The Council Speaks
Last updated 8/6/2020 at 11:09am
Q: With marijuana now being legalized in many areas of Canada and USA, is it okay to use it? I'm told it has many medicinal properties.
A: History tells us that culture is ever changing, adjusting itself to the whims and wishes of the day. John Wesley was credited with saying, "What one generation tolerates, the next generation will embrace." Such is true of the issue of the legalization of marijuana in our present culture. As always, the believer in Christ needs to evaluate what he or she does in light of the revealed Word of God and subject his or her conscience to it.
Experts we have researched tell us there's usually a difference between medically prescribed marijuana and that used for recreational purposes. Recreational marijuana possesses a higher concentration of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), which provides the user a higher level of euphoria than that of its medical counterpart, which has more CBD (Cannabidiol). This substance provides more pain control but does not provide the user with the same euphoria associated with its recreational counterpart.
Medical marijuana can only be secured through a prescription, and ongoing evaluation of a medical professional as to its effectiveness. A person must have a qualifying condition to get a prescription, while recreational marijuana can be obtained without any medical condition.
Your question specifically asks if believers can use this product because of its "medicinal properties." I can only assume you would not be referencing the recreational use, so I won't comment on that issue other than to say using marijuana for recreational purposes needs to be evaluated in a similar way as using alcohol. Both alter the mind in ways that can only be described as destructive and often lead to addictions that continue to lead the user down a life path of abuse that endangers not only the user, but their family, friends, and even unknown folks who can and do end up dead due to that user driving under the influence.
Obviously, that's not a path a believer in Christ should take. Romans 8:5-6 (NASB) says, "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace."
For a believer who has genuine medical issues that are being treated by a duly licensed and reputable physician, then that is a choice of treatment that needs to be discussed, fully understood, and agreed to by both the doctor and patient. You must keep in mind that potential benefits need to be weighed against potential damage any mind-altering drugs can and do have on your body.
In 2009, I suffered horrific injuries in an auto accident the doctors said I should not have survived. I am left with a very broken body, living primarily in a wheelchair, and facing ongoing pain issues that will be with me until the day I die. I have had all range of pain medicines since the day I passed through death's door only to be revived by the doctors. My pain management has been and is carefully managed between my physician and me.
My choice has been to continually move away from the strongly addictive opioids which would provide me less pain but could easily turn me into an addict. I live with greater levels of pain because of that choice, and to be honest, my doctor is amazed at the small amount of pain medications I take in light of my extensive injuries. I have done so because of a strong commitment to honor the Lord in my suffering. My pain is turned into praise as I worship the living Christ who suffered in body so much it cost Him His very life, and He did it all for my sin!
I've learned that if Christ was willing to suffer that much for me, then I am willing to suffer for Him until I see Him face to face. That has been the winning attitude I have embraced, and He gives me the power of His Holy Spirit to stay faithful to that end. His grace is sufficient for me every day and His indwelling presence makes all the difference!
-Craig Stephen Smith
Craig Stephen Smith, of the Ojibwe Tribe, is President of Tribal Rescue Ministries and author of Whiteman's Gospel(see https://www.indianlife.org/store/). For nearly four decades, Craig and LaDonna Smith have been bringing the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ to people across North America. Their lives were changed dramatically in June 2009 when they were involved in a near fatal auto accident near Glorieta, New Mexico.
A: In responding to this question, I am assuming that you are asking about how the Bible speaks to this issue in the life of a Christian believer.
First of all, whether the use of a drug or substance is legal or illegal should not be the basis for deciding whether or not to use it. For instance, one of the parallels might be the use of alcohol. Through the years there have been various laws restricting the sale of alcohol. During a 14-year period from 1920–1933, in a time period known as "prohibition," the manufacturing and sale of alcohol was illegal in the United States.
Interestingly, long before that period, in 1834 the U.S. Congress had made it illegal for anyone to sell, exchange, or give, liquor or wine to an Indian in Indian Country. Laws against selling liquor to Native people existed until 1953. These laws came to be considered racist, but it is interesting to note that they were often enacted at the request of Tribal leaders.
The reason this is relevant to the topic of marijuana is that in the case of alcohol, it is obvious that alcohol has been devastating to the lives of Native American and First Nations people. For that very reason, many First Nations in Canada still outlaw alcohol in their communities.
However, even where it is legal, each of us has to decide for our families and ourselves whether it should be a part of our lives in any way. The same is true for marijuana.
The Bible speaks about the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19–20. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."
As you can see, drunkenness is listed here as a sin of the flesh. However, another word that is often overlooked here is the word "sorcery." Some Bible versions (NIV, KJV) translate this word as "witchcraft." However, the actual word written is the Greek word pharmakia from which we get the English word "pharmacy."
The main meaning of the word according to the Strong's dictionary is "the use or the administering of drugs." It can also be a reference to sorcery and magic because of the strong connection often found between drugs and the occult. However, in the context here, the Apostle Paul is writing this to "the churches of Galatia" (Galatians 1:2). Therefore, he is writing to people who had already accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and were most likely not having issues with practicing witchcraft, something that would have involved an entirely different belief system.
Also, the context of the word in this passage is "works" or "deeds" of the flesh. These are the sinful things that we naturally desire and struggle to overcome in our attempt to follow Christ. Witchcraft is generally not a desire of our flesh but a direct rebellion against God. It is therefore unlikely that Paul is referring to witchcraft here, but instead is referring to drug use, which is a common desire of the flesh.
It can be concluded then, that according to scripture, using drugs to achieve an altered state of reality is a sinful desire, much the way that drunkenness is a sin of the flesh.
In considering this question, it is therefore important to ask yourself why you want to use marijuana. Although some doctors now encourage people to use it to manage pain, I personally question its casual use, having observed several people using it over the course of my long life.
There are two reasons for this. The first is that from my observation, marijuana seems to slow down the mind, dull the senses and cause people to be somewhat unresponsive and unmotivated. Over a long period of marijuana use, people seem to gradually lose what motivation they might have had to accomplish things in life.
The second thing I've seen is that people who have used marijuana for many years turn into crusaders for the drug. Often, much of their life revolves around looking for opportunities to toke up and get high or at least remain affected by the drug, and they passionately encourage others to use it because it is so important to them. I believe this can be a form of idolatry, as it tends to replace Jesus Christ as their source of peace and contentment in life.
One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives is self-control (Galatians 5:23, 24). Galatians 5:24 states: "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." "Crucified" here means to put to death. It means that there must be a bold decision to no longer do things that are in opposition to the Holy Spirit's work in our lives. To the extent that you see this as being relevant to the use of marijuana, ask the Spirit of God to lead you into truth about why you want to use it. If it is simply a desire of your flesh, ask that His Spirit would give you self-control in this area.
I hope this answer helps you. I know that many times people ask a question like this so that they can come up with a response to counter the Biblical explanation that is offered. This is because their mind is already made up on the matter, and they are looking for a way to justify the belief that they already have. I encourage you to honestly consider your own heart in this regard, and if your desire is to follow Jesus Christ, that you would be open to doing what it takes to walk in the Spirit and not fulfill the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
Dr. Randy Jackson is Plains Cree From Goodfish Lake, Alberta, now residing in Las Vegas, Nevada, with his wife, Evangeline. Randy is a renowned gospel musician, songwriter, recording artist, Bible teacher, and lawyer.