Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize sale of marijuana for recreational purposes in 2012. Now President Joe Biden stated in February 2021 that his administration will pursue cannabis decriminalization. Is this trend toward embracing recreational marijuana good and wise?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #53 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
Both Democrats and Republican politicians, and certainly the general public, seem to have made peace with the idea that marijuana— also called cannabis, weed, pot, or dope, referring to the dried flowers, leaves, stems, and seeds of the cannabis plant—is a harmless drug, no more threatening than caffeine. And now the current administration is apparently marching full speed ahead toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana in both medical and recreational uses.
“In the US, the non-medical use of cannabis is legalized in 19 states (plus Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the District of Columbia) and decriminalized in 12 states (plus the US Virgin Islands) as of May 2022. Decriminalization refers to a policy of reduced penalties for cannabis offenses, typically involving a civil penalty for possessing small amounts…instead of criminal prosecution or the threat of arrest. In jurisdictions without penalty the policy is referred to as legalization, although the term decriminalization is sometimes used for this purpose as well.”
“Despite federal prohibition, the U.S. cannabis industry has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. By some estimates, total U.S. cannabis sales were expected to surpass $24 billion in 2021, representing 38% growth over 2020 sales…(Business analysts) projected that the cannabis industry is expected to add $92 billion to the U.S. economy.”
Around nine-in-ten Americans favor some form of marijuana legalization, according to an April 2021 Pew Research Center survey. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults (91%) say either that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use (60%) or that it should be legal for medical use only (31%). Just 8% say the drug should not be legal in any form.”
The CDC says, “Marijuana is the most commonly used federally illegal drug in the United States; 48.2 million people, or about 18% of Americans, used it at least once in 2019.”
Now, despite all the excitement about “Ooo, pot is finally legal,” there are still significant downsides. In other words, marijuana was considered an illegal and harmful drug in the past for worthy reasons.
Again, according to the CDC,
- Recent research estimated that approximately 3 in 10 people who use marijuana have marijuana use disorder. For people who begin using marijuana before age 18, the risk of developing marijuana use disorder is even greater.
- Marijuana use directly affects the brain, specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision-making, coordination, emotion, and reaction time. Infants, children, and teens (who still have developing brains) are especially susceptible to the adverse effects of marijuana.
- Long-term or frequent marijuana use has been linked to increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia in some users.
- Using marijuana during pregnancy may increase the person’s risk for pregnancy complications.
So “the public health impact of marijuana legalization remains a controversial issue. Advocates of legalization contend that this policy change will provide for more stringent regulation and safer use of marijuana, more efficient use of law enforcement resources, and possibly even a decline in the prevalence of marijuana use among adolescents and of the use of “harder” drugs (e.g., cocaine and heroin).
Those opposing legalization cite the adverse effects of marijuana and worry that legalization will lead to an increase in use, and thus an increase in health problems attributed to marijuana. The latter view is reflected in the official position statements of prominent professional medical associations such as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the American Medical Association, which have expressed concern regarding the negative consequences of marijuana use.”
“There has been a significant increase in the number of people using marijuana daily or nearly daily.” “The legalization of medical marijuana has led to a boom in the industry, with dispensaries popping up all over the country.” “More people are using marijuana for recreational purposes.”
But what many people do not know is that “the potency of marijuana’s psychoactive component, THC, has risen dramatically. In many of the marijuana products being legally sold in Colorado—one product is sold as “Green Crack” and has a THC content of 21%, and other products legally sold have a THC content of as high as 70%.”
So, the marijuana now widely available is not the same, nor as supposedly harmless, as the pot associated in the public’s memory of the Let it all hang out 1960s drugs, sex, and rock and roll hippy counterculture.
Drivers who are high on marijuana react more slowly, find it harder to pay attention, have more difficulty maintaining their car’s position in the lane
and make more errors when something goes wrong than they do when they’re sober. Marijuana users’ minds are blunted to reality. Cannabis is mind-altering, harmful to the brain, and potentially addictive. It destroys brain cells. People who use marijuana are more likely to abuse other drugs like alcohol, tobacco, opiates, amphetamines, cocaine, and heroin. Getting high causes you to become disengaged, not only from people, but also from life in general.
Aside from considerations about the physical and psychological effects of marijuana, we could also talk about why people seem to want to deaden their ability to interact with their circumstances and people around them. Some would say this is symptomatic of a spiritual issue, a desire to seek solace and a reduction of anxiety in chemicals rather than the Spirit of God.
Marijuana is nowhere referenced in Scripture, but prohibitions against intoxication are.
People sometimes note there is no condemnation of drinking wine, so why is marijuana different? One answer is that wine can be imbibed without drunkenness, while numerous medical researchers, and also marijuana users, point out that one hit makes a person high, that indeed the sole purpose of smoking pot is to get high.
So, there is a difference between drinking wine and smoking pot.
Christian liberty indicates that, where legal, Christians may decide to employ perceived benefits—though research is not yet definitive—of medical marijuana.
Christian liberty, the freedom God gives us to discern and make wise decisions, may allow us, where legal, to use recreational marijuana, or it may not – herein lies the discernment and decision to be made.
Scripture enjoins us to use our freedom wisely, noting that all things may be permissible but not all things are beneficial. Christian freedom is always to be used as unto the glory of God and the blessing of those around us.
Use of medical marijuana is controversial. Use of recreational marijuana is unequivocally problematic. “Today’s marijuana is a potent, highly hallucinogenic drug, so recreational use is fraught with danger.”
Using recreational marijuana, even periodically, is a threat to youth who are more susceptible to negative side-effects, can cause mental health problems like paranoia or schizophrenia, impairs users, can cause a host of physical maladies, and can be addictive.
Why, then, is the current administration and a number of states so excitedly insistent upon making recreational marijuana legal? One answer could simply be money. The cannabis industry is booming, and politicians want the taxes this haul generates.
In the end, one wonders how getting high on marijuana, how using a recreational drug to deaden our senses, how allowing our minds or bodies to be brought under the power of anything other than the Spirit of God, is beneficial and wise. Well, it is not.
Regarding use of marijuana for medicine, I encourage you to go slow, study available research, and look for safer alternatives.
Regarding use of recreational marijuana, I encourage you to be a cannabis teetotaler. “Do not get drunk on wine,” the Scripture says, “which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” (Eph 5:18). It’s not much of a stretch, and not a misinterpretation of Scripture, to say the same about pot.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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