Should a Christian Use Marijuana Under Any Circumstances?
To answer this question, we need to distinguish between recreational and medical marijuana. Much controversy exists in the USA and around the world, especially when it comes to legalizing marijuana either for recreational or medical purposes.
The Bible does not specifically mention marijuana but it gives us some principles that we can apply for guidance on this subject. We will show why recreational marijuana is not to be consumed by Christians under any circumstances, but why a different perspective might have to be considered in certain circumstances regarding the use of medical marijuana.
We will begin our discussion with a general overview over marijuana’s history.
“Marijuana, also known as cannabis or pot [also known as hemp], has a long history of human use. Most ancient cultures didn’t grow the plant to get high, but as herbal medicine [as well as for clothing, paper, sails and rope, and its seeds were used as food]… likely starting in Asia around 500 BC.
“The history of cannabis cultivation in America dates back to the early colonists, who grew hemp for textiles and rope. Political and racial factors in the 20th century led to the criminalization of marijuana in the United States, though its legal status is changing in many places. The cannabis or hemp plant originally evolved in Central Asia before people introduced the plant into Africa, Europe, and eventually the Americas.
“In the early 1600s, the Virginia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut colonies required farmers to grow hemp. These early hemp plants had very low levels of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects…”
Focusing on the history of medical use, the Huffington Post wrote on May 25, 2011:
“History tells us that the medicinal properties of cannabis have been recognized for centuries. The medical use of marijuana is documented in Egyptian papyri dating back to 1,550 BCE. It was used in ancient India to treat insomnia, headaches and labor pains. And the ancient Greeks used cannabis for tapeworms, nosebleeds and ear infections.”
History.com continues to say:
“In the 1830s, Sir William Brooke O’Shaughnessy, an Irish doctor studying in India, found that cannabis extracts could help lessen stomach pain and vomiting in people suffering from cholera.
“By the late 1800s, cannabis extracts were sold in pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout Europe and the United States to treat stomach problems and other ailments.
“… the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs with THC that are prescribed in pill form (Marinol and Syndros) to treat nausea caused by cancer chemotherapy and loss of appetite in AIDs patients.”
Addressing the history of recreational use, History.com states:
“Hashish (a purified form of cannabis smoked with a pipe) was widely used throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia after about 800 AD. Its rise in popularity corresponded with the spread of Islam in the region. The Quran forbid the use of alcohol and some other intoxicating substances, but did not specifically prohibit cannabis.
“In the United States, marijuana wasn’t widely used for recreational purposes until the early 1900s. Mexicans that immigrated to the United States during the tumultuous years of the Mexican Revolution introduced the recreational practice of smoking marijuana to American culture.
“Massive unemployment and social unrest during the Great Depression [resulted in] 29 states [outlawing] cannabis by 1931. The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first federal U.S. law to criminalize marijuana nationwide. The Act imposed an excise tax on the sale, possession or transfer of all hemp products, effectively criminalizing all but industrial uses of the plant…”
With this background, we are now going to address the hot topic of marijuana’s legalization.
“As part of the ‘War on Drugs,’ the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, signed into law by President Richard Nixon, repealed the Marijuana Tax Act and listed marijuana as a Schedule I drug—along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy—with no medical uses and a high potential for abuse…
“California, in the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, became the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use by people with severe or chronic illnesses. Twenty-nine states now allow the use of cannabis for limited medical purposes… Cannabis is still illegal under U.S. federal law…”
What makes marijuana such a controversial topic in the USA is the rather disturbing fact that the federal government still classifies it as a Class I controlled substance, which is illegal to possess, but over half the states in the U.S. have approved the prescribing of marijuana for medical purposes. Many other countries around the world prescribe medical marijuana to some patients.
We need to point out that presently, this unique American conflict between federal law and state law has been addressed by President Obama in a directive and has not been revoked by President Trump, to the effect that the Department of Justice is not to prosecute people possessing and consuming marijuana in states where such practice is legal. The New York Times wrote on October 19, 2009:
“People who use marijuana for medical purposes and those who distribute it to them should not face federal prosecution, provided they act according to state law, the Justice Department said Monday in a directive with far-reaching political and legal implications.”
In addition, USA Today reported on August 29, 2013 about another directive, clarifying the previous one:
“… federal authorities still will prosecute individuals or entities involved in: The distribution of marijuana to minors; Directing revenue from marijuana sales to gangs and cartels; Diverting marijuana from states where it is legal to other states where there are no laws allowing for marijuana use; Using legal sales as cover for trafficking operations; Using violence and or firearms in marijuana cultivation and distribution; Driving under the influence of marijuana; Growing marijuana on public lands; Possessing marijuana or using on federal property.”
To obtain a better understanding of the different schedules and classes in federal law, we are quoting from verywell.com:
“Schedule I: [According to the federal law:] These are drugs that are the most easily abused but have no known, researched, medical application. They include heroin, LSD, marijuana, and ecstasy… these drugs may not be prescribed for any reason…
“Schedule II: [According to the federal law:]… Their use can lead to dependence, both physical and psychological. They include morphine, opium and opioids, methadone, oxycodone, and fentanyl.
“Schedule III: [According to federal law:] Drugs which may lead to high psychological dependence, but lower levels of actual physical dependence. Included in Schedule III are many of the combination pain relief drugs such as those which combine hydrocodone or codeine (Vicodin, Tylenol with Codeine).
“Schedule IV: [According to federal law:] [These] drugs have a low potential for abuse… and may include Xanax, Valium, and Restoril.
“Schedule V: [According to federal law:] These drugs may contain limited amounts of narcotics, and are considered to present a very low risk of abuse. Many cough medicines and antidiarrheals are listed in Schedule V such as Robitussin and Phenergan with Codeine.”
In reviewing these categories of classes, we must point out that many of these drugs listed above in Schedules II to V carry dangerous side effects which most certainly affect the body and mind and have led to many deaths due to overdosing and mixing medications, yet these prescription and “Over-the-Counter” [OTC] drugs are considered “legal” by the government and covered by (profit-making) insurance companies.
A 2014 mercola.com article, titled “The Benefits of Medical Cannabis,” explains:
“Many fail to realize that prescription drugs actually have FAR greater potential to turn you into ‘a junkie’ [than medical marijuana]. Legal drug addiction is also taking lives in record numbers. In the UK, one million people are addicted to over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription painkillers and tranquilizers…
“Pharmaceuticals in general are among the leading causes of death in the US, and some medicines have killed tens of thousands of individuals. The painkiller Vioxx is one classic example, which killed over 60,000 before being pulled off the market.
“The diabetes drug Avandia is another, and most recently, a study estimated that in a five-year span, some 800,000 people in Europe were killed from inappropriate use of beta-blockers in non-cardiac surgery patients…”
Whatever medicines one may take, God expects of us to be responsible, having done diligent research beforehand. Suffering and dying Church members were given morphine, which was prescribed by their doctors, to ease their pain, and the Church never felt that this would have been inappropriate or ungodly. Also, if one is in a hospital recovering from surgery or going through a lot of pain, one needs some relief, and morphine and dilaudid are the two most commonly used drugs.
In light of this, we will address now the medical benefits of marijuana.
In an article titled, “Medical Marijuana: The Pros and Cons of Legal Cannabis” by the Huffington Post, it was stated:
“The medicinal use of marijuana is well known to be of benefit in the treatment of nausea and other side effects from chemotherapy. It also helps improve the diminished appetite that patients undergoing cancer treatment can experience. It lowers intraocular pressure in glaucoma patients, decreases spasticity and other neurologic symptoms in multiple sclerosis…
“Its value in medical practice in allopathic, herbal and homeopathic forms is an open-and-shut case. Any resistance to its medical use from the mainstream medical community is likely to be a function of political expediency because to reject it on scientific grounds is just plain silly. When we consider that physicians legally prescribe powerful and addictive drugs like morphine, codeine, oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydromorphone (Dilaudid), to name just a few, it is hard to see the justification for outlawing medical cannabis.”
According to verywell.com:
“Marijuana is effective at relieving nausea and vomiting, especially caused by chemotherapy used to treat cancer. It can relieve the spasticity of the muscles that is sometimes associated with multiple sclerosis and paralysis, help treat appetite loss associated with HIV/AIDS and certain types of cancers, relieve certain types of pain…”
The 2014 mercola.com article, titled “The Benefits of Medical Cannabis,” explains:
“A good candidate for medical cannabis are those suffering from various types of cancers, mood disorders, pain disorders, Degenerative neurological disorders such as dystonia, Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, PTSD, Seizure Disorders and also… nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, improving appetites for cancer and AIDs patients, reduction of pressure in the eyes, depression, cramps, panic attacks, itching, chronic pain, glaucoma (relief of eye pressure), HIV, rheumatoid arthritis, sleep apnea and Tourette’s syndrome.
“Research has found that, compared to other pain drugs, cannabis takes less of a toll on the liver, kidneys and possibly other organs.”
The Washington Post stated the following in an article in December of 2016, titled, “A powerful new form of medical marijuana, without the high”:
“What makes CBD [cannabidiol, an ingredient of marijuana] especially appealing is that it doesn’t get the user high… Its safety and lack of psychoactivity undermines any argument that it should be illegal… Studies have shown that CBD may have benefits in both heart disease and diabetes. One key area of CBD research is epilepsy… Patients receiving CBD in addition to their usual medicines had 39 percent fewer convulsive seizures than patients who remained on their normal drug regimen…
“German researchers showed in 2012 that giving CBD to schizophrenic patients reduced psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations and disordered thinking. CBD seems to have anti-cancer properties, too. At the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco, researchers Sean McAllister and Pierre Desprez have found that CBD can block cancer cells from metastasizing…”
In February of 2017, the website of endoca.com published this article, “CBD medical marijuana without the high”:
“The cannabinoid that is most famous, or perhaps infamous, is THC or… tetrahydrocannabinol, known for the high or euphoric effect it has… But THC is only one of the many cannabinoids. Not all of them share its psychoactive properties.
“THC is used to treat pain, loss of appetite, or wasting in cancer and HIV patients, nausea and many other conditions. Generally, breeders find that cannabis plants, or hybrids of the plant, contain inverse amounts of these two compounds. In other words, strains high in CBD will be low in THC, and strains high in THC will be low in CBD. What’s more, CBD naturally counteracts the psychoactive effects of THC…”
However, patients must be aware and responsible enough to know what they are taking for whatever condition they are suffering from. They ought to be under medical supervision, and medical marijuana, if at all, should be prescribed by a licensed doctor and experienced physician who specializes in medical marijuana. It should never be obtained by other means, as the next quote explains:
Consumerhealthdigest.com states in an article, entitled, “Pros and Cons Of Using Medical Marijuana”:
“Some street dealers have been known to lace their product with powerful drugs in order to enhance the high, or its inherent potency may be higher. According to Rehab Center Rankings, there is a discrepancy between the motivations of licensed medical practitioners and drug dealers which affect the buyer’s intended outcome.”
The discussion in this article regarding the potential use of medical marijuana does not apply to recreational marijuana. Just like with anything that we do, we need to be careful and also make sure that we don’t affect our godly character. Insofar as recreational marijuana is concerned, the Church of the Eternal God and its affiliates teach against it because there is no basis for it and its use can lead to emotional and psychological problems.
Consumerhealthdigest.com continues to state:
“… marijuana has a clear tendency to diminish motivation, blunt ambition and generally stunt normal emotional growth. While it can stimulate the mind it seems to interfere with emotional maturation in some individuals. It can also cause confusion and disorganized thought patterns…
“Marijuana is well known to be able to induce anxiety disorders, including panic attacks. More rarely, when used by the wrong individuals, it may serve as a trigger for psychotic states, including schizophrenia. The problem with recreational use is that it usually happens in uncontrolled situations with no serious purposeful agenda other than to get ‘high.’”
When we apply biblical principles to the use of recreational marijuana, we need to keep these Scriptures in mind:
We are to glorify God in body and spirit and we shouldn’t intentionally do things that hurt our bodies, as recreational marijuana might do (1 Corinthians 6:12-20).
We need to be sober minded, and recreational marijuana may affect our minds (1 Peter 5:8-9).
We need to discipline our bodies and keep them under control (1 Corinthians 9:27).
However, when addressing medical marijuana and its undeniable benefits, a different picture might emerge. Ultimately, as is the case with ANY medication, it is an individual decision. The Church does not take any position on the particular use of any medication, and neither endorses nor rejects it, but biblical principles should be kept in mind.
Obviously, no medication should be used which is clearly detrimental to our health, or which hurts our bodies and our minds. In the case of medical marijuana, the complicating factor emerges in the USA that it is legal in some states, while still illegal, rightly or wrongly, under federal law, and that Christians are to be subject to the law of the land, while obeying God rather than man (who wants all of us to be healthy and of a sound mind). This requires an individual decision, considering the fact that under President Obama’s directive to the DOJ, medical marijuana users are not to be prosecuted by the feds, if certain conditions are met.
Generally, we read in Genesis 1:29 that God created herbs, which are good for food and, in some cases, for medicine, and our free booklet, “Sickness and Healing… What the Bible Tells Us,” gives further examples of healing medicines in the chapter, “What about Medicines?”, beginning on page 13.
We know that God created everything but we also need to be wise in discerning the use of something made by God. Some uses of various products do not involve ingestion. God created poisonous mushrooms but we know that they are deadly as food. The same is true for the prohibited consumption of the meat of unclean animals. God created various natural plants that can be used as food, material and also as medicine. It is the individual’s decision as to what to use.
Lead Writers: Michael Link and Norbert Link