In 1978 the Encyclopedia Americana declared, “in the United States no hemp [cannabis] products are recognized as having medicinal qualities or have official standing as drugs…. Possession of any portion of the hemp plant or any of its products…without a federal permit is illegal in the United States” (vol. 14, p. 87). My, how things have drastically changed and in such a short period of time! To- day in the US, marijuana is now legal (1) recreationally in eight states, (2) medically in twenty-one states, and (3) conditionally in fifteen states—leaving only six states where it is still illegal. And some of the remaining six states are considering decriminalization and even normalization for the use of the mind-numbing happy weed.
Ironically, the US Congress, or federal law, still considers possession and distribution of marijuana as illegal in all 50 states ever since President Nixon signed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. So in a state like California, smoking marijuana for kicks is both legal and illegal at the same time. Welcome to America, dude!
Marijuana (weed, pot, hemp, cannabis, wacky tobacci) was first formally outlawed in America on a federal level in 1937. Today it is estimated that over 20 million Americans use weed. And as more states are legalizing the brain-altering plant, marijuana use is now commonplace and even going public, thus proliferating its presence in our culture. As a result, Christians are confronted by it everywhere, so much so that we are told by the world that pot should no longer be considered wrong, unhealthy or dangerous.
Marijuana comes from the cannabis plant, which is used as a psychoactive drug by inhaling smoke through a cigarette (joint, doobie), huffing its vapor or ingesting orally. Psychoactive drugs are chemicals that impact or change brain function that results in alterations in perception, mood or consciousness. There is much debate on how to categorize marijuana as a drug and what its long-term effects are, but everyone agrees that its main appeal by users is its immediate physiological impact on the brain. Smoking pot has a direct, altering effect on brain function, which in turn interferes with how one thinks and how one feels. This should be a huge concern and major red flag for all true Bible-believing, conscientious, God-honoring, Christ-centered Christians.
I have talked with several church-going young people, teenagers and collegiates, who argue that smoking pot is not a sin, is not unhealthy and is not dangerous. Amazingly, there are many people calling themselves Christians today who hold the same view, which begs the over-arching question: How should Christians view marijuana, pot-smoking and popular weed ingestion? As always, the Bible has the answers. God’s Word is sufficient for providing principles by which a believer can confidently live obediently in every area of life. So then, consider the following biblical principles that intersect with the nagging reality of today’s rampant marijuana movement being shoved in our face along with its second-hand smoke we are expected to passively swallow:
(1) Obey the Just Laws of the Land
In Romans 13:1, God commands us to obey the governing authorities. To disobey the law is sin. US federal law says possession of marijuana is illegal. Here in California, with our state’s double standard of allowed recreational use, there are still restrictions with marijuana—you must be 21 or older, you can’t possess more than 1 ounce, you can’t grow it outside, smoke it publicly or in a car. If you violate any of these rules, it is a sin. If you live in Indiana or Idaho today, you can’t have pot at all—if you do, it’s breaking the law and that is sin.
(2) Obey Your Parents
Many of the ardent defenders among professing Christians are teens and collegiates, i.e. dependents. If you live with your parents, you must honor and obey your parents (Eph 6:1-3). If your Christian parents, who provide for you, say, “Don’t smoke pot!” yet you smoke pot, then you are in sin.
(3) Love God with all your Mind (Matt 22:37)
Christianity is first and foremost a religion of the mind—thinking of God properly and meditating on truth clearly. God speaks to us through the mind. Smoking pot attacks the brain, impairs thinking, impedes memory, dulls the conscience and distorts perception and reality. All these facts about marijuana undermine God’s mandate for Christians to “think on things” that are true (Phil 4:8).
(4) Consider Others as More important than Yourself (Phil 2:3-4)
Most of the pot smokers I’ve ever talked to tell me they puff because they like to—“it feels good,” “it makes me relaxed,” “I dig the trance it puts me under,” “it makes my problems go away.” Smoking pot is the quintessential act of self-centered, self-indulgent behavior. Christians are not called to please self, but to please God and serve others. Jesus said a true disciple of His is willing to “deny himself” (Luke 9:23), not gratify himself. A corollary thought: when you drive high on pot, you become a fatal risk to other people on the road. That is the antithesis of loving your fellow man and being concerned with their good over your own.
(5) Your Body Belongs to God
The Holy Spirit lives in the believer, so the human body is the temple of the Spirit (2 Cor 6:16). A Christian’s body belongs to God—your body is not your own. Jesus bought the believer, body and soul, with His shed blood on the cross (Acts 20:28). Christians are called to honor God with their bodies, as well as their minds. When you smoke pot and jeopardize the physical health and safety of your body and pollute your brain through chemical intrusion from cannabis, you are not being a faithful steward of the body God gave you.
(6) God commands Christians to be Sober
The Bible expects sobriety from believers—physical, mental and spiritual sobriety (2 Tim 4:5; 1 Pet 1:13). Being intoxicated with anything is a sin, as intoxication is the opposite of sobriety.
(7) God Condemns Drug Use
Many argue that marijuana is not in the Bible. But in Galatians 5:19-21 God condemns drug use along with several other wicked and immoral behaviors: “sexual immorality [porneia], impurity, sensuality, idolatry, pharmakeia, enmities…drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” The eminent Greek scholar, A. T. Robertson, correctly notes that the word pharmakeia is “from pharmakon, a drug, the ministering of drugs” (Word Pictures, vol. IV). Using this same Greek word, John the Apostle also condemns drug use as a sinful practice in Revelation 18:23. Many English Bibles translate pharmakeia as “sorcery” because of the close association that drug use, including the ingestion of cannabis, has had with occultic religious practices for millennia. Today, pot-smoking goes hand-in-hand with sexual immorality, carousing, drunkenness and dangerous mystical experimentation, just as the Bible noted 2,000 years ago.
Don’t expect to make much headway with a pot-user, trying to convince them why marijuana is wrong and dangerous. But for a true Christian who wants to honor God in all things, the above seven principles are welcome reminders of how to live in light of 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “Whether then you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.”