In Part One of this discussion I touched on some basics about marijuana and the Christian worldview. I noted how this heated topic is fairly new on the modern church landscape because of our rapidly changing laws. In this blog post I’d like to dig further into the issue of recreational use and how it relates to us as Christians. From there, I will examine some broader issues, concerns, and uses.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol, Cigarettes, Cigars, etc.
Smoking marijuana has often been contrasted with using alcohol recreationally. Generally speaking, a person can have a drink or two of wine without becoming intoxicated or addicted. It is enjoyed for the taste and generally because it goes well with a meal. It is a social norm that extends back to Bible times and is not condemned (when in used in moderation). Of course, we must be sensitive to the potential for abuse, and abstain from it if drinking alcohol may cause a brother or sister in the faith to stumble (1 Corinthians 8:13). It should also be avoided if a Christian is prone to the temptation to abuse it. So the issue of alcohol consumption is not cut and dry. But because it has been legal for a long time, Christians have had the opportunity to thoughtfully consider every detail of the subject and make an informed decision as to how we might best glorify God.
Marijuana, on the other hand, has been a non-issue for decades and now poses many new considerations that we may not have really dealt with in the past. Generally when someone smokes marijuana recreationally, it’s specifically for the purpose of getting high. It’s not a pleasant aroma like a nice pipe or cigar (not that this is a major issue, of course). People don’t usually smoke it just for the taste. As mentioned in Part One, recreational use is not something for Christians to participate in, as we are called to be sober minded.
It has also been compared to smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes, etc. The obvious difference there is that cigarettes, cigars, etc. are not psychoactive. However, they do have an impact on the body and mind and cigarettes in particular are highly addictive and incredibly bad for your health. So, we can see that smoking in general is not recommended because of not only its addictive properties, but also its negative impact on our health.
There is no denying that there is tremendous potential to abuse a natural substance that has such potentially strong psychoactive properties. And indeed, examples of that abuse are all around us. Terms like “pot head”, or “stoner” have been around for a long time, and it’s not by accident. People who regularly recreationally smoke marijuana tend to become lazy underachievers who sometimes even end up living off the system and just not caring about much of anything. That is one affect that marijuana use can have, depending on how it is used. I’ve personally seen it happen, and I’m sure many of you have, as well.
It is interesting to note, however, that while alcohol abuse can destroy the liver, and can cause death if too much is consumed, neither can be said for cannabis. There are no deaths ever reported from overdosing on marijuana. This is at least in part due to the presence of CBD, which counteracts the effects of THC. Further, depending on how you consume it, it can actually be good for your health. Even smoking marijuana cannot be compared to smoking cigarettes as it has never been shown to cause lung cancer (though of course smoking anything is bad for your lungs, so keep that in mind). Additionally, cannabis can be consumed in a variety of ways other than smoking, such as through vaporization, baked goods, butters, oils, etc. These methods still have a psychoactive effect (again, depending on the THC content), they don’t pose the serious health risks that smoking cigarettes or even chewing tobacco does. So, the primary issue is the psychoactive properties of cannabis.
What many people may not know is that it is possible to have a puff or two of marijuana to relax without getting high, depending on the specific strain and THC content in the plant used (more on that later). For instance, some strains can make you sleepy and are used non-medicinally by individuals just before they go to bed to insure they have a good night’s rest. If this is done legally, how is it different from popping a sleeping pill or having a nightcap before bed? Our instant knee jerk negative reaction is often based on the stigma that has developed over the decades, and particularly as cannabis was labeled a Schedule I drug by the American Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Of course, at this point I’m touching a little bit on medicinal use because it can be used as a sleep aid. More on that in my next post.
Another interesting fact is that drug rehab facilities use a variety of prescription narcotic drugs to help addicts get clean, such as methadone. But there is no medical drug to get off marijuana because it doesn’t cause the severe and sometimes deadly health problems that withdrawal from major narcotics (including prescription narcotics!) can. In fact, marijuana itself is sometimes used as that intermediary drug to help an addict get clean. It is also far less addictive than narcotics, and even cigarettes.
So, despite the abuse and intense legal regulations, and the stigma that those have created, the marijuana plant itself is really not the terrifying poison we’ve been taught to believe it is.
Hemp or cannabis plants that grow in the wild emit large amounts of oxygen and clean the air more effectively than any other plant we know of. Imagine if it was allowed to grow freely in the open and the tremendous impact that would have on the environment! Hemp, itself has been used for many, many years to make textiles and other products. It is a highly sustainable plant with many varied uses that should not be ignored, such as fuel, paper products and even building materials. With the laws beginning to change in the United States, and likely other Western countries in the near future, this may actually open up the market for broader use in many exciting areas.
It’s important to also consider the nutritional uses of hemp and cannabis. When consumed raw there is no psychoactive effect, which makes it safe for all age groups. Cannabis is now considered to be a superfood because of its superior nutritional properties. As the laws have relaxed some, hemp seeds (for instance) have become a common item found at supermarkets and health stores. Hemp is a kind of cannabis that is generally extremely low in THC. So even if it’s dried and/or heated, it is not likely to get you high. Other kinds of cannabis that are high in THC can also be consumed raw without getting you high. The reason for this is that in the raw, fresh plant, the THC is bound up in the form of THC-A (Tetrahydrocannabinolic Acid), which is non-psychoactive. To activate the THC it must be decarboxylated, which is done with drying and heating processes.
Fresh leaves and bud can be eaten raw on salads or juiced with fresh vegetables and fruits. The stems can be dried and made into tea, but cannot be eaten as they are not digestible. In the past several years, kale has been all the rage on health and wellness websites, cooking shows, etc. because of its many health benefits. I would not be surprised to one day see cannabis leaf gain the same popularity.
Grow Ops and Dangers Associated with Marijuana
I cannot deal with this subject without addressing the problem of illegal and unsafe grow ops. Many homes are destroyed by mould caused by poor indoor growing techniques. This causes incredible losses for the home owner and potential health risks for anyone who comes into contact with the mould. Mould can also infect the plant and make it dangerous to consume in any form. Insects can also be a serious problem. To combat these, growers often use pesticides and other chemicals, which themselves can be extremely bad for your health. What’s more, cannabis plants need to be flushed for about two weeks prior to harvesting, which many illegal growers don’t bother to do. That leaves chemicals inside the plant that can also be harmful. At this point in time it is difficult to gain access to organic, properly grown and cared for cannabis, and this is likely to be a continuing problem as legalization increases because so many who would like to capitalize on it will still not care about proper health and safety standards. We’re already seeing this problem with licensed medical producers in Canada. The vast majority of them do not produce anything organically. If personal growing is eventually legalized, proper health and safety standards need to be in place, as well as a great deal of factual education for anyone who wants to grow for themselves. It would be ideal to consider these factors when looking to the future of cannabis legalization, instead of waiting until after it has been legalized.
Another problem is the smell. Growing in a densely populated area can be a real problem when it comes to cooperation among neighbours. There are charcoal filters available so that when a room is properly vented, it does not cause a problem for the neighbours. But they are costly, and many growers, including legal medical growers don’t bother to use them.
So as I stated in my first post, there are a number of serious concerns about full legalization of marijuana. There is incredible potential for abuse, in addition to the plethora of health and safety standards that will likely not be in place. Voting on the issue of legalization is complicated. But I believe for the Christian, the fact that recreational use is abuse of the plant makes it clear that we cannot support it. However, if it happens, because there are so many powerful and important uses for the plant, we will need to work closely with our governments to make sure proper regulations are put in place.
On a personal note…
I’ll end here with a note about my background and how I’ve come to gain this information. I was diagnosed with MS in 2011. There are no prescription medications that can help me in the long term, and the existing medications cause hugely detrimental side effects that I am not interested in enduring at this point. One day at a prayer meeting I ended up discussing the issue with a brother in the faith who also has severe, debilitating chronic illness. He had been legally using cannabis to dramatically improve his health and fight the illness effectively. I had read a number of similar stories online, and so I began researching it more for myself. Because of my financial situation and the limitations in Canada’s changing laws, I don’t currently have legal access to any cannabis, and so I am not using it. I was able to try raw juicing for a short period of time. But unfortunately with some changing laws that threatened to end my legal authorization to possess it, I had to cut that short, and have not been able to pick up where we left off. I am now waiting on some court cases to see what happens next. I’ve never used drugs or been stoned (except in the hospital for surgery). I have no desire to be stoned. I want to be well and functional, and cannabis holds a great deal of potential to that end. What I am sharing with you in this series is the knowledge I have gained over the past several years and my Christian perspective on the subject.
If at any point you see any inaccuracies or need for clarification, please do not hesitate to comment below or contact me directly. My desire is to provide helpful, factual information for Christians.
In my next post I will get into further detail about medical use. I hope you’ll check it out. Click here for Part Three.