When I was growing up in New Jersey in the 70’s, marijuana use was rampant among my peers in high school. Though I never touched it, I was surrounded by the majority that did. I was always encouraged to try it but refused. I didn’t see any upside to getting high.
As I look backwards in time I see the many lives that were devastated, even lost by drug use. To me it was simple…using drugs was a way of escaping and coping with life and I wasn’t interested. I watched many friends, start with marijuana and quickly graduate to experimenting with more serious drugs.
Many eventually gave up using drugs as a way of escape and went on to have productive lives, while a few weren’t so fortunate.
When you hear of people you know suffering from addictions and even dying, you feel the tremendous loss for that person and their loved ones.
Today we live in very interesting times. The reality of Marijuana becoming legally approved for recreational use is a here. So what’s the big deal?
Am I another uptight, narrow-minded “religious zealot”, or do I have legitimate concerns?
Below is an excerpt from CRI, written by Dr. Richard Poupard.
There has been a great push to legalize the use of medical marijuana. Although it has been effective in treating some illnesses, the progression of medical marijuana has also greatly increased the access and social acceptance of this drug. I do not believe that the medical benefits of smoking marijuana outweigh the risk for at least four reasons. The first reason is the impact that acceptance of medical marijuana has on our culture. Medical marijuana has negative social affects because it greatly increases the number of individuals using the drug. Second, the biblical prohibition against intoxication applies to almost everyone who smokes marijuana. Third, although the physical health dangers have been overstated in the past, there are physical and psychological dangers involved with smoking marijuana. Lastly, and most importantly, there are spiritual dangers in smoking marijuana. Marijuana is used to enhance our earthly experience to feel enlightened, tapping our inner energy, and to feel one with the universe. These are consistent with the objectives of Eastern religious thought, and are antithetical to the message of Jesus Christ. We find greater meaning and peace not through the introduction of a psychoactive chemical to our brains, but through the person and work of our Savior.
A heartbreaking video shows young Charlotte Figi struggling in the midst of a grand mal seizure.1 She suffers from a rare disease called Dravet syndrome, which causes uncontrollable, intractable seizures starting at a very young age. Charlotte experienced as many as three hundred of these seizures a week. Traditional anti-seizure medication did not work, and her doctors expected her condition to end her life at an early age. Her parents sought after anything that would help their daughter to live. After searching the Internet, they found some evidence that a chemical found in marijuana had shown some promise in treating certain seizure disorders. They elected to give their daughter an oil-based oral dose of a special strain of marijuana, later named Charlotte’s Web in her honor. This has been very effective in treating her seizures. She is now six years old and appears to be thriving. Currently, forty-three other patients are being treated with this strain of marijuana for their seizures. In Charlotte’s case, the chemical isolated from marijuana literally saved her life.
This and other stories like it have helped to change the way our culture views marijuana. In fact, there has been a radical shift in the acceptance of marijuana in the last fifteen years not only as a medication but also for recreational use. In 1991, polling data from the Pew Foundation revealed that only 17 percent of individuals believed that marijuana should be legal, while in the most recent poll, a majority of 52 percent supported legalization. Almost three-quarters of Americans are in favor of allowing the sale and use of medical marijuana when recommended by a doctor. Twenty states have legalized marijuana for medical use, and in January 2014, Colorado and the state of Washington legalized marijuana for recreational use. Trends such as these show how the culture has shifted its views about marijuana.
The moral convictions of Americans regarding marijuana have also shown a significant evolution. In 2006, 50 percent of individuals polled believed that smoking marijuana was morally wrong. In 2013, that number decreased to 32 percent. Among young persons, only 26 percent of those in the millennial generation believe that smoking pot is morally problematic. The shift in public opinion in favor of allowing the sale and possession of marijuana has been great, especially among the younger generation. Marijuana traditionally was associated with rebellion and the counterculture, but this is no longer the case. Pot has gone mainstream. If the current political momentum continues, there is little doubt that marijuana will be legal in much of the United States in the near future. From a Christian perspective, this fundamental change in attitude by our culture presents significant challenges. Does the Bible offer any guidance about smoking marijuana? Is there a difference between taking marijuana for medicinal purposes and taking it for recreation? When marijuana was illegal throughout the United States, we could point to Romans 13:1–7 to argue that we had a responsibility not to use or condone the use of marijuana because the law forbade it. With the momentum moving toward legalization, this argument is becoming increasingly inapplicable. A recent editorial in a major Christian publication argued that smoking marijuana falls under the purview of Christian freedom.4 Marijuana supporters have also attempted to use Scripture to support their position. They claim Genesis 1:27 argues that consumption of a seed-bearing plant (e.g. cannabis), designed by God, is not morally problematic. A thoughtful, biblical analysis of these issues is necessary, and should help to guide a Christian’s perspective on marijuana.
Striving to demonstrate that therapeutic usage and recreational usage of marijuana are closely related, it is important to define these terms as we use them. Consuming marijuana therapeutically has the goal of treating the cause or symptoms of a pathological condition. The goal of the user is to return the symptoms or the state of the human body to a pre-pathological state, or a return to normalcy. Consuming marijuana for recreation has the goal of enhancing one’s human experience beyond everyday sensations. In other words, normalcy is the state that one wishes to escape by taking the drug!
I will examine four factors in considering whether or not smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes is biblically sound. The first factor is the potential effect that acceptance of medical marijuana may have on the culture around us. The second factor is the biblical prohibition against drunkenness or intoxication. The third factor is the physical effects that marijuana has on the body. The last factor is the possible spiritual influence that taking a known psychoactive substance may have on the health of the soul.
THE EFFECT ON OUR CULTURE
Although touted by advocates as the latest wonder drug that has the promise to treat all sorts of maladies, the truth behind the push for medical marijuana is less benevolent. In the state of Colorado, a surprisingly large number of citizens have been granted a medical marijuana card—more than 2 percent of the entire population.5 Although patients such as Charlotte are frequently cited to reveal the incredible power of this drug, the truth is that a very small minority of marijuana recommendations are given to patients suffering from conditions such as hers. In fact, only one in twenty are being treated for the seizures that plagued Charlotte. Rather, 94 percent of medical marijuana patients take the drug for “severe pain,” a subjective symptom that is difficult to confirm objectively.6 This is problematic because there are more proven, effective, reliable medications for pain control available. In a talk supporting medical marijuana, grower Josh Stanley openly spoke about the “horrible, horrible epidemic of back pain that just swept across college campuses” once medical marijuana became available.7 Even physicians, who usually applaud the increased availability of any drug, have been skeptical of the use and perceived need for medical marijuana. A study done among the family physicians of Colorado revealed that a majority did not recommend marijuana for their patients who have chronic pain. Although the medical benefits for users are questionable, the increased availability of marijuana when legalized for medicinal use is not. According to one report, in 2011 there were more medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver then Starbucks stores.9
It is legitimate and laudable to use medications to treat the symptoms of disease. But exploiting this compassion in order to increase access to a recreational drug is wrong.
Closing thoughts: Marijuana is rapidly becoming legalized throughout the US. I see great (positive) potential in the scientific applications for serious medical conditions, and the industrial use of hemp is nothing short of amazing, however, using any mind altering drug to escape life and it’s challenges is not consistent with biblical doctrine. I also believe as a doctor that the physiological effects on the brain and potential as a “stepping stone” to other more addictive drugs should raise great concern to us all.
To read the full article by Dr. Poupard, please follow the following link: http://www.equip.org/article/medical-marijuana-miracle-drug-spiritual-poison/