What should we think about marijuana use?
What we think about marijuana and its use will be determined by the commitments that we hold or what is often referred to as a worldview. I am not a relativist, I believe in objective truth, yet the way we see the world (our worldview) will determine the way we think about marijuana. So, it’s important to understand that the way we come to the question will make a difference in the way that we answer the question.
Marijuana And America
It’s reported that George Washington grew hemp and employed it (notice I didn’t say “smoked it”) along with other Founding Fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson. And a few Presidents have admitted to smoking marijuana. News sources say that support for legalization is at an all-time high (no pun intended).
Marijuana, whatever we think about it, is all over the place. It’s legal in some places and in most places people are living like it’s legal. And very soon it may be legal all across the country (my issue here is not to discuss whether or not it should be legalized). The question for the Christian is more than a question of legalization and cultural acceptance. The issue has to do with whether or not we believe God would be pleased with our use of marijuana.
This question will need to take into account legalization and even cultural acceptance but is not ultimately based on either of those considerations. That’s why I said the way we come to the question is really important. What is guiding us as we look at the question of marijuana use? If it is just our feelings and the surrounding culture then that will lead to one set of conclusions. If it is the Word of God, however, it will likely lead to a different set of conclusions.
So, let’s look at what the Bible says.
Marijuana And The Bible
I have talked to a lot of people that boast about marijuana’s many benefits in recreational use. Some will even bring up Genesis 1:29 that says that God made every plant on the earth that produces seed and then says we “shall have them for food.” So, people ask, “Doesn’t that count for marijuana?! Didn’t God make it to be enjoyed? Shouldn’t we just receive it with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5)?”
I appreciate the question. It is important that we try to understand things from a biblical perspective. Scripture, as the Word of God, is given in part to equip us to know how to live (cf. e.g. Ps. 119:105; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Regarding the “every plant on earth question” from Genesis 1:29, it is important for us to consider a few things. First, Scripture should never be understood in isolation. A text out of context will likely become a pretext for all sorts of error. So, we must understand the context of the passage.
Second, God gave “every plant yielding seed… for food.” Marijuana is typically smoked, not eaten, and when marijuana is eaten the purpose is not what it adds to the brownie but the effect it has on the mind.
Third, there are other plants that produce seed that we would never consider eating, let alone lighting up and smoking (e.g. poison ivy, hemlock). Why? Because of the effect they will have on us. If we want to take Genesis 1:29 as in absolute statement we should have all sorts of things for food! We see, however, that God entrusted us to be wise stewards over the creation (see v. 28). Not drunkards. Yet, later in Genesis, we see an example of man’s stewardship being exploited to destructive ends when Noah gets drunk (see Gen. 9:1; 20ff).
So, fourth, we should also consider the fall. Before the fall Adam and Eve were naked and not ashamed but a lot has changed since then. Now that does not mean that marijuana is bad or that there is no good use for it. But, in context, we must consider the impact that the fall has had on humanity and humanities ability to properly steward all the “very good” (Gen. 1:31) stuff God has entrusted to our care.
Fifth, there are many other biblical texts to consider. Genesis 1:29 is not the last word on marijuana and its use. Proverbs 23:20-21 says to not even be among drunkards (we could paraphrase potheads). Proverbs 23 goes on to describe the destructive effects of intoxication (see vv. 29-35). Ephesians 5:18 straight out says do not get intoxicated. And Galatians 5:18 says that unrepentant drunks and those who do such things, like get high (this is analogical reasoning), will not inherit the Kingdom of God (cf. 1 Cor. 6:10). Peter exhorts us to be sober-minded and watchful because Satan seeks to ambush and destroy us (1 Pet. 5:8).
Here are some helpful questions for us to ask as we consider whether or not we should use marijuana:
- Will it lead to intoxication (Eph. 5:18)?
- Is it illegal (Rom. 13:1-2)?
- Are you addicted or could it lead to addiction (Prov. 6:27; 1 Tim. 3:8)?
- Are you smoking for your own glory and fulfillment (1 Cor. 6:20; 10:31)?
- Is it going to cause others to stumble (Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 10:31-33)?
- Will it harm your body (1 Cor. 4:16-17; 6:19-20)?
- Is it profitable and does it encourage you to love and good works (Titus 3:8; Heb. 10:24)? Will it hinder your motivation to live your life fully for the Lord (Rom. 12:1)?
- Will you be unduly tempted to run to it for refuge and a means of peace rather than the Lord who alone gives true peace (Ps. 18:2, 30; Jn. 14:27)?
- Is it serving a medicinal purpose (Prov. 31:6)?
- Does it promote reality or dissociation from reality ( 31:4-5; Phil. 4:8)?
- Joe Carter, “Is Recreational Marijuana Use a Sin?”
- Joe Carter, “9 Things You Should Know About the Health Effects of Marijuana”
- Trent Hunter, “Five Questions to Ask Before Your Consume Cannabis”
- Jeff Lacine, “Marijuana to the Glory of God”
- Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals
- Gary L. Wenk, “Amotivational Syndrome and Marijuana Use”
 See e.g. Martin A. Lee, Smoke Signals, p. 16-17 and http://www.thedailybeast.com/did-george-washington-use-medical-marijuana.
 Cf. Barak Obama, Dreams from My Father and David Maraniss, Barack Obama: The Story.
 See e.g. John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, p. 270.
 It’s important to note that this passage doesn’t just condemn drunkenness, it goes on to condemn gluttony and laziness as well. Read the rest of Proverbs 23:20-21.
 There are many similarities between marijuana and alcohol but there are many differences as well (see e.g. “Marijuana to the Glory of God” by Jeff Lacine). However, we can reason analogically and see that intoxication whatever its source is condemned by Scripture.
 “The ‘whatever’ is universal. It includes our eating and drinking, sleeping, waking, bathing, working, marrying, entertaining ourselves—indeed, every human activity. When we glorify God, we are doing right, and when we do not glorify God, we are doing wrong” (Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, p. 169).
 A lot of the people I’ve talked to have discussed marijuana’s beneficial effects; namely, it helps them chill out at the end of all long day. Some have conceded, however, that it has effected their motivation and that they have to be careful about how much they smoke it because it can usurp important things in their life, like college. I talked to one student who has to carefully regulate his use because he failed all his classes one semester. He said he can tell it effects his motivation. So, one study has concluded for instance, “College students with access to recreational cannabis on average earn worse grades and fail classes at a higher rate” (Keith Humphreys, “These college students lost access to legal pot — and started getting better grades”).
 I see no reason why marijuana should not be employed for true and appropriate medical purposes (see “A Brief Christian Perspective on Psychoactive Medication”).
 Christians are called to be more in reality (1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 4:7), not disconnected from it. It is the truth that sanctifies us (Jn. 17:17) and it is the truth that sets us free (8:32), not some psychedelic experience.