Christians and Cannabis
by Jack Taylor
What do we do with cannabis now that we can’t say it’s illegal anymore? A CBC survey says that 55 percent of Canadians aren’t ready for this even though we already have the highest rates of cannabis usage in the world. What would a survey of our churches say? For medical or for recreational usage?
Flourishing and questioning
Christians who flourish in confusing times focus on wisdom rather than legislation, on principles rather than rules and on clear-thinking self-control rather than edgy behaviour.
How is marijuana different from coffee or Red Bull as an energizer or mood modifier? How is it different than prescription drugs? How is it different from alcohol or tobacco already accepted in many Christian circles? How do parents now add one more item to the long list of things which our society says are legal but which may not be personally profitable or good?
God and good
Ken Fuggersberger, a member of Collingwood Baptist Church, says “I have noticed patterns in users and know my own struggles with 10 years of chronic use myself.” He states “God made cannabis and it was good. Good for what? He never intended for us to sit around getting baked. So what did He have in mind?”
Sam Storm, President-Elect of the Evangelical Theological Society, in his March 2017 article on ‘10 Things You Should Know about Marijuana and the Christian’ says “It seems reasonable to me, and not at all unbiblical, that if marijuana can be used in some form and under the oversight of a physician to help those in extreme pain, or those for whom all other medical remedies have proven ineffective, it should be allowed.” Others, like John Piper, agree.
Alice Lowe, bookkeeper for a Baptist church in Vancouver, was prescribed marijuana for her MS but found that, after a few attempts, she was uncomfortable with the side effects and preferred other treatment options. And yet, others bedridden with crippling, chronic pain, seizures, loss of appetite after chemotherapy, depression, anxiety, muscle spasms, nausea, inflammatory diseases all tout the merits of medical marijuana. Some of those are sincere followers of Jesus.
Moderation and intoxication
If the Bible allows for the use of alcohol in moderation, might it not also permit the use of marijuana in moderation? Of course, we understand that intoxication would be sinful.
Storm says that “quick, pat answers to the question of recreational cannabis are often unhelpful. Responses without nuance will not best serve the church in the long run.” In an aside he asks “Is it okay to light up around the campfire just like it may be to enjoy wine at a wedding?” Do passages like I Timothy 4:3-5 and Colossians 2:16-23 warn us against extrabiblical prohibitions?
A regular marijuana user might point at Christians hiding out in their Starbucks or Tim Hortons or other favourite haunt and ask how is this different than caffeine or other energy drinks? Pastor John Piper points out that “Marijuana temporarily impairs the reliable processing of surrounding reality. Caffeine ordinarily sharpens that processing. Most coffee drinkers hope to stay awake, do their jobs more reliably, and drive more safely.” (“Don’t Let Your Mind go to Pot,” January 9, 2014, www.desiringgod.org).
Caution for youth
In a June 5, 2017 Globe and Mail article (Your Kid’s Brain on Pot…), Adriana Barton cites a Duke University study which is a caution for youth using marijuana.
In a 2012 report, researchers from Duke University analyzed data from Dunedin and found that the earlier and more frequently a person smoked pot, the greater the loss of intelligence by age 38. Compared to their IQs measured at age 13, people who had started using cannabis as teens and maintained a daily pot habit into adulthood had, on average, a six-point drop in IQ. The decline was not trivial: By age 38, their average IQ was below that of 70 per cent of their peers, according to the report, published in the journal PNAS.
Questions to consider for cannabis, coffee, prescription drugs, media etc: This is permissible but is it beneficial (I Corinthians 6:12)? Is it wise (James3:13-18)? Is it glorifying God for my body as His temple (I Corinthians 6:19-20)? Is it a demonstration of love for my neighbour (Matthew 22:37-40)? Is it a demonstration of self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)? Is it promoting the cause of Christ (Philippians 3:7-14)? Is it enabling me to increase my commitment, my ability, my witness (Hebrews 12:1-3)? Is it an evidence of submitting to the Spirit’s control (Eph. 5:18)? Is it good (James 4:17)? Is it a cause for thanksgiving (Colossians 3:17)? See also I Thessalonians 5:6-8; Titus 2:2; 1 Peter 4:7, 5:8; Romans 14:1-23.