Recent trends in the direction of the full-scale legalization of marijuana suggest that pot is undergoing a dramatic marketing makeover.
One cannabis branding firm put it this way: “There is a huge untapped market here. It’s about reaching nonconsumers: women, young people, business professionals, grandmothers, and soccer moms.” Get ready: if it hasn’t already, your favorite shows soon will feature marijuana in a way that makes it feel cool — whether it’s a joint, a pot-tart, a keefcat, or a pot-brownie.
This means that Christians will need to think more carefully about marijuana than most of us have until now. Not everyone will be tempted to consume pot, but most everyone will be in a position to advise someone who is considering it.
With this in mind, here are five questions to ask before you consume pot.
1. Is It Legal?
One of God’s gifts to us in human government is the regulation of certain socially corrosive behaviors (Romans 13:1–7). The state should not regulate every bad behavior, and so there are many things that are legal but not therefore ethical. But certain behaviors are regulated, and that can be a good thing. So while more goes into the question of whether we should smoke pot than its legality, this is nevertheless a vital place to start.
It’s true that a number of U.S. states have made marijuana legal for medical use, and two states have made it legal for recreational use. But everywhere else in the country, it remains illegal. For Christians, obedience to the Lord means obedience to these laws concerning marijuana.
2. What Will It Do to Me?
This question has to do with our relationship to our own bodies. Of course, our bodies are not merely our bodies. They were made for God’s glory, and they were bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:12–20). For this reason, as with anything we consume, we should want to know what it will do to us. For some, this question has an easy answer: it gives you a buzz — because marijuana contains THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive, mind-altering, and intoxicating chemical.
It’s true that marijuana is not as dangerous as harder drugs, and for that reason it is often suggested that marijuana is actually more like alcohol. But we should be careful with this comparison. Alcohol in moderate amounts has many desirable effects, including benefits to one’s health. But in excessive amounts, as Scripture teaches and we know from observation, drunkenness takes away understanding and leads to “poverty,” “sorrow,” and “strife” (Hosea 4:11; Proverbs 23:20–21, 29–35). For this reason, while human societies have near universally celebrated alcohol, they also have adopted social norms to regulate its use.
In addition, THC can stay in the body for weeks after consumption, yielding ongoing effects. These effects are measurable and many. Studies show that pot slows the mind, dulls the memory, and diminishes motivation while increasing the risk of socially destructive behavior and severe medical maladies too long to list here. Especially when used by young people, it has been found that marijuana actually transforms the structure of the brain negatively.
3. Will It Help Me Love Others?
As Christians, we believe our bodies are for the Lord, but love is the second greatest command because our lives are also for other people (Matthew 22:39). So, in what way could marijuana harm or enhance our performance in our roles as sons, daughters, siblings, spouses, students, parents, employees, and employers?
Here’s another way to put the question: Will this substance enhance my dominion over life so that I may love others well, or will it exercise dominion over me? Will I be able to help someone in danger, drive a car safely, model self-control to my children, grieve with someone who is suffering, correct someone who is straying from the faith, or encourage someone who is discouraged?
Of course, these questions apply to more than just marijuana. Coffee has dominion over some people in ways that could compromise relationships. But coffee generally sharpens our perception of reality and our engagement with the world. That’s why home kitchens and office break rooms feature perfectly uncontroversial coffeemakers. Marijuana, by contrast, mutes our ability to control our thinking, our speaking, and our bodies in ways that are deleterious not only to ourselves but also to others.
4. Am I Pursuing It as Medicine or Recreation?
We can reasonably say that it is not necessarily sinful for a person to use marijuana by prescription. There are already many drugs that a doctor might prescribe that can address pain that we should not use recreationally. Morphine and oxycodone are examples of addictive substances that serve important medicinal purposes under proper guidance. Marijuana can as well. In fact, we practically have a Bible verse for this: “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress” (Proverbs 31:6).
But there are good reasons for caution even here. Given human nature, we should not be surprised to find that in states where marijuana has been legalized for medical use, recreational marijuana use has increased dramatically. Just like many prescribed drugs, THC may have a medicinal effect, but it can also be very harmful.
5. Will We Smoke Pot in Heaven?
Some things won’t be experienced in heaven because Christ died to fulfill them — marriage, for example. But some things won’t be experienced in heaven because Christ died to rescue us from them. In Galatians 5:21, Paul speaks of “envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.” He continues, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Intoxication by marijuana is indeed a thing like drunkenness — a thing that won’t be with us in the new creation.
So, brothers and sisters, don’t be intoxicated with popular culture’s messaging on this issue, and don’t seek the intoxicating artificial peace promised by chemicals like THC. But while life is hard and escapes are tempting, they are not the answer. Thankfully, Christ is our answer, and not only does he fill our hearts with himself, but he forgives us for seeking life in the broken cisterns of chemically-induced euphoric escapes.
Don’t get drunk with wine, and don’t intoxicate yourself with a plant. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, be sober-minded, and stay alert for the coming of Christ — which will be a truly euphoric experience indeed (Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 1:13).