Is Recreational Marijuana Use Moral Even if It’s Legal?

Have you heard about California’s Proposition 19 set to be on our state ballot this November? If passed this proposition will legalize marijuana use in California for persons 21 years of age or older and will also legalize growing the plant in private residences within state borders (NBC ran an interesting story on this yesterday highlighting possible negative ramifications).

Current polling data shows this proposition would pass were it voted on today, but before all you closet potheads load the UHaul to move to California, we need to talk about a couple of things.

The purely medicinal application of Marijuana is valid – it certainly does ease chronic pain better than most pharmaceuticals. BUT … that is being so abused here in California it has become a huge joke. Cancer patients, those suffering from AIDS or MS – it makes sense for them to be able to get a prescription for Marijuana as a pain reliever and appetite stimulant, but when a person can stub their toe and get the “green” light to legally smoke pot (often indefinitely), something is wrong with the system. It’s a joke.

As for recreational use. habitual substance abuse has the potential to negatively define a person’s identity and rule their life.

Before I gave my life to Christ I was a huge pothead. Smoking marijuana every day made me lazy, mentally slow, damaged my lung capacity, and killed millions of brain cells. I viewed myself as a stoner. That affected my everyday decisions and my life ambitions. All I really wanted to do was get high, and I was okay with that – it was simply part of who I’d decided I was. Additionally, I was very addicted to marijuana despite the claims from proponents who tout its non-addictive nature. While it’s true most scientists claim marijuana is not physically addictive, the same say it is highly psychologically addictive. Looking at it simply in terms of personal health, it’s an incredibly stupid habit to develop.

From a spiritual standpoint, a couple of Scriptures should be considered. Galatians 5:19-21 is a good place to start.

Galatians 5:19-21
19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;
20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions
21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

This is a heavy Scripture. Written by the apostle Paul, it lists several sins that lead to death for “those who live like this.” That word “live” is an important one, because Paul isn’t saying a single individual sin will sever one’s relationship with God; rather, if a person lives in rebellion to God’s rule they should not expect to be known by Him.

I’m reticent to lump recreational marijuana use in with drunkenness. I believe key differences are present between the physical intoxication afforded by cannabis verses alcohol – namely, alcohol is much more dangerous and severe.

I do, however, believe Galatians 5 speaks against marijuana and all illicit drug usage for followers of Christ for two reasons:

First, the phrase “and the like” is included in verse 21. While it’s true the effects of marijuana are mild when compared to the effects of other drugs or alcohol, it is still an intoxicant that impairs you and is bad for your health. Legal or not, it is “like” other vices listed in this passage.

Secondly, the original Greek word translated ‘witchcraft’ in verse 20 is “pharmakeia” – the root behind the English word “pharmacy.” When most people think of ancient witches or wizards, they think black cats, cauldrons, and spells, but that’s not a historically accurate image. First century witchcraft was associated with the ‘magic’ substances practitioners sold. Magic potions, magic powders, and magic herbs were used with spells and incantations to remedy certain ailments – they would also get you high. Witchcraft is condemned not only because of its tie to idolatry, but also because it involved substance abuse.

Drug use and substance abuse is nothing new. We must take Paul’s statement that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” seriously.

You also have Romans 13 to consider:

Romans 13:1-5
1Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
2Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.
4For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

The Bible teaches it is morally appropriate to follow the laws of the land (of course we are not to when they violate the commands of Christ, but if we are honest we must admit most don’t).

Even if the state of California legalizes recreational marijuana usage, it will still be illegal according to Federal law. California’s state officials do not mind breaking Federal law (they thumb their nose at the Federal system often), but does that mean it’s morally acceptable to follow state officials in their lawlessness? That would be wrong.

I hope this proposition does not pass.

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21 thoughts on “Is Recreational Marijuana Use Moral Even if It’s Legal?

  1. Jim Woodell says:

    Those twinkies just got the bad taste out of your mouth. They really didn’t taste better! Hard to beat a twinkie with a clean mouth. Try it.

  2. G says:

    You nailed it right, brother. Every thought I had you covered in the next few lines as soon as it came to mind. I can’t any legitimate objection to what you’ve written or much anyone else could add.

  3. Jen J says:

    Wes, This is a great article…my husband has been clean for over 2 years now and was also addicted and convinced that is was a lesser of evils. Not until he got clean did he realize how damaging and detrimental it was to not only his health, but his overall life. He prays everyday that they don’t legalize marijuana because it will be that much harder to stay clean. Nothing positive comes from it and it definitely doesn’t bring you closer to God. Thanks for writing this.

  4. JamesBrett says:

    wes, i’ve never smoked marijuana, but my initial reaction is that it should be legalized.

    i do want to look into the word ‘witchcraft’ now, though — not that the meaning of that word would change my mind. i don’t think we should make things illegal simply because they are sin. i think there’s a lot to be said for freedom of choice.

    • WesWoodell says:

      Lots of people agree with you, James.

      I believe laws are in place for good reason: namely to protect people. Marijuana is a harmful substance – legalizing it will mean even more people will be harmed by it. It has no redeeming value as a recreational drug – that’s why I want it to stay banned.

      • JamesBrett says:

        wes, i’m not wanting a debate on this issue (really), but i do want to know where you draw your lines if you want to ban what is 1) harmful and 2) has no redeeming value? and why you choose to draw them where they are. i guess i’ve never thought to ask someone on your side of the issue this question, but it seems to me to be at the core of all this — because you and i both want to protect people. we just draw the lines in different places.

        [i’m not saying this sarcastically at all, though i’m afraid it will come across that way. rather i’m really curious how this form of lawmaking would work…] do we support the banning of certain fried foods or of certain kinds of oil being used for such in restaurants? sodas, chocolate cake, and massive all-you-can-eat buffets? what about dangerous sports like hang-gliding and base-jumping? barefoot running? having unprotected sex with multiple partners? or attempting to treat one’s self for an illness rather than going to the doctor?

        it’s not that i think protecting people is a bad idea; it’s just that i don’t know where a good place to draw the line is. there’s always something else that’s harmful out there. so i, personally, have drawn the line at protecting people FROM other people. that seems to be a natural line to draw. it does allow some folks to harm themselves, but i figure if you ban marijuana, they’ll a) use it anyway or b) take up glue, beer, overeating, or extreme sports, etc. maybe that’s poor logic to think people are going to harm themselves either way? but i don’t see any other good places to draw lines.

        i guess part of it is that i want as objective a line as i can find — because otherwise we’re just voting on what is harmful and what’s not. the extreme health people out where you live will want to take away my meals of all fried foods (and entirely too much and too many of them), and i’ll want to take away their marijuana. they’ll say hunting is dangerous to my health, and i’ll say yoga puts a person’s body in positions that have got to be both unnatural and unhealthy. and whoever has more people, has more votes — and they win; they get their picture of a safe america: yoga and marijuana without guns and fried twinkies.

  5. WesWoodell says:

    I see what you’re saying … as for where to draw the line – that’s simply a judgment lawmakers have to make. I have extensive personal history with that drug, and do not wish an addiction to it on anyone. I believe it ought to remain an illegal substance probably because I’ve personally been harmed by it and have seen it harm many others. This is simply a judgment.

  6. Jet-fueled Explosion Powerpack says:

    Wes,

    I’m glad to see that you’re doing much better than in the past but you need to brushup on your Constitutional law a little bit. If the California state legislature passed a law legalizing marijuana for recreational use then people wouldn’t be breaking any kind of federal law if they smoked weed in California. It would be a 10th Amendment issue. Remember, there’s a dual layer of governance between the states and the federal government. The federal government has no business interfering in matters which aren’t enumerated in the US Constitution.

    Secondly, you mention the koine greek word relating to our current day English word “pharmaceutical.” While from a Scriptural standpoint you may have a good point, understand that most doctors today heavily overprescribe various different medications and use surgery instead of advocating for healthy eating habits and exercise. There are numerous “legal” drugs available by prescription that have side effects much worse than marijuana. So, as a pastor, if you’re going to confront marijuana usage you might as well confront a “pharmaceutical industry” that does everything possible in it’s power to use dangerous drugs and surgery when far more effective natural cures are available.

    I would also say that far too many non-violent offenders are thrown into prison for using marijuana or other drugs. Not only is this expensive to the taxpayer but understand that people come out of jail much more violent than when they were initially incarcerated. The federal war on drugs is often racist,militarizes police, throws non-violent offenders into prisons at enormous taxpayer expense, and destroys our liberties and freedoms.

    I would also say that I personally know a great many people who consistently make nearly perfect grades in college and yet smoke marijuana on a regular basis. It is possible to smoke marijuana and perform well at a job or perform well academically. I wouldn’t want a brain surgeon operating on me as high a a kite but most jobs don’t require this level of expertise anyways.

    I would also say that because marijuana is relatively low-cost compared to other drugs..understand that many people who lack health insurance use marijuana for legitimate pain suppression in states where marijuana is illegal. Some people have legitimate medical issues and their only option is marijuana or other illegal drugs. Should they be in chronic pain because the “law” says that it’s illegal?

    Also, I’ve really been disappointed with the way many Christians interpret Romans 13(which was Adolph Hitler’s favorite part of the bible). The state never has the moral right to use it’s authority to oppress people and act tyrannical. It’s main function is to protect us as citizens. God(and we)even give the state the legal power to kill to protect us from evildoers. But I have a hard time buying that some 20 year old smoking a doobie in his dormroom and eating “Taco Bell” qualifies with what Romans 13 is saying and needs to have a SWAT team take him down because he’s dangerous.

    I must say as a Christian that American Christians don’t understand the relationship between the citizen and the state very well. A while back Xians got upset and wanted to pass a federal amendment to make marriage between a man and a woman. Once again, this is a states rights issue. If you want to be serious as a believer about following Romans 13 then the US Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Maybe we should start following it.

    # of people who have died from marijuana usage in human history: 0

    Take care, Wes.

    • WesWoodell says:

      Hello and thanks for the comment. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know California has made it legal for marijuana to be used medicinally, and that’s STILL illegal according to Federal law (regardless of what the state mandates). DEA agents regularly bust “legal” distributors of the drug in this state. I believe you are incorrect on that point.

      As for your point regarding pharmaceuticals – you may indeed be on to something, but I am not a doctor and am limited in my knowledge as it pertains to prescribed drugs. Unfortunately, I am at the mercy of medical professionals. I do not, however, believe it is immoral to trust my doctor’s advice or to take the medicines they prescribe barring they’re doing something that is clearly illegal or that goes outside the realm of common sense.

      • God Made Cannabis For Us! :) says:

        “I do not, however, believe it is immoral to trust my doctor’s advice or to take the medicines they prescribe barring they’re doing something that is clearly illegal or that goes outside the realm of common sense.”

        This is in-and-of itself “outside the realm of common sense”!

        Always be skeptical when money is involved, and do your OWN research before putting something in your body!

        Regarding recreational use of Cannabis, (one of God’s greatest worldly comforts to us) I will leave you with this, 1 Timothy 4:4 “For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.”

  7. AP says:

    Some thoughts:
    1. Even if you don’t see a problem with following state vs. federal law, think about the types of people and organizations you are supporting when you purchase maijuana. I realize that many “good”, non-violent folks who just grow marijuana. I may be going out on a limb here but my opnion is that most Mari is grown by “bad” people, Mexican drug lords, Etc.

    2. Sure you can make good grades and be a pothead. These people are in the extreme minority I would think.

    3. Jet-feuled, I believe you, Wes, and I are in agreement that Mari has medicinal uses. We can tit for tat all day about doctors overprescribing drugs and surgery. Many drugs have worse side effects than Mari, but most of those patients that need those drugs have much worse problems than just needing to relieve aches and pain or eye pressure.

    4. Official number of people dieng from Mari usage: 0
    People I know who were stoned and almost killed someone hunting: 1
    People I know who were stoned and almost killed someone driving: 4
    Ppl wrecked car while stoned: 9 (some repeat offenders 3x over!!!)
    *****for most, weed Increases your rate of being a moron/idiot and decreases your rate of being responsible.

    My 3 cents,

    AP

    • Jet-fueled Explosion Powerpack says:

      Wes,

      Thanks for the feedback. DEA agents and other federal agencies are violating the 10th Amendment by busting “legal” distributors of marijuana if it’s legal in that state. The federal government in such a position is violating the very Constitution it’s sworn to protect.
      So, although technically they may be following some kind of federal law those agents would actually be violating the oaths to the US Constitution they took if such a situation were to occur.

      Are you in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes if you knew that it would help alleviate pain and suffering in law-abiding citizens?

      Understand that the main reason marijuana is not legal is because the federal government doesn’t have a reliable way to control the plant’s growth and tax it.

      Thank you.

      AP,

      1. The main reason organized criminal behaviour is associated with marijuana production is because marijuana is illegal. If it was legal then a thriving black market based around the drug simply could not exist. It’s just like Prohibition for alcohol in the 30’s. Prohibition just made things worse.

      2. Ok, that’s an opinion statement but I don’t think either one of us can really prove my assertion positive or negative. But marijuana is certainly not a hard drug.

      3. Ummm..ok.

      4. Marijuana may have induced those people to place themselves in dangerous situations but my educated guess was that the people you’re describing probably would have done those same type of things off alcohol or being stone-cold sober anyways. An idiot that smokes marijuana was probably an idiot before he started smoking weed.

      That’s my two cents. Now we have a nickel. Let’s buy some gum.

  8. Konstantinos Kannabia says:

    Without a scientific cite to back up your claims on the immorality of kannabis.

    Currently the war on pot is winning in my residence and more than three people I have been friends with have sought both help and marijuana and found neither. Because of the government’s lack of funding for support programs for drug users (they instead have set up a PRISON STATE HOUSING 23% of the world’s inmates in the imperialist prison states of Amerika). Because of the overall destruction of the black market a vacuum occurred causing the business for Heroin to sprout up in my town like crazy.

    People die every week from Heroin overdose in my county because it is more readily available than kannabis.

    My father with degenerative joint disease was prescribed medical marijuana and his life was turned around from an unproductive slop of boarding with friends and groaning through pain to the point where he can actively work at carpentry – IF HE COULD PASS A DRUG TEST. He is forced, instead, to work against the law entirely to TRY to be a productive member of bourgeoisie society.

    The ban on marijuana is the embodiment of the proletarian struggle and imperialism’s justification for totalitarianism. No matter what religion, philosophy, or political faction any human adheres to; the ban on Marijuana is a violation of natural rights.

    Nothing is true; everything is permitted.

    KKE

  9. KansasChristian says:

    I hope this does not come off sounding too judgmental, but it seems like you are trying to persuade people against marijuana based solely on your own experience of addiction; yet, on the topic of alcohol, you say “…it is okay to have a drink, and there’s no need to demonize alcohol simply because it can be abused” (http://westcoastwitness.com/2011/06/02/campolos-beer-church-a-reasoned-response/).

    As for your Biblical argument, using Galatians 5, notice that while it DOES take a “pharmacist/sorcerer” to cook up a bottle of alcohol, marijuana is a plant that may be consumed without any preparation whatsoever. Doesn’t Galatians 5 speak more to the “brewer” of alcohol, than it does to a naturally growing plant, the creator of which was God? (Note: personally, I don’t believe a Christian has any business using any mind-altering substances whatsoever, be it alcohol or marijuana; I am simply pointing out what I believe to be an incorrect/inconsistent use of Scripture).

    Civil legality aside, why do you consider it proper to demonize marijuana, because it can be abused, but improper to demonize alcohol, which has a worse potential for abuse?

    When you took your first hit of weed, did you think you would become an addict? I doubt the alcoholic who took his or her first sip of alcohol believed it would lead them into addiction, either. Yet, you teach young people that it IS okay to take that first drink of alcohol, to the glory of God, but that they should stay away from that first hit of weed, because to you, it is a sin.

    I believe you are being inconsistent as a Christian, and worse, as a teacher of Christians. Am I wrong?

    • WesWoodell says:

      First, thanks for the comment.

      Second, you are comparing apples to oranges.

      Both alcohol and marijuana are intoxicants, but they are very different – especially in terms of legality and usage.

      One does not binge every time they drink (i.e. not everyone drinks to be impaired), but nearly everyone who smokes pot does it to get high (i.e. the only reason you smoke pot is to be impaired).

      Alcohol is a much more severe intoxicant, but 1) not everyone abuses it, 2) it’s legal, and 3) it’s morally acceptable to use in moderation.

      Marijuana is a mild intoxicant, but 1) the only reason it’s used is to be abused (barring a very small percentage of those who use it in legitimate medicinal application), 2) it’s illegal (even in states that have declared it legal it is still Federally illegal), and 3) there’s really no such thing as using it in moderation when one hit will impair you.

      Your characterization of the arguments is simplistic and inaccurate.

      • God Made Cannabis For Us! :) says:

        Your arguments are based on lies and/or misinformation.

        Cannabis (it’s REAL name) is NOT an intoxicant. It will not kill you, i.e. it is not TOXIC. Additionally, cannabis does not need to be smoked. It can be vaporized or eaten and is actually much more effective by being ingested this way, along with being nearly completely safe to ingest.

        There is also a signifcant amount of data proving that cannabis is an effective remedy for over 50 different ailments, ranging from glaucoma, to anxiety, to cancer. There is significant evidence showing that cannaboids can actually CURE tumors altogether! Cannabis literally EATS tumors alive! If that is not God’s love at work (devouring evil and death) then I don’t know what will prove it to you!

        “I believe you are being inconsistent as a Christian, and worse, as a teacher of Christians. Am I wrong?”

        This is guy is right on. Brother, I do not mean to judge you, but I cannot stand for the impartion of untruth.

        Furthermore, you use the example of Romans to condemn using Cannabis, as it is against the (current) Laws setup by men.

        While Roman’s 13 discusses being obedient to the governing powers, we are not to obey man’s laws over God’s commandments. There are many examples of civil disobedience in the Bible. Daniel disobeyed the law to bow down and worship the King. The apostles preached the gospel even though it meant punishment by death.

        In Isaiah 10 begins with “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning, when disaster comes from afar? To whom will you run for help? Where will you leave your riches?” (1-3)

        The bottom line is that the laws that prohibit using cannabis (in any way) are not just laws. God created cannabis and declared it GOOD. (See 1 Timothy 4:4 below again…) Laws that turn us into criminals when we use something that God created for us, and intended for us to use are inherently WRONG. They imply that God is capable of evil, or lying, or making mistakes. Or ALL OF THESE.

        The natural conclusion from studying this topic DEEPLY and from a BIBLICAL standpoint, combined with good old fashinoned logic, is that the word of God validates that cannabis prohibition is UNJUST and against the will of God.

        To associate God’s direct creation with witchcraft is a likewise err.

        This is like calling a newborn baby a SATANIST, because the baby could potentially grow and become an occultist and worship Lucifer one day.

        One last thing that will add here, is that there is a substantial pool of thought that argues that one of the main active (psychoactive) ingredients in the Holy Annointing Oil used in Temple was a healthy dose of cannabis! Of course, there is debate on this – but it is worth noting that in the debate, the topic is the translation of the word in the recipe. The alternative ingredient (depending on the translation, again) is calamus, another plant that God created that is also psychoactive.

        The point being, there was SOMETHING psychoactive in the Holy Annointing Oil. (i.e. something that gets you high).

        Much love to all and may God bless you with Ganja 🙂

  10. Tulsaoilman says:

    Ask my son (a policeman) how many deaths he has seen as a result of pot use. It’s a lot.

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