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.
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:
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.