Everywhere I go across the country, I’m hit with the pot question. You see, I’m from Colorado and just about everyone has heard that in this state, marijuana is legal to purchase and grow for personal use. We were an early adopter and now thirty states have laws broadly legalizing marijuana in some form. Eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational use. It’s spreading.
How did we get here? Let me give just a short history of how it happened here.
It started out insidiously a few years ago with the medical marijuana justification. Nearly every medical doctor could write prescriptions for marijuana which could then be “Filled” by the neighborhood “dispensary.” It wasn’t long before “doctors” set up shops next to dispensaries and began writing scripts by the padfulls to otherwise healthy 22-year-old males with “persistent pain.”
Once medical marijuana gained a foothold and was societally accepted, advocates pushed it out to the public for a vote on personal use of the drug. It passed with more than 62 percent of the vote.
Here in Colorado, you can grow up to six plants for personal use. You can’t take it across state lines. You can’t ship it. You can’t sell it. You can also buy it from pot stores, with some heavy regulation. It’s taxed, ironically, to help fund schools.
Readers of this space will remember a particularly epic post and exchange I had with pastor pot of the International Church of Cannabis. My biggest beef? Why use the word, “church.”
It’s all about the mind
So now that it’s legal — or soon to be legal near you — , how should a Christian respond? For years, parents have used the illegality of drugs to scare their children away. Now that it’s not illegal, what’s the logic? Is there sound doctrine? Should a Christian toke up? Can a person of faith use marijuana? What does the bible say about weed?
It’s interesting to me that some of the same people who have vilified tobacco use are pushing marijuana. “It’s natural,” they say. Well, so is tobacco. And hemlock. But it’s not about whether the drug is synthetic. That’s a red herring. It’s about the mind.
I appreciate the words of Pastor Shawn Johnson who pastors Red Rocks Church. This is a fast growing church in the Denver area. Their audience skews young and they are particularly focused on bringing Prodigals home. That means it’s a messy church with attendees who don’t have clean pasts or perfect presents. No doubt, there are users who attend. And for all us in Colorado, if you don’t use, you know someone who does.
There is a big downside for a church preaching on these kinds of subjects. But charging into the lion’s den, he went On the Record. “My job isn’t to be popular,” he said. “It’s to lead.” Bravo.
For Pastor Johnson, it comes down to the mind. Marijuana users smoke dope to get high. Marijuana impacts the body, but most of all it impacts the mind. That’s why it’s called getting high because it sets you apart from the current reality.
There may be some claimed medical uses, but often those could be met with medicinal alternatives like Marinol that use the THC extracts that give the medical benefits. There may be other medical benefits and I’m not going to get too deep into that. Let’s be honest — a small minority of users have a medical necessity. I do appreciate the truly chronic pain that some suffer and to be taken away from that pain is understandable.
For the Christian, it’s the willful escape or alteration of the mind that makes it wrong. Jesus summed up all the expectations of God when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength” (Mk.12:30). The mind is the intellect, but it’s also the intuitive power to analyze, to have intuition, to understand, to react to others, and to respond to God’s leading. Pot ruins all of that.Many advocates claim that pot is not addictive. The National Institute on Drug Abuse says about 1 in 10 users are addicted. But I think it’s how we use the word. It isn’t heroin, but neither is it like Skittles. The bodies of pot smokers may not be addicted, but their minds are. Other addictions – like food, pornography, gambling and sex work in a similar way. Looking for an escape from reality, the mind grabs onto the vice.
We get addicted to the comfort, to the ability to run from our problems and hide. That’s not how we take on life.
Pastor Shawn said, “Weed is a dream killer.” If you are smoking, ask yourself, “How’s my ambition?”
What’s the difference between pot and alcohol?
Pot smokers right away point to alcohol. “What’s the difference? Why is that legal and pot isn’t?”
First of all, I can have a drink and not get “high” or “drunk.” So that sets the two apart. Can you smoke dope and not get high? I guess if that were the case, then this line of reasoning disappears. I don’t know the answer, but maybe you do.
I grew up in a church that forbade alcohol use. But a closer examination of Scripture shows clearly that it’s drunkenness that it warns against. So, I can freely drink alcohol and not sin, as long as I don’t fall into drunkenness. And we all know that drunkenness leads to all kinds of things – death, drunken driving, violence, sexual activity, and all kinds of other activities. That’s why we don’t disassociate our mind from our reasoning with a foreign substance.
I believe that increased marijuana use and acceptance is a terrible trend for our children. Teenagers under 17 who use cannabis daily are 60 percent less likely to complete high school or get a degree than peers who have never taken the drug. They are also nearly seven times likelier to attempt suicide and are almost eight times likelier to use other illicit drugs later in life. And a large long-term study in New Zealand showed that people who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost an average of 8 points in IQ between age 13 and age 38
How should a Christian react?
If you are a Christian and believe otherwise, I don’t condemn you. I’m sure at some point you started smoking and the rationalization began that very day. I just ask that you be open to God’s leading.
Romans 14 says this, “Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.”
Hear this please. Smoking pot won’t send you to hell. But you are missing out on so much more. Jesus said this, “The thief comes to steal, and kill and destroy. But I have come that you may have life have it abundantly.”
So there’s the choice. And with great love, it’s offered freely to you.
Watch or listen to the whole message by Red Rocks Church Pastor Shawn Johnson here.