Is smoking weed a sin? This question comes up more and more these days. As marijuana use moves inward from the fringes of societal view, the church must be ready with a biblical response. While a response may seem rather obvious, there are few resources available that provide a biblically faithful and well-informed answer.
Tom Breeden and Mark Ward’s newest book Can I Smoke Pot? provides such a resource to the church. It is a biblically faithful and careful response to the issue of marijuana use, both medicinally and recreationally. It is not an exhaustive book, but it provides clear biblical direction and sharpens our discernment on this important issue.
In four chapters, Breeden and Ward address the issue: Is Smoking Weed a Sin?
1) Marijuana and Creation
2) Marijuana and Government
3) Marijuana and Medicine
4) Marijuana and Alcohol
Is Smoking Weed a Sin: Marijuana and Creation
Breeden and Ward affirm the goodness of God’s creation. Its goodness is not destroyed by the fall. While creation is now marked by futility and corruption, the scope of God’s plan of redemption is as wide as the scope of the fall. What does this mean for marijuana? If creation is good, then created things are good. Marijuana is good! The authors state, “Everything God made is good for its intended purpose(s).”
However, they qualify this point, “There is a major difference between saying there must be good purposes for marijuana and saying that all purposes of marijuana must be good.” I thought the authors’ point here would have been strengthen by considering the practical value of hemp, a member of the same plant species as marijuana (Cannabis sativa L.). The authors save the discussion of medical purposes of marijuana for a later chapter (see below).
Is Smoking Weed a Sin: Marijuana and Government
God has given us civil government as a part of his creation (Rom 13:1-7). Christians are called to submit to government, even imperfect and flawed authorities. The limits set by our government on marijuana are not to be casually dismissed, but humbly submitted to as an act of submission to God.
In the United States, the issue of marijuana use is becoming increasingly more complicated as some state laws differ from the federal law concerning marijuana usage. Many states now permit the use of recreational marijuana to anyone over the age of 21 years old. However, many states do not permit it and the federal government still considers possession and use of marijuana a criminal act.
Is Smoking Weed a Sin: Marijuana and Medicine
Breeden and Ward focus on whether medical marijuana is permissible. The Bible speaks positively of God using ordinary means such as medicine (even alcohol and oils) to accomplish his divine purposes such as healing (Prov 31:6; Isa 38:21; Luke 10:38; 1 Tim 5:23). Could pot (or any of its compounds) count as a medicine?
The authors do not exert themselves as medical experts or attempt to validate the supposed medicinal benefits of medical marijuana. Rather, they provide biblical parameters to the medical-scientific question. The difficulty of this question is that medical marijuana is often seen as paving the way for recreational marijuana. With this difficulty in mind, the authors provide a very qualified answer to whether medical marijuana is permissible: “If marijuana can have medicinal properties, or can be used to create medicines, the side effects of which fall into the normal range accepted among other drugs, then the fact that it’s commonly used to get high doesn’t in itself justify keeping it from [being used for medicinal purposes].”
The authors provide some helpful questions to further consider when evaluating the value of medicinal marijuana:
- What are the overall risks of medicinal marijuana usage?
- Is it a gateway or slippery-slope drug?
- Are there particular side-effects that may apply to the use of marijuana or its derivatives by young children?
- If medical marijuana use is permitted, will improper recreational use increase?
- Is marijuana the most effective treatment or palliation for a particular disease, condition or patient, or are other more effective ones available?
- How would medicinal marijuana be administered to particular patients facing particular circumstances?
- How should it be controlled?
There are likely good arguments against certain proposals for the medicinal use of marijuana. And there are certainly possible dangers that may come as medical marijuana is legalized. We must avoid naively succumbing to any particular agenda, but we must also avoid removing ourselves from the conversation. While there are surely other questions to be asked, these provide a good starting point and demonstrate the need for careful thinking and discernment.