America Goes to Pot

No doubt you’ve heard about how Colorado now has marijuana for sale over the counter quite legally. No doubt as well, you can imagine cash strapped individuals, cities, and states salivating over the possibilities of making good money off of such sales. Why there are testimonials all over the place about how harmless, or alternately helpful marijuana can be, and not just for medicinal purposes when you are in pain. It’s supposed to unwind your mind, and re-thread your head in good ways, and open you up to a cornucopia of new life possibilities. What is really the case is mostly otherwise. In fact it dulls your cognitive faculties, reduces your natural moral inhibitions, and in general makes it difficult to think straight, drive straight, etc. Here’s a little summary about the drug….from Wiki…

Cannabis is often consumed for its psychoactive and physiological effects, which can include heightened mood or euphoria, relaxation, and increase in appetite. Unwanted side-effects can sometimes include a decrease in short-term memory, dry mouth, impaired motor skills, reddening of the eyes, and feelings of paranoia or anxiety.” Note to self, feelings of paranoia and anxiety are the opposite of relaxing. Furthermore, one out of six who try this drug become addicted to it. While it is not as addictive as say heroin, it is definitely addictive. The legalization of marijuana is much like the legalization of gambling… it’s simply encourage people’s bad and self-destructive behavior…. for fun and profit of course.

I was reading an article by David Brooks, a syndicated columnist, entitled “Smoking Pot: Been there, done that, wouldn’t encourage it”. I’d encourage you to read it for yourself. As he points out, young people who smoke this all too often experience memory loss, and even IQ loss, performing worse on cognitive tests than those who abstain. As he says “Stoned people do stupid things… I smoked one day during lunch and then had to give a presentation in English.” He then proceeds to relate how he was basically incapable of putting coherent sentences together back to back. Smoking weed does not make you smarter or more talented, or more creative, it gives you a sort of high that makes you believe you might be all these things, but sadly the reality is otherwise. As Brooks stresses “the actions you take change you inside, making you a little less coherent….Smoking all the time seemed likely to cumulatively fragment a persons’ deep center, or at least not do much to enhance it.” He adds “In legalizing weed, citizens of Colorado are, indeed enhancing individual freedom. But they are also nurturing a moral ecology in which it is a bit harder to be the sort of person most of us want to be.”

One of the clearest signs of a decaying or dying society is its need to run from reality, or medicate that reality just to survive day to day. It involves a retreat into the most narcissistic behaviors imaginable…. the pleasuring of self at the expense of normal relationships, responsible adult behavior, and in general a refusal to grow up and be a contributing member of society. If you want to see where this leads, I would encourage you to read the biographies of David Crosby (Long Time Gone) and Graham Nash (Wild Tales), which I read during the Christmas season.

P.D. James once said that Western society is now a culture addicted to the unholy Trinity— sex, money, and celebrity. Had she added drugs, that just about perfectly describes the rock and roll culture sans the music itself, which was often quite good, in spite of everything. As Neil Young once wrote about his friend Stephen Stills— “I’ve seen the needle and the damage done. A little part of it in everyone. But every junkie’s like a setting sun….”.

It is precisely because each one of us are vulnerable, having weaknesses, have tendencies to self-centered and sinful behavior, that no society, no state, should ever endorse or legalize the sale of drugs that mess with one’s psyche and reduces one’s ability to make wise moral choices. The reason the decision in Colorado, which will make drugs even more widely and legally available, eventually at much lower prices, due to competing with illegal forms of weed, is a bad one is because America is already going to pot. It did not need any more encouragement to further grease the skids on our slide down the slippery slope. While the old film ‘Reefer Madness’ of course was rhetorically hyperbolic, nevertheless its message was a good one— avoid drugs which mess with your mind, stir up your worst most self-centered tendencies, and help you to ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ of meaningful society.

  • Peter Yates

    I agree. Making it legal, and therefore easier to obtain, is against people’s best interests. …. I believe my older brother once gave me a cookie (biscuit) with marijuana in it, without telling me. I became a little dizzy, but was aware that he was smiling at me, as if he was expecting me to like the feeling. .. I am very glad that I didn’t like it, because I really hate anything that can be addictive. Addictions can quickly control large parts of your life, because you *have* to partake in the addictive activity, or you tend to not feel very well and become quite nervous until you get your ‘fix’. … I guess you won’t be surprised that it is not easy to trust my brother.. or other people that I suspect might be ‘into’ drugs. …. Making the distribution of drugs legal could potentially expose a lot more people to the use of the drug, whether they are initially aware of its consumption, or not….

  • joshuatoepper

    Ben, what are your thoughts on alcohol? The argument i hear over and over again is that weed is no different than alcohol.

  • Sagrav

    “Furthermore, one out of six who try this drug become addicted to it.”

    No, that is not true. Only about 9% of pot users become addicted. Source:

    I don’t really understand the resistance to marijuana use that I am seeing among the Evangelical community (at least the Evangelical blogosphere). Alcohol is perfectly legal, and I rarely see Evangelicals calling for it’s prohibition. Yet the dangers of alcohol use are far greater, and it is more addictive.

    It seems that pot somehow gained a “taboo” or “liberal” quality somewhere along the way, and religious conservatives feel some urge to resist its legalization. How unfortunate.

  • Philip

    I’ve been reading your blog for a very long time without participating in the discussion. I was so disappointed with your post here that I was compelled to comment. I have generally been impressed with the academic rigor shown in your books and I’m shocked at how little of it I see here. You argue a fallacy in just about every line and I urge you to reconsider your view here. At the very least take everything you say here to its logical conclusion and don’t stop after the baseless moral outrage.

    You start by mentioning claims people make about the medical uses of marijuana and its derivatives. All that is true. It is useful for treating pain as well as certain causes of seizures. But then to follow, you make a statement that sounds like it comes from some characterture of a hippy stoner and give a rebuttal with the implication that all people “know” this and agree. That is insufficient. Of course marijuana will make you high. Don’t leave it there, at least try to offer an argument for why being high should be illegal. Not just being high but any imbibing at any level. Ah, but being high isn’t illegal (e.g. alcohol). Only being high from certain unsavory sources is illegal. That should imply that the source of the high is significantly different in some way. You end with a list of things being high does to you. All true. Now why should this state of being be criminalized. Ah, but it isn’t criminalized. Alcohol consumption will reduce your natural moral inhibitions (to as great a degree as any drug, marijuana or harder). Caffeine will make it difficult to think straight.

    I see your wiki quote. All true. Again, what of it? It is as if I’m reading the same section in the wiki page about alcohol except maybe trade paranoia or anxiety for anger and violence. So again it must be something about marijuana and not the effects it has. One out of six who tries the drug does not become addicted. Even if it were true, is there a threshold where any drug over it should be illegal? What is it for nicotine? What is it for caffeine? So its not the addictiveness of marijuana then but something else. The legalization of marijuana is a lot more like the legalization of alcohol than it is of gambling. You should know that though. It should be obvious. But then that is a harder argument to make so its ignored in favor of the easier target. Treat this as an academic inquiry. Resist the urge the argue against the strawman. Millions of people have gone to jail because of this and millions more have had their lives destroyed by the arbitrary nature of the war on drugs. More should be required of anyone who wishes to discuss public policy.

    Marijuana has an increased adverse effect on young people. That sounds a lot like alcohol and nicotine and caffeine and every other drug. Now alcohol consumption is illegal in most cases for someone under 21. The same for nicotine and the age of 18. For some reason either you or Brooks do not mention this and act as if legalizing marijuana must come without age restrictions. Why argue the strawman here? So Brooks didn’t enjoy his high. Does he abstain from all highs or just this one? So because his abusive relationship with marijuana as a child was a problem then millions of others, many who likely have a non-abusive relationship with marijuana as an adult, must go to prison?

    You go on to claim marijuana usage is a sign of a decaying society. But then as support for this argument you provide the examples of addicts who used other drugs than marijuana. How does this follow? Is alcohol consumption a sign of a decaying society? Surely you can’t make that argument seeing as how alcohol is a part of a sacrament in our faith. So again its something about marijuana and not the other drugs like alcohol. I’ve yet to see you actually discuss this though.

    Most of all I’m disappointed with your reference to Reefer Madness as if it were a legitimate argument for the prohibition of marijuana. The Reefer Madness argument (not the movie but the logical basis for it) is racist. Racist in the same way the alcohol prohibition was racist against the non-english or prejudice against the Catholics.

    Your argument is that marijuana is bad because its bad. We should all expect better in regards to comments on this. Its not more destructive to a person’s life than alcohol (which is legal). Its not more addictive than nicotine (which is legal). Its no more a gateway drug than any of the other legal drugs and the majority of the gateway property of marijuana is wrapped up in the necessity of dealing with criminals to get it. Take that away and it all but disappears. Its continued prohibition serves only to imprison a large portion of the American people on a baseless morality claim. The reality of the prosecution of its prohibition is that it disproportionately affects minorities (its racist).

    Your argument seems to lack a way of differentiating this drug from alcohol. My comment has been made with an assumption that you are against the prohibition of alcohol. Was this a correct assumption? If not then I apologize and look forward to your next post about why American should criminalize the consumption of alcohol. If my assumption was correct then I urge you to reconsider. At least try to make an argument that draws a line between marijuana and alcohol. This one did not have it.

  • Kathy

    The simple fact that THC is fat soluble makes it potentially far worse. Here is a link from Washington State University Anything abused is potentially dangerous, food included. We must look at things truthfully, no matter what our own personal belief. As a child of the 60s, I totally agree with Dr.Witherington. I have seen the empirical evidence in so many around me. Very sad. Thank you Dr Witherington for such a marvelous site.

  • BenW3

    Philip I find this comment surprising. In the first place pot is a psychotropic drug, alcohol is not. It is a depressant. Secondly, pot, like cigarettes involves smoking, which is to say your lungs! Alcohol does not. Alcohol has no capacity at all to make you high. If anything it has the opposite effect as a depressant. It slows you down, rather than producing some kind of drug induced euphoria. Thirdly, the doctors I know of are quite clear that pot is far more addictive, and to a far wider group of persons, than alcohol is. Comparing the two is dodgy at best. Fourthly, I am not in favor of using anything that impairs your sense in any significant way. Drinking a glass of wine with food does not do this. Smoking a J absolutely does do this, especially for people who are very susceptible to most any kind of drug. There is a reason why doctors in the AMA encourage people with hypertension to drink a glass of red wine (for the tannins) once in a while. It can actually help such a person without impairing their judgment. There is a reason the AMA is not providing a similar endorsement for pot! Except in the case of alleviating extreme pain, it has no redeeming features, and what little redeeming features it has offsets the fact that as a psychotropic drug it can: 1) rewire your brain, and 2) is very apt to become addictive. Since a person, especially a young person, does not know in advance whether they are prone to some kind of substance addiction, it is wise to stay away from as many potentially addictive drugs as possible, and this includes pot. Abstinence is not merely a good policy, especially for persons with any physical or emotional weaknesses, it is the best policy. BW3

  • Philip

    To clarify some things. When I say ‘high’ I mean any alteration of mood as a result of consuming the drug. In my comment I would group being drunk from alcohol, being alert from caffeine, and being high from marijuana as a ‘high’. So in this sense alcohol can make you high. I suppose you could argue my semantics. I would assert that there is no difference between the escapist, pleasuring of self (as you put it) intent of being drunk and being high.

    From the first line of the wikipedia entry for ‘Psychoactive drug’… A psychoactive drug, psychopharmaceutical, or psychotropic is a chemical substance that crosses the blood–brain barrier and acts primarily upon the central nervous system where it affects brain function, resulting in alterations inperception, mood, consciousness, cognition, and behavior. This definitely described alcohol. It definitely describes caffeine. Both of those are psychoactive drugs. Calling something a psycotropic is not a justification for criminalizing it.

    Psychoactive drugs have four sub-categories: hallucinogens, antipsychotics, depressants, and stimulants. Alcohol, being a depressant, is a psychoactive drug. Caffeine being a stimulant is a psychoactive drug. Marijuana has properties of a hallucinogen, depressant, and stimulant.

    The most harmful part of the act of smoking cigarettes does not come from the inhaling of vaporized nicotine but of the tar, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, etc. But then this discussion and the prompt that spurred this blog post is not the harmful affects of smoking (Lets just agree that smoking is bad and you shouldn’t do it) but the acts of the Colorado legislature. Should we criminalize smoking tobacco? Lets try not to get sidetracked here.

    You assert that pot is far more addictive than alcohol. I reject the ‘far’. I might even quibble on the ‘more’. But then I didn’t compare the addictiveness of marijuana and alcohol. I compared the addictiveness of marijuana and nicotine and nicotine is unquestionably more addictive and yet still legal. That leads me to believe that, given rational actors, level of addictiveness is not a single deciding factor.

    You say that you are against using anything that impairs your sense in any significant way. Is your use of ‘significant’ significant? You say drinking a glass of wine with food does not impair you senses. I would reject this. But then I think you mean this in some relative way correct? Relative to what though? What is the size of that glass? So smoking a J ‘absolutely’ impairs your senses? How big is that J that ‘absolutely’ does anything? You aren’t comparing the two on equal terms here.

    As for the AMA not providing any endorsement of any kind for pot. Well marijuana is classified as schedule 1. It would be illegal for the AMA or anyone else to study the effects of marijuana in such a way that they could make an endorsement. You aren’t saying anything here. Its a false point with a false exclamation at the end. We could argue the absurdity of the existance of a schedule 1 (a drug that has no medical use, therefore we can not test to see if it has a medical use) but that is a discussion for another day.

    You say that as a psychotropic, marijuana rewires your brain and is apt to becoming addictive. Again I say the same to nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. I’m confused by your continuing to insist as if these legal drugs do no such thing. Maybe you should speak to these things in terms of degree. Nicotine is more addictive. Alcohol is more distructive in its abuse.

    I don’t understand imploring young people to stay away from addictive substances until they know if they have a tendancy towards substance addiction. How would they find out otherwise? What if they didn’t stay away from it and then found out they did not have a tendancy towards addiction? Is it okay then? But then again thats advice for young people, which has nothing to do with criminalizing the consumption of marijuana as an adult.

    I suppose the comments above could come off as aggresive or overly personal but you keep dancing around the issue and taking shots at strawmen. Again more should be expected of us if we wish to discuss public policy that results in the imprisonment of millions of americans over the course of the war on drugs. I feel you are refusing to consider the actual negative social affect prohibition has on our lives.

    If you want to argue for the continued criminalization of the consumption of marijuana thats fine. But please, wrestle through the arguments completely. Try to give a logically consistant and internally coherent arguement that does not also lead you to argue for the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. Again we are talking about whether we, as a society, should criminalize the consumption not just whether it would be best for us if we did not partake. My state does not require you to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle. I would never go without such a thing regardless of the law but then that is not what we are talking about. I urge you to keep thinking on these things. I hope that you will change your mind. I don’t know what impact you think some casual blog post from someone of undefined social impact has but your words carry weight with some. Those some affect others and eventually we reach a consensus. This topic, with its massive impact, deserves more careful though.

  • BenW3

    Phillip you mistake me. I am a Methodist…. we are all in favor of abstinence from all these things! Check out the ethos statement at the seminary which students must sign. BW3

  • interpolated

    Mr Witherton-You need to be advised to do more conscientious research before you defame people by name sir. You are absolutely wrong about the Neil Young song called “Needle and the Damage Done”-it was written about Danny Whitten-a guitarist in Neil Young’s band Crazy horse who died of a drug overdose. It was NOT written about Stephen Stills. You owe Mr. Stills an apology and a retraction of your outrageous error.

  • BenW3

    Hi: Have you read Neil Young’s biography– Waging Heavy Peace? I did recently. Neil Young is quite clear that Stephen was a heavy drug user, as were Crosby and Nash as well. I read their biographies as well this winter. Its depressing reading. I have actually been to concert where Neil said “I wrote this song (the Needle and the Damage Done” because I’ve seen the damage it has done to several of my band mates” One of them was Stephen. Danny Whitten is not credited with writing this song on the albums. And by the way…. my name is Witherington, not Witherton. BW3

  • Brian Bowman

    Ben, as an RN who has worked on a Psych ward dealing with drug addiction, I want to gently point out that your article is factually inaccurate in several regards. The most prominent errors that stand out to me are addressed as follows:

    1. Alcohol is euphoric, i.e., creates a “high,” especially at smaller doses, even though it is a CNS (central nervous system) depressant.

    “Alcohol-induced euphoria: exclusion of serotonin” (2014) Alcohol & Alcoholism

    2. Science makes it clear that alcohol is more addictive than TCH.

    “Marijuana dependence and its treatment” (2007 Addiction Science & Clinical Practice

    I am glad you do not fall for all of the pro-marijuana propaganda out there, and I think it needs countered. However, many folks who support legalization are not pro-marijuana activists. They see Prohibition as corrosive to society, more so than legalization. One such group is LEAP.

    Law Enforcement Against Prohibition: LEAP

  • Brian Bowman

    P.S. I am of the opinion that mankind’s “Fall” in the Genesis folklore is the transition from Paleolithic Non-State society to our modern Agricultural Civilization, known as the Neolithic Revolution. Some theologians are catching onto this, such as Ched Myers:

    Ched Myers (2005) The Fall. Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature. Edited by Bron Taylor. NY: Continuum.

    I say all that to say this:

    The forbidden “fruit” in the garden was alcohol. In support of my opinion are a couple observations:

    1. Archeology regarding the Neolithic revolution shows that fermentation vessels precede baking apparatus by about 1500 years.

    2. The Epic of Gilgamesh, a parallel mythology to the Genesis narrative (including the Flood), specifically mentions alcohol as an entrapment used to domesticate[1,2] man into civilized life.

    I could go on, but I may be boring you. If you’re interested in more, I can expand on this.

    1. Peter Wilson (1991) The Domestication of the Human Species. Yale University Press.
    2. Jack Goody (1977) The Domestication of the Savage Mind. Cambridge University Press.

  • BenW3

    Interesting, but not viable as an interpretation of Genesis 1-2. As for Neolithic stuff, check out the Gobeckli Tepe Temple near Urfa, in Turkey which dates to 10,000 B.C. BW3

  • Brian Bowman

    Some have speculated that Göbekli Tepe is the Garden of Eden, which is also the foundation of Tom Knox’s insightful novel The Genesis Secret.

  • Patrick

    Making it legal probably makes it way more difficult to obtain. Based on my HS experiences anyway.

    I had a hard time getting beer and got arrested for “successfully” buying some once due to a corrupt store clerk.

    Buying pot required no subterfuge, no corrupt clerks, no ID. Just ask one of the guys selling it for what you wanted and there it was. Same with LSD and qualudes back when I was in school( early 70s).

    I abstained back then, but, they were openly marketed and easy to get and this was in East Tennessee, not LA or anything.

  • Joshua Jones

    So, apparently, the best argument posted on this site is that marijuana is not as bad as alcohol? The logic behind these arguments apparently is that eventually all drugs at all doses and in all forms (save one) should be legal and as close as possible to free, since none of them is quite as bad as the worst of them. Logical, actually.

    It may not be the end of human reason, but we sure can see it from here. In the end we justify what we want – reason is a slave to desire, and will always be.

    If you do not freely choose His ways, he will impose sentence on you to your own. Do as you will.


  • Donalbain

    It is precisely because each one of us are vulnerable, having weaknesses, have tendencies to self-centered and sinful behavior, that no society, no state, should ever endorse or legalize the sale of drugs that mess with one’s psyche and reduces one’s ability to make wise moral choices.

    Prohibition now! Prohibition forever!

  • MDBritt

    Permit me to point out the elephant in the room here – or, rather, the herd of elephants that you are ignoring.

    First, the alternative to “legalization” is not a society in which we help people to “make wise moral choices”. It is a society in which huge numbers of people are caged like animals. In the vast majority of these cases, the victim is black and/or young. Your “help” does not deliver them from the temptation to make unwise choices, your “help” destroys lives.

    Second, criminal sanctions against drug use lead directly to the creation of a violent, desperate subculture; criminal gangs bent on securing their profits in the drug trade through murder, assault, bribery, intimidation and theft. In response, police forces throughout the nation have become militarized to ensure that they aren’t simply outgunned dealing with the mess you create with your misguided laws.

    Third, in every polity that has actually given decriminalization a chance, *actual* drug use has declined. Your fantasy of an entire people spending their day stoned has not and will not come true because of the very things that you point out: drug use makes you stupid and ill-fitted for the challenges of life. What is most outrageous about your position, in my mind, is your implicit assumption that only you are “wise” enough to decide that using drugs is stupid and that everyone else is just one buying opportunity away from becoming a stoner.

    Finally, your entire premise that America is “going to pot” and that we need to trust people like you to stop this descent is false. The FBI Uniform Crime Report documents clearly the fact that violence and crime in America has fallen dramatically over the past 20 years. Indeed, we live in one of the safest places in one of the safest times in human history. Also, technology has advanced to the point where chatting with friends or family in faraway places over a video link is simply routine. Medicine has advanced to the point where you have a better chance of surviving injury, disease or infection than at any other time in history. On a cultural note, the abortion rate is falling and the divorce rate has stabilized or, in many regions, actually begun declining as well. Even the environment has seen sustained improvement in the areas of water and air quality, forest cover, reductions in acid rain, etc. So, no, the world is not getting worse.

    This entire piece is a testament to your vanity. It is almost embarrassing that you feel the need to try to tell us right from wrong when you are so utterly misinformed about the nature of drug laws and their actual effect on real lives.

  • BenW3

    Hi Mark: Thanks for this. It would appear you’ve never lived in countries where legalization laws are pretty liberal. I have. And you are mostly wrong about this matter. Take for instance a country like India where pot is everywhere, and indeed is used as part of the practice of Hinduism. And yet India is an incredibly violent society in many ways, and a good deal of the violence is connected with drugs! The same is true in Latin America. And as for the decrease in violence in America— you must have been reading the NRA version of the statistics. You’re wrong about that as well…. especially violence against children, and serial killing is up dramatically. But thanks for sharing. BW3

  • pagansister

    Prohibition worked really well when alcohol was made illegal. That proved to be a disaster, and the law was repealed.

  • BenW3

    So shall we legalize Heroin and Cocaine and LSD as well? After all, prohibition doesn’t ever work. There were very specific reasons prohibition didn’t work in the 1920s in America. But it is a culture change since the 1920s and now that makes the demand for drugs, more drugs, lots of drugs. And with the already over-medicated nature of our culture now, legalizing more drugs is just pouring gasoline on the fire of many of our problems. There is really no analogy between prohibition in the 1920s and laws against psychotropic drugs now. The causes, cures are different, and the reasons for the bans are totally different. BW3

  • pagansister

    Would be an interesting experiment, though no I’m not recommending legalizing Heroin or Cocaine and LSD. However, for what it is worth, I have no problem with using “pot” for medical reasons. What is unfortunate is legal or not, hard drugs are apparently not to difficult to get. Being illegal doesn’t seem to have slowed the sale. If there were, for some reason, no customers then there would be no place to sell. Guess that will not happen in my life time or that of my children or grandchildren.

  • kenofken

    Alcohol is the living embodiment of a Schedule I drug.

  • Matthew Tate That would be an article, not from the NRA, about gun violence Here’s one that says that while number of serial killers is higher than they were in the 60s, it is on its way down

    Violence against children is a bit harder to peg down, though I no doubt believe that it is on the rise. The question is, is it actually occurring more or just being reported more?

    As for as other countries, I would argue that there is a difference between legalizing it (which only Uruguay has done across the board) and just not enforcing the laws. I would argue that there is a difference between choosing not to enforce a law and legalization. But more importantly, can you prove causation? Some would no doubt argue that any violence occurs due to the criminal organization selling the drug rather than the drug itself. Therefore, if you were to legalize it, and by proxy remove the criminal aspect of it, you would reduce violence.

    In fact, here’s a study done by University of Tennessee and Florida State University comparing alcohol and marijuana in terms of violence.

    And just one article regarding dependency

    Now, this is not at all to say I disagree with you or that I agree with you. Throughout my life, I have encountered many marijuana users and no two experienced it the same way. Some were absolutely useless while high, others appeared completely unaffected. I really don’t lean either way on it, because the legalization of marijuana is not the biggest drug-related problem I think this country has. That, I hold, is our continued view that drug addiction is purely a choice, and not a mental health problem, but that is for another time.

  • Grotoff

    Wow. You aren’t just wrong, you’re disgusting and racist too.

  • Grotoff

    So people who abuse food should be locked away with murderers and rapists? They should be designated felons and stripped of their rights, like the right to vote?

  • Brian Westley

    So shall we legalize Heroin and Cocaine and LSD as well?

    I would say yes; Philip Seymour Hoffman would probably still be alive if heroin was legal so there was no question of varying strength and unknown adulterants.

    And with the already over-medicated nature of our culture now, legalizing more drugs is just pouring gasoline on the fire of many of our problems.

    Criminalizing them is far, far worse.

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  • BenW3

    I doubt it Brian. It’s heroin which kills, not just bad heroin. Even in countries where it is readily accessible, and somewhat legal, you still have plenty of deaths. BW3

  • Brian Westley

    Heroin kills (so does alcohol, tobacco, and aspirin). However, Philip Seymour Hoffman had a lot of heroin packets that were apparently cut with fentanyl, which had already been blamed for 22 fatal overdoses in Pennsylvania. We’ll have to see what the toxicology report says.

    By the way, should aspirin be illegal? the number of deaths from OTC drugs in the US are about the same as the number of deaths from illegal drugs.

  • axelbeingcivil

    I find it quite amusing that marijuana is being viewed as society’s need to run from reality and self-medicate. Tobacco and alcohol are international, multi-billion, perhaps even trillion dollar industries. People waste away on tobacco and cigarettes, avoiding eating because it lets them afford another smoke or sip.

    My point isn’t that these habits are destructive or harmful – while I find both to have undesirable secondary effects, that isn’t what I’m emphasizing here – but that they are exceedingly common and have been used regularly as an escape for eons. There’s presently some intriguing (but very basic) theories that alcohol production might even be what started the Agricultural Revolution.

    Humanity’s need to get itself sloshed on whatever is available is as old as our species itself and likely even older than that. Plenty of animals find ways to get a buzz, too.

    Marijuana’s an old drug and was smoked by pretty much all of America’s founding fathers. It’s not healthy for kids to have but it’s not healthy for kids to have alcohol or tobacco either. This isn’t cocaine or heroin or opium, though, so why the alarmism?

  • axelbeingcivil

    I’m curious for a citation as to why the violence is associated with drugs in India (notably, marijuana, since cocaine, non-medically-required opioids, etc. are all illegal). I’m also curious how marijuana could be associated with it since marijuana is, of any drug, the least likely to incite violent impulses. Someone is more likely to commit violence over tobacco than they are marijuana. Latin America, meanwhile, has cartels to deal with, who deal in hard drugs that are very much illegal.

    You’ll have to back your statements up somehow, because I’ve been looking and I just don’t see anything connecting to marijuana here.

  • axelbeingcivil

    I greatly appreciate anyone who cites their sources. Thumbs up to you!

  • BenW3

    Hi; Several points: 1) we do not allow anonymous or screen name comments. You have to use you’re real name to comment on this blog, or else you’re spammed in due course; 2) selling marijuana is linked to the huge amount of abject poverty in India. You can get more money from selling marijuana illegally, off market, in just a few hours, than you can get for a whole week’s worth of a normal job, that is, if you can find a job. I grant this is anecdotal evidence, but it’s what I heard while I was teaching over there. BW3

  • axelbeingcivil

    If it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to use my screen name; I profess a number of views here that, while I am open about with friends, I cannot be open about with family. If that’s something you can’t make an exception for, though, I’ll move on.

  • BenW3

    Of course at some point you have to have the courage of your convictions even with your own family. This leads to some major arguments with members of mine, but they are usually not fruitless, and we remain family. But do you really think your family is reading my blog? Probably not. Anyway, this particular discussion has run its course. Blessings, BW3

  • Ella Warnock

    Marijuana need not involve smoking at all to be effective. I used a tincture during chemotherapy. Did wonders for my appetite, and my ability to sustain nutrition greatly boosted my immune system. My oncologist prescribed every non-emetic Big Pharma makes, sadly to no avail. I was on an unscheduled “chemo break” when we finally went the weed route, as at that point I was too weak and sick for another round.

    I can’t say I worry much one way or the other about recreational use – and as I’m in remission I no longer partake – but I do know it’s literally a lifesaver for many suffering debilitating chemo side-effects.

  • Robert Wahler

    The fact that you need to go to Wiki to extract your information about pot smoking, and not from personal experience is telling. It is the same for your philosophy. You know nothing about Gnosticism and yet jump on the bandwagon that the Gospel of Judas says nothing of importance about Jesus, when it turns the whole canon upside down, or, rather, *right side up*. Judas was a tendentious cover character for successor Master James the Just, as anyone carefully reading 1 and 2 Apocalypses of James from Nag Hammadi can see. Anyone but a Christian, that is. It is the Gospel OF Judas, not the Gospel of Jesus according to Judas. You and Ehrman and all the rest — even maverick April DeConick — got it all wrong. The canonical authors were commissioned to HIDE James, the real savior of the time (one of a line of them), because the early church couldn’t have a competitor to their fictional “Jesus” martyr.
    Now you want to tell us how to treat our own minds and bodies. Stick with what you know something about, Ben. Come to think of it, I’m not sure just what that would be. Do us a favor, OK?. Don’t say anything.

  • BenW3

    Anyone who thinks that the Gospel of Judas, a third or fourth century document at best, is likely to provide us with better historical evidence about first century Christianity than say Paul’s letters or other first century documents has either conveniently forgotten the first principles of how to evaluate historical evidence or never knew those principles in the first place. Give me a break Robert—- seriously???? BW3

  • Robert Wahler


    Yes, seriously. Early provenance doesn’t take the place of … understanding the material! The Gospel of Judas is a GNOSTIC work, and anyone familiar with mystic teaching will tell you that the central tenet of gnostic teachings is the centrality of the Master, and what is to take place between Master and disciple. The disciple is TO BE REPLACED by the Master, spiritually — which effectively means *totally*. Now read 36:1 the way it *originally* was intended, and the way it reads in First Apocalypse of James: “You will be replaced by someone [wonder why he didn't say who?] IN ORDER THAT the Twelve may *again* come to completion in their God.” Notice several things here. No Matthias. WHY? It isn’t him, that’s why. Also, they will AGAIN come to completion ‘in their God’– so this is a returning to stasis. The “in order that” is clearly the purpose of the replacing, so it is a functional replacement, not a simple rounding of the number twelve. This statement of the Master to disciple follows: “Step away from the others and I will tell you the mysteries of the kingdom, not so that *you* will go there, but you will grieve a great deal” (35:23-27). This is classic gnosticism. The disciple is told that HE personally will not be going anywhere above, but will “grieve a great deal”. ‘James’ (tractate just before this one, and a version of First Apocalypse) says “When you attain to the One-Who-Is, you will *no longer be James*” (13:23-25). The canon expresses the same thing in the inverted (as always due to the tendentious nature of the NT gospels) reference: “Woe to the one who betrays [should be 'delivers'] me. It would be better if he had never been born.” Sound a little like “grieve a great deal”? How about “sacrifice THE MAN THAT BEARS ME”? That is the disciple taking on the Master’s spirit, being REPLACED by him — NOT sacrificing his own Master so that he can “escape his body”. How ridiculous can it get? Scholars really think this is it? Jesus — the most powerful entity in all the Universe — needs to be betrayed so that he can …. *DIE*?????. Uh, right. “Thanks, Judas, I needed that. Now I can leave my body”… Ridiculous.

    This is Gnostic teaching, the teaching you should have been taught in Divinity School but were not. I went to India instead, myself, and am forever glad for making that auspicious choice.

    Masters have been coming to the world since at least Seth. (These are Sethians, the Sethian gnostics.) Masters were in the world in the time of (probably fictional) Christ — as John THE BAPTIST (only Masters ‘baptize’), and James the Just (‘Judas’ was James, as can be seen from his ‘dream’: he was being *stoned to death by fellow disciples* — which just happens to be how James died, at the hands of none other than PAUL (Hegesippus, Clement). Know of another first-century figure stoned to death by fellow disciples? Please let me know, if you do. I don’t know of any. And none for sure by Paul and friends.

    The entire “Betrayal” scenario is a literary fictional creation designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to HIDE the advent of the successor that the proto-orthodox church wanted GONE. You can see this from the model: First and Second Apocalypses of James. (Yes, I believe the tradition, at least, came BEFORE the canon.) The bread, the kiss, the naked young man, the Malchus ear-cutting, the ‘seizing’, the “I am he”, all this, and more, is represented in the gnostic original, not the inverted canonical parody of an installation event. Robert Eisenman already established that in Acts 1, ‘Judas’ is a stand-in for James in Acts 1, the successor election taking place right where the new Jerusalem Assembly Leader should be being chosen! Luke made up ‘Judas’, ‘Matthias’, and ‘Joseph Barsabbas JUSTus’ simply to cover for James the JUST. The early church probably commissioned him to do it.

    And if it is early you want, there is always the Gospel of Thomas — a sayings gospel, therefore early — #11: “When you go to where you are to go, go to James, *for whom heaven and earth came into being*”, and #108: “He who will drink from my mouth will become like me, AND I WILL BECOME HE.” Doesn’t get any more gnostic or Jamesian than that. Now read John 13:19. It isn’t Judas — it’s James, covered. They become ONE when the successor is ready. (Psalm 41:9 is about Jacob and Esau, not David and Ahithophel, and Jacob is JAMES in English, “greatly supplanting me”, DRB trans., not “lifted his heel against”, which is idiomatic). Same with: “Son of man glorified”, as ‘Judas’ leaves the room to take over as the new Messiah, in 13:31. “NOW is the Son of man glorified” — not LATER, at the cross. Sword play against the RIGHT ear in the Malchus incident is a dead-ringer for the mystic initiation into the Word, heard internally on the RIGHT. The conjunctions — look them up in the Greek — are “oun”, subordinate, and “hina”, continuative: “That” and “therefore” in John 18:9 and 10, respectively, all one sentence. The fulfilling of the prophecy of 17:12 “that none should be lost” is about MALCHUS being initiated, not the disciples being arrested. Since when is “none lost” in the High Priestly Prayer about arrest? If you understand Mysticism, you will understand the tendentious reversal of theme here, just as Eisenman found elsewhere from the Scrolls.

    The canon is A DECEPTION, my friend Ben. But I’m not bashing Christianity. I used to be a Christian.

  • Robert Bridges

    I noticed the other day that a new highly addictive, extremely dangerous new narcotic opiate based drug has been approved by the FDA inspite of numerous comments, criticisms and dire warnings of the huge potential of abuse for this drug.
    Noting too that in the last year alone over a hundred thousand people died from pain killer pills………and you wanna talk about addiction? Pain pills are made to addict people and currently a good hit of Vicodan can cost a kid more than a gram of Heroin. Now this is an excellent example of making money off of people’s pain and its legal too and big Phama knows this stuff is addictive and can kill you.

    So how about a Patheos essay on the drugs we are given on a daily basis by those with vested interested to keep us on them and keep the money rolling in.

    Pot? Citing David Brooks is hardly sound research.

  • Margaret Peterson

    Hi Ben,

    Not sure whether we’ve ever met, but I’m familiar with
    your name, since my husband is a NT scholar. Anyway, I read your
    comments with interest. A few books you might consider reading are Carl
    Hart’s “High Price” (on the neurobiology of addiction), Lance Dodes’
    “The Heart of Addiction” (on the psychology of addiction) and Gabor
    Maté’s “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts” (on the relationship of trauma
    and addiction).

    Margaret Kim Peterson

  • thunder250

    sometimes its not a lack of “courage of convictions” that keeps one from being open with family (or others) about their views. For some, it is a loving option – not to cause hurt. For others, it is because the view itself is not worth risking rejection, abuse or even violence.
    A family member of mine, for instance, decided to share with his elderly grandmother that he was gay. It resulted only in upseting her greatly and in distancing them from each other. I can see no good that came from it – except perhaps that he felt better about himself. She, on the other hand, did not tell him how she disapproved and was dissappointed in him.

  • mickey

    Hello, most of the friends I have/had who did drugs are sad echoes of their former selves, for some there’s not even an echo and I think that’s a very big reality that no one in the pro-camp seems to consider. People die or are just shadows of their former selves – sure some are ok but many/some are not. I agree with Robert Bridges about the Big Pharma and that’s disgusting but it is maybe also another issue. In fact do we need sources, reports, articles, studies etc? Can’t we just look around and see what it is doing to lives? Come on, get real. I work in Mental Health and there are plenty of drug induced psychosis’. Alcohol? perhaps a few but that’s a long way down the line. Just get real.