Young Christians and Their Pot

Robert Jones points us to some interesting stats. Maybe marijuana is the next issue, widening the gulf between younger and older Christians in America.

…while half (50 percent) of Christian young adults believe that marijuana use should be legal, only approximately 1-in-5 (22 percent) Christian seniors agree. Similarly, Christian young adults (52 percent) are more than twice as likely as Christian seniors (25 percent) to say that the use of marijuana is morally acceptable. And although a majority (54 percent) of Christian seniors believe that new laws legalizing the use of marijuana are a sign of America’s moral decline, only 3-in-10 (30 percent) Christian young adults hold this view, while two-thirds (67 percent) disagree.

I’m not a pot smoker. Never have been. But I’ve got more friends now than any time in my life who smoke.

Do you smoke pot? If so, what’s the morality of it?

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  • erbks

    I don’t smoke pot, and probably would never do so, but I do support legalization (or at least non-enforcement), because the criminalization of pot is a key and senseless piece of the criminal-industrial complex, and is a predominant tool of racial and economic oppression

  • I used to have a big moral problem with smoking pot. But I grew up in a household of addicts who were in and out of treatment my whole childhood. Today I see it through a very different perspective.

    Smoking a little pot, just like drinking a glass or two of wine is to me not a big deal. However, substances whether they are pot, alcohol, food, or even sex, etc., have their addictive qualities inasmuch as the user has an addictive personality. That means that for some, these things can become a problem. For others it is simply a social choice.

    When something begins to run our lives and dictate our choices, instead of the opposite does it not becomes a problem? Everyone must ask themselves what their motivation is for use, and everyone should understand the psychology of why using substances outside of ourselves can be dangerous if not done from a healthy perspective. However, if done from a healthy and responsible perspective, can’t it be argued that it really is not a big deal?

    From a health standpoint, while smoking marijuana can be damaging to our
    bodies, it is less damaging than tobacco, and just as damaging as

  • guido

    I think Pot has peripheral issues.
    The big one is organized crime. Living in CA where marijuana is basically legal to grow, organized crime still subverts the law and authority to grow it. They grow beyond restrictions for medicinal use, they rewire houses not to pay for grow lamps, they steal other people’s crops, and they extort people to grow on their property. Talking to a friend who works in power companies and is up on poles looking over the landscape, he says, “It is everywhere.”

    Then if we do legalize marijuana who is going to pay taxes on it? Organized crime which has been running 100% profit is not going to become legit and give the govt. a 30%. We have people who complain about taxes today, organized crime has a tea party agenda, guns and no taxes. (that is a joke.)

    So, I see the baggage of marijuana as being problematic.
    Then those who smoke it today, are just part of the larger evil of organized crime that uses violence to oppress people. “Hey man, I am just lighting up and not hurting anyone…” Alright, the folks in Juarez are being killed because of problems going down at the dog track and quinella pay outs!

    I have been thinking about it, and the more I think about it…the more I am a dinosaur. Nancy Reagan legacy and fried eggs really did have an impact on me.

  • Am I allowed to say out loud that while I haven’t smoked it yet, I wouldn’t turn it down if offered?

    What I’ve heard is that alcohol makes you think you can do things but hinders your ability/coordination/etc to do them (like drive). Pot doesn’t hinder your coordination, it just takes away your motivation. So it’s far less dangerous to be high on pot than drunk on alcohol. That’s all the moral argument I needed.

    • Nah it’ll impair your perception, things may seem faster, coordination can be delayed perhaps. You won’t however be confident like a drunk.

    • tanyam

      I suspect we don’t know everything about pot, and that it is complicated at best. Most people do not become addicted — but some seem to and enter treatment for their dependence. Paranoia is a known side effect. Do we know what else it does to the brain?

      How about what it does to Mexico — the billions spent on trying to control it, not to mention the thousands of lives and communities ruined in horrible violence. Maybe we should change the laws, but in the meantime — the moral arguments are worth spending a little more time contemplating.

      • Larry Barber

        We don’t know “everything” about our basic food items either, or what our processing does to it, let alone other commonly used drugs.

        The violence that accompanies pot is because it is illegal, not from anything inherent in the plant itself. When was the last time you saw any violence associated with distributing alcohol?

        • tanyam

          Really and truly, and not just because I’m making some moralistic point — I’ve seen marijuana have terrible effects in some people’s lives. Sure, some can pick it up and stop when they like. But some 10 percent (you can google it) develop problems — their usage comes to adversely affect their work lives or their relationships — the classic issues with addiction of any kind.

      • Chad

        The best way to stop the drug cartels from destroying lives and communities is to legalize it. Doing that one simple thing would win the war on drugs overnight.

  • CurtisMSP

    I wish we would just hurry up and legalize pot, so we can have a serious discussion about how healthy, or unhealthy, it is. It is hard to have a rational debate in the current setting. Cheeseburgers and Coke are legal, but I wouldn’t recommend that any teenager base his diet on either one. If pot were legal, I’d feel the same way about pot. I’d suggest teenagers just avoid the stuff; there are so many better ways to spend your time and money. But since we are hung up on the legal debate, we can never really get on to the real discussion.

  • jeskastkeat

    Legalize it. Yes, I’ve tried it (thank you seminary friends).

    I’m more interested in the international conversation around pot with the rise of violence. Marijuana and cocaine are the two largest sources of revenue for drug cartels in Mexico. If one chooses to smoke pot in the USA, is one inadvertently perpetuating the system of violence? I happen to think so, which is my largest reason why I don’t think smoking pot is “good” for someone. Not because it is a gateway drug (which I don’t necessarily believe) but because it is perpetuating an economy of violence. If pot was legal, would the violence decrease? I’m interested in that conversation…

  • Sofia

    Yes, marijuana should be legal. And I won’t use it until I can obtain it legally.
    I strongly urge anyone who does to question where it came from. Better yet, grow your own. From funding the making of the bombs detonated at the Boston Marathon to murders at the hands of drug cartels, there’s no telling who is dying at the expense of one’s selfish (unless medicinal) desire to get high. It’s simply not worth it.

  • I used to believe it was wrong. But I also thought drinking, smoking cigarettes, and any sex other than between a married couple (man & woman, of course) were also wrong. So no one should base their view of pot exclusively on my opinion.

    I come from a family of artists & activists; smoking pot is not uncommon among them (though I admit to never having tried it myself). Right now, I’m just concentrating on figuring out how to have these conversations with my kids. I’d like to see it legalized by the time they’re teenagers so that we can talk about why to use/not use and healthy context rather than “don’t do that because it’s illegal.”

  • Fake Name

    I smoke pot every night. After over a decade of severe insomnia, I’ve tried everything, and pot is the only medicine that works consistently and with the fewest next-day side effects. (The next-day side effects are essentially zilch.) I smoke very little, but with the high-grade weed that is available legally here in Washington, I can hardly smoke too little–this stuff is way more potent than the weed we smoked in high school.

    I smoked a lot of weed in high school, but gave it up cold turkey when I became a Christian. I had occasional dalliances with the stuff in the years afterward, and always felt tremendously guilty about it. And, to be sure, the only reason I smoked back then was to get very, very high. These days, the high is sort of the unfortunate side effect. But because I smoke so little, the high doesn’t last very long — it’s intense for 15-30 minutes at the most, and then pretty mellow. (And those 15-30 minutes are, admittedly, pretty nice.)

    I’ve been doing this for a few years now and still struggle with guilt over it somewhat. But not very much any more. My closest friends know about it. My spouse knows about it. They all are in favor of my continuing to do it, even though none of them do it, because they can see and appreciate the effects of my good sleep.

    I long for more Christian reflection on this subject. I’m 100% sure that I’m not alone as a semi-closeted pot smoking Christian. I can’t be totally open about my own use for a host of reasons, esp my extended family and my job. And that’s okay for now–I understand the stigma against it. The states that have legalized medical marijuana have experienced some unfortunate outcomes, including increased teen use. The social consequences of the drug war have been awful, but the social consequences of legal weed could be very severe as well. It’s all very complicated.

  • Dean

    I think criminalizing drug use is immoral. People who become addicted to drugs need treatment, not incarceration. If we spent all the money we’ve spent on the “war on drugs” educating kids on making better life choices and giving them opportunities to success rather than putting people in jail, I think we would have solved the drug problem by now. I think most drugs should be legal and regulated for adults and really dangerous ones should be punishable by fines and/or mandatory treatment programs. I mean, when are we going to get rational about things like this rather than resort to knee-jerk puritanical reasons in making public policy? For a religion that starts with the creator of the universe giving us the option to choose good or evil for ourselves, it seems odd that Christianity is now all about how to coerce people into conforming to what religious leaders think is “moral behavior”. You can’t legislate morality, the state exists to protect us from a certain set of limited things, not life in general. It’s weird how the tea party and other religious fanatics will rail against the federal government’s intrusion into certain aspects of out lives, but when it comes to so called “moral” issues, it’s imperative that the government get involved.

  • I totally echo JesKastKeat’s comment about further the violence by participating in pot…but, I believe we could see some positive affects that legalizing it would make in combating that same violence. A friend of mine was the DA in Monterey and had been trying to crack down on the drug gangs, until he was murdered a few years ago. While legalizing pot won’t solve the issue, I’m all for taking at least some of the need for illegal distribution away from those maniacs who killed my friend.

    I see this issue from a different bent. As someone who lives in constant pain from a disease, I have the legal right to use medical marijuana, but have chosen yet to accept it. There are some good stats out there than THC can have really positive affects on the nerve pain, (this is in pill form, not cigarette form) but because of many factors I choose to not even ask for the script. Partly because while states may open new laws for medical distribution (like my state, Michigan), there are many examples of Federal interference with these dispensaries and the un-licensing of doctors prescribing it. Medical use aside, I’m for legalizing it for many other reasons. We are so over populated in our prisons with people who’ve been in possession of pot. I’m much more in favor of getting education and rehab over taking up space in jail.

  • Jeff Wheeldon

    I used to smoke pot a fair amount. I had a fairly radical conversion experience, which involved going from the numbness of depression to a strong sense of the presence and love of God. I didn’t stop smoking pot because of any moral sense, but because when I was high I didn’t feel that connection with God. That sense of connection with God was my lifeline, coming out of addictions and mental health issues as I had, so it was a no-brainer to give it up.

    Since then, I just haven’t missed it. The same goes for alcohol. I have no moral qualms about either of them, used responsibly (which in my opinion means very little). I no longer have a social context for using either of them, and as long as pot is illegal I would probably abstain anyways, but the point for me remains the same as when I gave it up: anything that gets between me and God has to go.

  • Lausten

    We definitely need more data on this, but we have enough to make it legal and start treating people who abuse as sick, not criminal. In the seventies there was a book with lots of information about pot, written by potheads, the chapter titled “The Dangers of Marijuana” had one sentence, “Getting busted”.

    Also, think of what it would do for the economy, the increase in pizza delivery alone could end this recovery.

  • Chad

    I would never smoke pot, but have no problem if other adults want to smoke it (preferably away from me). It’s ridiculous the millions of dollars we flush down the toilet in a drug war (which we are losing by all accounts) against a substance that is no more harmful than alcohol.

  • To the first part of Tony’s question, I’m not a pot smoker. I personally think it’s a pretty disgusting activity (it’s smoke inhalation, after all), to say nothing of the awful stench. Plus, I don’t have any compulsion whatsoever to recreationally engage in pot-induced self-absorption for the sake of self-absorption, as if it were some virtuous gateway to spiritual enlightenment or other kind of artificial esoteric hippie-like experience. I already have enough stupid moments on my own. I don’t see the need to invite more stupid by inhaling marijuana smoke.

    To the second part of Tony’s question on the morality of smoking marijuana, I would say that when the acquisition and/or use of marijuana becomes physically, mentally, psychologically, emotionally, socially, or spiritually destructive to the user and/or to those around them, then it is certainly immoral.

    Having said all that, I support the decriminalization of marijuana possession and use. As a professional writer for attorneys and small law firms (some of them in California), I do a fair share of writing on this issue, which is much more complex than the general public realizes. Mainly, I want to see it fully decriminalized on all state levels, and especially the federal level, for moral reasons. The marijuana trade in this hemisphere contributes to awful human atrocities, both from criminal elements and law enforcement authorities. By fully legalizing and regulating domestic marijuana manufacture and commerce, and strictly prohibiting all foreign imports and exports of marijuana, it would be at least a positive first step in halting our nation’s contribution to human injustice in the marijuana trade.

    • Craig

      R. Jay, for the adults who do enjoy smoking pot, whether regularly or occasionally, do you think that it always, or even usually, involves experiences of self-absorption or delusions about virtuous gateways? I suspect experiences vary greatly, but that those who enjoy the drug often also experience it quite differently from what you portray.

      • A number of my closest friends are occasional recreational marijuana users, and on more than a few times throughout the years I’ve been present when they’ve smoked. And it never fails to astonish me what a remarkably self-absorbing activity it always is. And that’s the point of smoking marijuana recreationally. To get one’s self high. To get one’s self stoned. To indulge in an intensely self-serving, chemical-induced sensory experience with a remarkable dumbing-down effect (and which later causes the “munchies,” where I’ve witnessed ridiculous gorging to near gluttony that’s incredibly unhealthy for the body).

        Marijuana’s broad recreational appeal is because of its celebrated universal effect on the brain, which suggests people who use it recreationally experience it pretty much the same way. It gets them high. It gets them stoned.

        Now, notwithstanding my personal objections to marijuana use (and which I would not impose on anyone else, except my children), I once made the argument that it would likely improve the world if every adult and young-adult in the world got stoned for a day. Part of my argument was that, instead of exporting missiles and death to the Middle East, we should instead export millions of tons of pot and chocolate chip cookies. Get everyone over there stoned and give them the munchies. It would sure as hell beat the alternative.

        • Craig

          Suppose that I smoke pot to get high/stoned, to affect my brain in some desired way. Of itself this doesn’t show that my activity is any more self-serving than doing something to get myself energized, or to get relaxed, or to get into a more creative frame of mind, or to relieve my depression or anxieties. Presumably you would not want to say that taking an anti-depressant, or eating a big meal, or getting a good night’s sleep, is necessarily self-serving.

          But suppose that pot is self-serving in the way that watching a comedy or an action flick might be. I wouldn’t say that this makes the activity objectionable.

          Is pot-smoking, in addition to be self-serving, also self-absorbing? What does that mean? When I hear “remarkably self-absorbing” I think of someone journaling in a coffee shop, or practicing some form of mindfulness. But sometimes a remarkable amount of self-reflection is healthy.

          To me the least attractive part of pot-smoking is the apparent “dumbing-down” effect. But while in my experience pot inhibits many valuable kinds of thought (like rigorous analysis and a normal perspective on the usual range of relevant considerations), I suspect it can sometimes enable other valuable elements of thought and emotion (perhaps creative associations, and helpful, temporary, detachments from various concerns). While I understand the frustration of trying to converse in the usual ways with friends that are stoned, I also recognize that that just isn’t the way to appreciate the drug (sleep can be great, but attempts to converse with sleeping friends would be highly frustrating).

          • From my standpoint as an emergent faith Christian, self-discipline, clarity of mind, and soundness of body are critical to living a consistently ethical and moral life in the pattern of Jesus. And we can apply that maxim to numerous influences in life which affect thought, intentions, and behavior. Ultimately, the focus shouldn’t be as much on the “badness” of any given influence (be it chemical, physical, social, etc.), as on the dedication and commitment of the individual to faithfully living a creative rather than destructive ethos.

            • Craig

              see above

          • I would also add this: the Greatest Commandment says, “Love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” With this in mind, I’d say that any activity engaged in regularly and habitually which diminishes the capacity of the mind and diminishes one’s strength is an affront to this core foundation of the emergent faith ethos. As such, I would conclude that any regular or habitual use of marijuana is incompatible with the emergent Christian life.

            • Craig

              By parity of reasoning would you say that it is an affront to the core foundation of the emergent faith ethos to habitually enjoy double IPAs, eat dessert, ride the elevator instead of climbing the stairs, or watch mindless action movies?

              • I’d say yes. With the exception, perhaps, of the elevator thing (disabled people need elevators).

                • Craig

                  I see. Given the social stigma attached to pot smoking, it might help to say that smoking pot is only as sinful as eating fries while watching daytime television. And I suppose you could still agree that prayerfully flooding the market with local and sustainably grown pot is a righteous and Christ-like act.

                  • I wouldn’t qualify all that on mere socio-cultural grounds. I would say that, for those who desire to authentically live a life patterned after Jesus, it is critical that they consistently live in such a way that faithfully affirms each of the tenets enshrined in the Greatest Commandment.

                    • Craig

                      Christians, like everyone else, tend to adopt without much scrutiny the norms of the culture that surrounds them, both inside the church and out. Many of these norms are deeply inimical to the Greatest Commandment. A touch of deviant, mind-altering behavior can often help a person to start questioning these norms. In that respect smoking pot for a couple of weeks could be helpful as going on a church-retreat, or reading some thought-provoking novels. I suspect It’d help some Christians quite a lot. It’s too bad these same Christians are typically so convinced of the unique and threatening sinfulness of smoking pot.

          • If detaching from concerns is what one seeks, I highly recommend gardening. Its therapeutic effects are remarkable! It clears the cobwebs from one’s mind as all cares fall away.

  • Phil Miller

    Have never smoked pot (nor anything else, for that matter), but I really think that our current drug laws are pretty stupid.

    My only relatively recent encounter with pot was at a band practice (a Christian band, nonetheless) where the drummer and the bass player offered me a joint… I’ve just never had any interest in trying it.

  • toddh

    Never smoked it, probably never will, but I completely and wholeheartedly support its legalization for many reasons. Did you know that it has been legal since pretty much then dawn of time up until about 1930? (depending on what state you lived in). If anyone wants to read a fascinating book on the history of cannabis in the US, I recommend this one:

  • Warren Hartley

    I’m not so sure it is a moral issue, but certainly a health issue. The links between smoking pot and mental health problems appear to be quite strong. I don’t smoke pot because its bad for my physical and mental health, not from a moral imperative. There have been some studies indicating its usefulness as a treatment for arthritis but like most drugs I guess there is a difference between casual use and therapeutic dosage.

  • Kaneh bosm was part of the holy annointing oil given in Exodus. It was used in the temple and was part of religious practice through the time of Christ. Christ and Luke would have used it to heal. Christ literally means anointed with oil. I Timothy 4:1-5 says all things made by God were good by that deceiving spirits would blind people to this truth – kaneh bosm was cannabis, and its use is a sacrament – literally a prayerful meditative experience. To pray without ceasing is to be in the mental presence of the most high.

  • How many verses are there in the Bible about remaining alert and sober-minded? Does smoking marijuana afford one’s mind to be ever alert and sober-minded? Just askin’. What if an emergency arises while one is stoned?

  • jdriesen

    As everyone knows, alcohol causes more harm than marijuana.
    Marijuana is not immoral just because it’s illegal, and alcohol is not moral just because it’s legal.

  • bean701

    Have never tried it, or even seen it. I used to be very moralistic and believed how horribly wrong it was. Now I would have to say “big deal.” I guess I’ve made it 40 some years without trying it, but I just don’t see it as a huge thing. I have come to the conclusion that the war on drugs is a failure and it in itself is immoral. More people incarcerated in this country per capita than any other nation in the western world, if I remember right. Why?