I’ll start by laying all my cards out on the table: I’m not a fan of recreational marijuana. Period. End of story.
Outside of medicinal use, I don’t think marijuana is viable, beneficial or worthwhile. And, on the theological front, I don’t believe it’s something God would want us doing — or supporting.
That being said, it’s been quite perplexing to watch the policy debate unfold, particularly as society has increasingly become supportive of legalizing cannabis. Just 12 percent of the public supported legalization back in 1969, but that proportion has swelled to 64 percent, according to Gallup. Strangely, the current debate over legalization seems to be rooted in a false and unbending dichotomy.
On one side, proponents for legalization argue that the drug must be totally decriminalized, as they say that people have been unfairly incarcerated and, as a result, have had their lives ruined. On the other side, there are those who won’t bend in any form on legalization.
In the end, that fixed and heel-digging back-and-forth is curious, as there are plenty of middle ground approaches to the issue (consider that it’s not legal to speed, but we generally don’t incarcerate people who get caught doing it).
I'll make one more note on weed debate. Why do people assume something has to be illegal/jail worthy or fully legal? Speeding, for instance, is not legal. You aren't imprisoned, but you're fined. A lot of people are seeing a false, unbending dichotomy here in their argumentation.
— Billy Hallowell (@BillyHallowell) January 4, 2018
Sadly, people don’t seem interested in a rational approach, specifically those who want to see the drug legalized. These activists have convinced a number of U.S. states to legalize the drug and to, in turn, send a message to kids and adults, alike, that it’s suddenly a viable substance worthy of being green-lit.
I won’t get into the “why” when it comes to society’s uptick in embracing pot, as that’s a broader cultural discussion that involves an increasingly relativistic populace that has been colored and reprogrammed by Hollywood, among other informational spheres.
But I’ll happily explain why I believe legalization is a bad idea — one that will do nothing to add remedy to an already beleaguered culture.
And I know, I know. I’ve heard all the arguments before. “We should be free to choose,” “People do it anyway!” “It’s harmless. Who cares?” “It’s a state’s rights issue!” The list goes on…and on. In my spare time, I’m an adjunct college professor and my classes frequently debate the issue, so you can imagine that I’ve heard the ins and outs semester after semester over the past decade.
I won’t have time to break it all down, but to offer some quick rebuttals: We have plenty of laws that restrict unhealthy or dangerous choices, just because people do something anyway doesn’t mean we should legalize it, weed is far from harmless and, sure, you can look at it as a state’s rights issue, though states border one another and illegal substances create a complex scenario on the enforcement and impact front.
Oh, and let me not forget my favorite pro-weed argument: “Alcohol is legal and that’s far worse for you, so weed should be legal too.”
I’ve always found this proclamation particularly strange, as those who pedal it will go on and on about how bad alcohol is and how deadly and dangerous it can be. I don’t disagree that DWI’s and health crises as a result of booze abuse are real and troubling issues.
But this argument only bolsters my point: If we already have a problem with substance abuse on the beverage front, why are we looking to add to that crisis by legalizing and normalizing something else?
And sure, there are some profound differences between weed and alcohol; I won’t deny that. Alcohol can yield life-altering problems, though one can — and most do — consume it without getting tipsy or drunk. The very purpose of weed is to make someone “high” and to put a person in a state that is quite different from their natural one (medicinal use is not what I'm speaking of here).
Again, getting drunk has the same effect, but one can seamlessly use alcohol and never take it to an intoxication level, while smoking or ingesting weed almost always alters a person’s being — I mean, isn’t that the intent? Beyond all that, though, society appears to be embracing something we actually don’t know all that much about. Wasn’t there also a time when people thought cigarettes were pretty harmless?
One of the other elements worth noting is that tetrahydracannabinol (also known as THC), the chemical that gives weed users their high, has transformed in terms of its potency in recent decades, making it difficult to assess the real impact of the drug. Plus, research has been scant.
But don’t just take my word for it. Live Science has more:
According to research from the Potency Monitoring Project, the average THC content of marijuana has soared from less than 1 percent in 1972, to 3 to 4 percent in the 1990s, to nearly 13 percent in 2010. Today, some retail marijuana has 30 percent THC or more. The increased potency makes it difficult to determine the short-and long-term effects of marijuana.
People will make all sorts of claims about marijuana use, with some legalization proponents noting that teen drug use decreased in Colorado and critics pointing out that weed is now sending more teens to the ER. The truth is: it’s far too soon for either side to be making definitive statements about the impact of legalization on the policy front; the drug is legal for recreational use in: Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, Colorado, Washington, D.C., and Alaska and it has been approved in Massachusetts and Maine.
In the end, the policy debate is a fine and dandy discussion to have, but, as a Christian, I have to appeal in my own heart to the theological position. The Bible makes it pretty clear that getting drunk is sinful. As GotQuestions.org notes, Ephesians 5:18 gives humanity a pretty convicting line: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”
Clearly, it seems being drunk or high and being “filled with the spirit” are contradictory. The outlet continues:
Two elements are being compared: alcohol and the Holy Spirit. Each has the power to take control of a person’s mind and behavior—with vastly different results. Getting drunk leads to a loss of self-control; being filled with the Spirit leads to more self-control (Galatians 5:22–23). We cannot be controlled by both alcoholic spirits and the Holy Spirit at the same time. When we choose to ingest mind-altering substances, we are effectively choosing to give ourselves over to the control of something other than the Holy Spirit. Anything that takes control of our mind, will, and emotions is a false god. Any master we obey other than the Lord is an idol, and idolatry is sin (1 Corinthians 10:14).
Getting drunk is a sin. Whether it be alcohol, drugs, or some other addictive behavior, Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). When we get drunk, or even slightly affected by alcohol or drugs, we are serving a master other than the Lord. Choosing to follow Jesus means choosing against our old sinful patterns and lifestyle. We cannot follow Jesus and also follow drunkenness, immorality, or worldly thinking (Galatians 2:20; Romans 6:1–6). They are going in opposite directions. First Corinthians 6:10 lists drunkards among those who “will not inherit the kingdom of God.” When we choose to be defined by our sin, we cannot also be a Christ-follower (Galatians 5:19–21). When we choose drunkenness in spite of God’s command against it, we are choosing disobedience and cannot, in that state, be in fellowship with a holy God who condemns it (Luke 14:26–27; Matthew 10:37–38).
Not everyone is a Christian; and that’s fine. But, if the Bible is to be believed, then getting high certainly isn’t something to aspire to, nor is getting drunk.
My faith aside, though, it seems highly irresponsible to send a message to kids that marijuana is suddenly something we endorse as a society, especially considering the dearth of research and the fact that some experts have warned that “marijuana use is likely to increase as state and local policies move toward legalizing marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.”
And just to show you that I’m not making random arguments here, some studies have already shown that weed isn’t quite as safe and harmless as people have claimed. Evidence can be found here, here, here and here.
During a time in which moral relativity is raging, confusion is rampant and people appear more disconnected than ever, adding weed further into the mix seems like the wrong path forward. Let’s be better.