question and answer periods during the conference. A question was asked about Christian liberty and smoking pot. Several states are legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and this counselor had been confronted by a
struggler who said that if the state said pot was legal then he should be able as a Christian to smoke it. After all he said, the Bible says nothing about pot and there really wasn't much difference between smoking pot for pain
and taking Vicodin. So, Christian doctor, what do you think? Is it ok to smoke a joint in the pursuit of pain relief or anxiety relief?
I was a little surprised by the question even though I have been asked it recently because of the changes in law in Washington, California and Colorado. But, I was not expecting it to show up so soon among us evangelicals. I must
admit that it was a little hard to keep a straight face and answer the question. The whole idea just seems to lend itself to pharmacologic humor.
So what does Medicine say about using marijuana? It says a lot. First, marijuana is addictive in the same way nicotine is addictive. It has its own withdrawal effects that drive use. This is very important since marijuana is
smoked. Currently our society is crucifying those who use tobacco, and it seems strange to be legalizing a drug that is smoked! Smoking pot has the potential for all the same kinds of diseases that smoking tobacco does. Imagine what
people say if a doctor would recommend smoking tobacco for the medicinal benefits of nicotine!
The use of marijuana is also associated with an increased incidence of schizophrenia and psychosis. While it is unclear that how these two are associated, smoking pot seems to bring on the worst symptoms of schizophrenia, hallucinations and psychosis. The use of marijuana during pregnancy is associated with lower intelligence levels for the children who are exposed to the drug in the womb.
A recent long term study looked at IQ (intelligence quotient) before regular use and after 10 years of it. And surprise! After a decade of use IQ in regular users dropped! It was a lot like the movie title...Dumb & Dumber. (Please forgive me I could not resist that line…) I have watched individuals who smoke the drug over long periods of time and I can tell you they really do not think as well as they did when they started.
Marijuana is a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Schedule 1 drug. That means that the federal government recognizes no useful indication for the use of marijuana in medicine. They may be some very narrow indications for
the active ingredient but as such none have been approved. I have reviewed the California Medical Associations indications for medical marijuana and they say the following. “The…list of serious medical conditions is broad, and in most cases not supported by solid clinical research.”[i] And, there are approved medications for use for the problems for which marijuana might be useful.
As a physician I can only say that marijuana is an addictive drug with dangerous side effects. There are alternatives for treatment for any problem that it might be used to treat. I could not recommend its use to any patient. If we are as Paul said supposed to be good stewards of our bodies which are the temple of God, I can no good reason to use a drug for recreation that will damage it. (See 1Cor. 6 esp.12-20)
So, then what does the Bible say about Marijuana? Nothing. Nothing directly that is. It also does not say “smoke a little pot for your mood’s sake.” (Humble apologies to Paul and Timothy) The question then does fall in the realm of Christian liberty, but even that freedom is restrained by the rest of scripture.
How should we then look at a substance that is addictive, harmful to all who smoke it, a danger to the unborn, expensive, and illegal in 47 of the 50 States and federally in all 50? We should abide by the law as a Romans 13 response to government and abstain from the use of pot. And, we should oppose legalization. Just because any government says that something is legal does not make it right. Abortion is just such a problem, and prostitution is legal in Nevada.
Marijuana is addictive. Christians are not to give their bodies over to the control of any substance. Paul told us not to be drunk with wine in Ephesians 5:18, but to be controlled by the Holy Spirit. The idea that Christians should give themselves over to a mind altering addictive drug is beyond any reasonable interpretation of Christian liberty.
Christian Liberty is limited in any situation by the way it could harm others. Paul said that he would not eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes a brother to stumble. (Romans 14:21) As I have practiced medicine, I have watched men and women destroy their own lives and bring heartache into the lives of spouses and children through drug use of all kinds including marijuana. Smoking pot for recreation is amazingly self-centered. Those who use it are not asking how it will benefit others. They only seek their own pleasure. Paul said, “Nobody should seek their own good but the good of others.”(1Cor. 10:24)
Another important question that a believer must answer is “how does smoking marijuana effect our service to Christ?” People who are known to smoke marijuana regularly rarely do anything important. While it is fashionable
to have smoked pot a long time ago, no politician wants it known that he or she currently smokes a joint now and then. It is hard to think of anyone in Christian service who could be so addled by the drug and be of much use.
Finally, as Christians we should not be using medical ailments as an excuse to permit the recreational use of marijuana. Smoking pot is a bad idea. Maybe it is just time that we all grew up and acted like responsible adults.
[i] http://www.mbc.ca.gov/medical_marijuana_cma-recommend.pdf. There is a considerable list of “indications” all of which have currently tested medical treatments. This is California at its best.