Written by Sawyer Bullock
Come summer 2018, the Canadian government will legalize the purchase and consumption of marijuana. Age restrictions will vary by province but are expected to parallel those set for alcohol. This newfound liberty of the “devil’s lettuce” raises a question for the Canadian Church: what is the appropriate use of marijuana?
The Bible doesn’t mention marijuana—nor smoked salmon or baked brie—but this alone is not license for recreational consumption. While Christians are called to honour ruling governments and leaders (Romans 13), the fundamental metric for our lives is theological and our reasoning should reflect this.
A good place to start is by examining how the Bible approaches similar topics, in this case, alcohol. Simply put, we are told “Do not get drunk with wine… but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). Through this and other passages, we see a warning against recreationally seeking impaired sobriety and consciousness.
This principle appears to be independent of the means: how you become impaired is not the problem; the problem is that in this state you are controlled by the substance and not the Spirit. Analogically, this can then be applied to marijuana and a host of other substances. Getting high on painkillers is also not illegal, but one would be hard-pressed to form a supporting biblical argument.
“But what if I don’t smoke it to get high?” This is where the comparison to alcohol breaks down. Marijuana intoxication occurs at less than 7mg of THC (approximately 4 puffs); while it is very possible to enjoy alcohol without drunkenness, smoking without getting high is not a feasible option. Further, intoxication is the only recreational purpose of marijuana—and this is the very use that God forbids. Notice that this does not condemn the many medicinal uses of marijuana.
Following this point, a Christian does well to remember that while we have a body, our body is not only our own: whether we eat, or drink, or sleep, we are to do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). When considering marijuana, we should ask, “Does this help me love God?” “Does this help me show Him as all satisfying and desirable?” “Does this stir up my heart to worship or does it numb me to His supremacy?”
Secondly, the Christian must ask, “Does this help me love others?” “Does this affect my witness?” We must move beyond self-obsession and towards sacrificial love, being prepared to give up all things, even our very lives, for the furtherance of the gospel.
Along this note of bodily stewardship, it is worth noting the health risks involved—though, conveniently, sources are difficult to find. A highly respected peer reviewed journal, the New England Journal of Medicine, has an article “Adverse Health Effects of Marijuana Use” which shows the risk of mental health issues and addiction, especially amongst adolescent males. Anywhere from 25-50% of those who smoke daily will become addicted, and those who start in their teens are two to four times more likely to become addicted than those beginning in adulthood. The effects on brain development and performance, relation to mental illness, as well as possibly serving as a gateway drug, raises many issues worthy of serious consideration.
May we as Christians rise above what is merely permissible and seek to honour God with our minds and our bodies. Let this serve as a template for walking through this topic and others which come our way.