Marijuana will almost certainly be legalized throughout the United States, and we should have a conversation about how we deal with church members who use it for medical or recreational purposes. Is it just like taking a prescribed opioid for pain when used medically? Or is it just like drinking wine at dinner or a beer while watching a game?
Currently, thirty-seven states have passed laws allowing people with medical disorders or illnesses to use marijuana. I want to consider what the Bible says about the “Devil’s Lettuce,” but biblical writers do not directly address it.
Historically, there is some evidence of it being used medically as early as 400 A.D. and maybe for other purposes as far back as 5000 B.C. in Romania. Biblical writers may have been aware of its possible use, but scientists only classified it in 1850. After that, it was used medically until the passage of a 1937 statute, the “Marihuana Tax Act.” The law restricted it and eventually banned it from medical use.
With laws reintroducing marijuana for medical and recreational reasons, we should keep a distinction between the two. I have used medical marijuana which required me to pay for the card, sit through the online doctor visit, and get approval from the state. The doctor prescribed it because of my pain from three cervical spine fusions and my seizures.
I prefer the edible gummies which allow me to cut them into quarters. When I was first learning dosage, I took a full gummy and I was stoned. I did not like time getting funky or my fingers seeming to move on their own. I don’t want to be high from prescribed pain medications. I don’t drink to be drunk. Being high or drunk has never appealed to me because I always feel terrible afterward.
The Bible doesn’t directly touch on whether alcohol or marijuana is good or evil. The good comes from how we use it. The bad comes from how we use it. We are the deciding factor in its use. Sometimes the Bible is like this on moral issues. Some moral issues are written in stone like not murdering your neighbor so you can have sex with their wife. I’m looking at you King David. Some issues like drinking aren’t forbidden, but drunkenness becomes a moral issue.
I’ve seen this type of abuse in my own family. I’ve had an alcoholic grandfather who abused his wife and children. I’ve seen a sibling become an alcoholic by fourteen. I’ve watched my oldest suffer from alcohol and drugs in college. I hate the pain my family members went through and have suffered with them. Substance abuse affects everyone around the person who is addicted.
People will abuse more than just alcohol or marijuana. According to Mayo, up to one-third of people who used their prescribed medication misuse the prescription and up to ten percent become addicted. According to the NIH, opioid use, abuse, and fatal overdoses are reduced in states with laws permitting the sale of marijuana. Research is still ongoing regarding how addictive marijuana is compared to alcohol and whether it is a safer alternative. Its illegality has made reliable scientific investigation difficult.
Since before the time of Noah, drugs and alcohol have been used in problematic ways to deal with emotional trauma. The Bible condemns drunkenness and warns kings to remain sober. However, the Bible also features positive examples of alcohol use. Christ performed a wedding with wine, a Psalmist praised wine, and Paul prescribed Timothy to not only drink water but to drink wine. Christ refers to a humble cup of wine as his own blood.
I was a teetotaler until thirty-nine. I discovered my limit is one drink and I’m a cheap date or a lightweight while my wife can drink two and not be bothered. So, armed with this knowledge, I rarely drink and limit its use when I do. I approach medical marijuana use the same way. I use enough to help me get through the day. I use only what is needed and not enough to feel stoned or high. Because I worship God as the creator of the universe, I have to accept he provided me with the vine which produces grapes just as he provided me with the leaf which produces cannabis. And why can’t I use marijuana occasionally like when I have a drink? Is the recreational use of marijuana wrong if I use it in moderation? I’ve wrestled with this question.
What is the best Biblical solution to medical marijuana for the church? Should the pastor rail against its use because the state said it is bad? Should the pastor accept it because the state now says it is good? Where does the pastor get his authority from? The state or the Bible? I understand the verse which requires submitting to the authority of the state and when medical marijuana was illegal, I didn’t use it. Now I use my sober judgment along with the teachings in the Bible to avoid drunkenness.
We have a drug problem in this country and in our world. We don’t get away from problems like drug abuse and alcoholism by denying their existence in our sacred spaces but then allowing them to be indulged in our taboo spaces. The biblical response is clearer to me now than it was when I first started this article. If you need relief from your pain, from your medical condition, take the medication that is best for you. If you are with your friends and you want to have a drink, have a drink or an edible. But if you need marijuana, drugs, or alcohol to escape from your daily life, then you are in danger of losing yourself to an addiction which may lead to your death and the death of others. Relying on drugs to treat mental illnesses is dangerous. Seek treatment from professional psychiatrists and psychologists.
As a church, our response to addiction shouldn’t be rejection, but counseling. We must model moderation and appropriate use. Because if Jesus drank wine and didn’t sin, then we can drink wine (or even take a toke) and not sin. If you are in pain or suffering from a physical disorder, talk to your doctor to see if medical marijuana or your prescribed pain pills works best for you. If you are an addict or an alcoholic, then you should likely consider living as a teetotaler and seek the support of people along with counseling.
The Bible doesn’t exclude people who are suffering and people with addictions. The Bible offers fellowship with other broken people. When good drinking or marijuana use is forced underground in the church, people won’t heal or learn moderation. We create stunted Christians who aren’t honest about their sins and we create “perfect” Christians who judge others for a weakness they don’t have (I did). We especially hurt people in the church when we forbid medical marijuana from the pulpit. If we don’t consider this issue with a sober mind, we damage the church.
David Rice lives in a small town in Missouri with his wife and has three boys. David was a Special Education teacher for ten years before he had blood clots which led to seizures. He now writes, paints bikes, and looks for ways to keep himself busy. He loves to read fantasy novels, science fiction, and philosophy and history non-fiction books. When he is having a good day, he rides his ebike around his local area to try to keep in shape. Find out more at his website.