Marijuana has been legalized in over thirty states. Many users tout its alleged benefits, while others denounce it as harmful and even dangerous. While the legal debate is over, how should Christians treat the use of marijuana? Is it just a harmless recreational drug, or is it sinful to use?
The Bible has many prohibitions against excess and drunkenness (Romans 13:13; Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Peter 4:3). Even if something is legal, it is not beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23-24). We might say this is especially true for substances that cause us to behave in ways that can endanger others. Nevertheless, some have tried to use the Bible to justify marijuana use by using the following texts:
Genesis 1:12 – “The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”
Genesis 1:29 – “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.”
The plants described in these passages are those used for food, which does not describe the cannabis plant. No one eats marijuana leaves because they’re a tasty snack. Even in brownies, marijuana users consume it for the effect it has on the human body, not for its flavor.
The Bible denounces the kind of behavior produced by intoxication, whether by alcohol or by marijuana. But is it bad for our bodies? Proponents of marijuana use often argue that there is nothing physically harmful about using it. They tout the numerous benefits of the drug, particularly for the economy in terms of tax revenue. It is not uncommon to hear users claim that it poses no health risk, has no adverse side effects, and that its misuse—unlike that of alcohol—does not result in hospital visits, life-threatening emergencies, or car crashes. According to some, marijuana is a miracle plant with no ill effects.
How accurate are these claims? Not very. Now that marijuana has been legal in Colorado, we have a few years to look back with perspective. What has marijuana done for this state since its legalization in 2013?
- Marijuana-related traffic fatalities have increased. From 2013 to 2016, deaths of drivers who tested positive increased 145%.
- Poison control center calls have increased. From 2013-2015, calls concerning marijuana exposure to children nearly doubled in Washington and Colorado.
- Emergency room visits have increased by an annual rate of 35% from 2011-2015.
- The crime rate in Colorado has increased 11 times faster than the rest of the nation since 2014. This includes an increase in juvenile offenses.
- The marijuana black market in the state has expanded. Another source agrees. It has also apparently aided the influence of Mexican drug cartels.
- Marijuana regulators in Colorado have been indicted for corruption.
- A study in the Review of Economic Studies found that “college students with access to recreational cannabis on average earn worse grades and fail classes at a higher rate.” An experiment in Maastricht, Netherlands showed that students who lost access to legal marijuana saw their grades improve.
Similar statistics can be found for the states of Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Outside of Colorado, the health and psychiatric risks of marijuana use are clear, especially for youth:
- A study by the University of Montreal found that marijuana had more damaging effects on teenager’s long-term cognitive abilities than alcohol. Even after the students stopped using marijuana, their abilities did not improve. The impairment they suffered from marijuana seems to be permanent (partially, at least).
- Another study published in JAMA Psychiatry by scientists from the University of Pennsylvania found that youth who used marijuana were more likely to have lower scores on tests involving memory, learning new information, problem-solving, and processing information.
- France, which has the highest usage of marijuana in Europe, saw a 133% increase in ER visits for children for marijuana intoxication from 2004-2014. The number of calls to poison control centers for exposure to cannabis increased by 312% in the same period.
Health problems resulting from marijuana use include psychosis, depression, anxiety, suicidal tendencies, and cardiovascular problems of various kinds. Despite claims that marijuana is not addictive, studies have shown that changes in the brain resemble those of addicts. Also, heavy users may go through withdrawal symptoms. Studies have also shown that marijuana users are much more likely to use opioids and that teenage suicide victims testing positive for marijuana has increased.
Any substance that poses such risks to users cannot be considered good. Non-harmful derivatives such as CBD oil have proven very effective at treating a number of things from anxiety to epilepsy, but recreational use of marijuana is dangerous to one’s health, can lead to the endangerment of life, and is ultimately denounced by Scriptures forbidding the use of substances that cause us to lose control of ourselves.
No, marijuana isn’t that bad. It’s worse.