unprocessed cannabis plant, not it’s various compounds, some of which have been used for prescribed medicinal purposes.
The two main functions of marijuana in the brain are: 1) an increase in dopamine (feeling of pleasure) and 2) a decrease in motor control firing.
The combination of these reactions creates a few short-term effects: memory loss, diminished problem-solving skills, motor coordination loss, increased heart rate.
Many of the medical marijuana users believe it helps with pain relief, but various studies have shown that the drug helps you cope with pain while not diminishing pain intensity. Because of this, the American Medical Association says, “Under federal law, marijuana has no currently accepted medical use and has a high potential for abuse.”
Maybe most troubling in all this is that marijuana use has shown to do irrevocable brain damage to developing brains. Couple this with our knowledge that brains continue to develop in people into their mid-twenties, and you can see the danger.
A Conclusion, of Sorts
So what kind of conclusions can we make for the Christian and marijuana use? The Bible encourages Christian believers not to enslave themselves to anything (2nd Peter 2:19). In many places the Bible encourages the Christian to be of sober mind, ready and alert.
Does this mean the Christian should never take an addictive chemical substance? No. The Bible does not prohibit all recreational uses of alcohol, after all.
While taking part in alcohol use or marijuana use to the point of drunkenness is clearly a sinful act, can a Christian believer take part in a small dosage of marijuana without sinning? It’s difficult to compare two completely different substances and their separate side effects, but there’s ample proof that moderation of marijuana is difficult because the drug is so palpable, only a few puffs are needed to produce its effects.
But really the question must go deeper than whether it produces drunkenness quickly or not. Ultimately the sinful use of marijuana will be found in wrong motivation for using the drug, not is encountering its side effects. It is the intent of marijuana use that should often determine its viability, not its side effects.
Can a person take part in a little marijuana use without entering into a sinful “drunkenness” stage? Possibly.
Would I consider this wise? No.
Why? Because marijuana use typically embraces an escapist mentality, and because even a few puffs could produce an addiction to the dopamine release side effect.
As with many areas of life, you must determine whether your decisions are violating God’s desires as stated in His Word. Certainly I have not closed the case on this issue, but hopefully this provides a better foundation for you in navigating it.
Some questions to ask yourself in regards to marijuana use:
Is my medical use of marijuana forming an addiction? Is it providing any actual medicinal benefits? Am I merely taking advantage of the system in place so I can use this drug?
Am I partaking in this drug with an escapist mentality?
Am I being enslaved to this drug even for a few moments?
Am I susceptible to abusing this drug by partaking right now?