Beliefs Culture Ethics Jonathan Merritt: On Faith and Culture Opinion

What evangelicals miss in the marijuana debate

A woman smokes a joint at 420 Marijuana Day in 2013. Last year, the debate over pot legalization was reignited. - Image courtesy of GoToVan (

When President Obama insinuated to David Remnick of “The New Yorker” last week that marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol, it was more than a buzzkill to anti-pot advocates. It was an affront to many evangelicals who have opposed legalizing weed since at least the Reagan administration.

The war on drugs, a cornerstone issue of the culture wars during the 1980s and 1990s, had all but flickered out in recent years. Americans, including religious ones, have been more focused on the economy, terrorism, and other social issues of late.

A 1986 newspaper advertisement for Billy Graham "Just Say 'No'" television special - Image courtesy of Dean Terry (

A 1986 newspaper advertisement for Billy Graham “Just Say ‘No'” television special – Image courtesy of Dean Terry (

But when Washington and Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana last year, the embers of argument warmed. Only this time, some evangelicals—long considered to be among the country’s strongest anti-pot advocates—seemed less passionate about the issue while others decided to keep fighting. Unfortunately, those believers still making the case against cannabis appear to be focusing on the individual and not social elements of the issue.

In a post bearing the cheeky title, “Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot”, prominent pastor John Piper argued that Christians should oppose marijuana use because the Bible teaches “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.”

“Keep [your body] clean and ready for [God’s] use,” Piper wrote. “Don’t dull your God-given powers of seeing clearly, and observing accurately, and thinking soundly, and remembering helpfully.”

Similarly, Joe Carter, director of communications for the public policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, argued on his blog that marijuana use is almost always sinful. Carter told me that though the Bible doesn’t specifically mention marijuana, “we can reason analogically from Scripture to the similar case of alcohol.” Because the Christians scriptures prohibit drunkenness, Carter reasons that marijuana intoxication would also be a sin.

Fewer than one in four Americans think smoking pot is a sin, according to a 2013 Public Religion Research Institute poll. Only 29 percent of white evangelical Protestants said they believed the Bible prohibits its use.

Brett McCracken, author of “Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty,” says the issue is more a matter of one’s reputation or “witness.” He says Christians should oppose smoking weed, even for medical purposes, because the act is associated with laziness, irresponsibility, rebellion and mischief.

“Christians must be mindful of pot’s controversial and hazardous reputation in culture, and be sensitive to the perspectives of both other Christians and unbelieving observers,” McCracken told me.

Whether the argument is about personal health, personal holiness, or personal reputation, most evangelical voices seem laser-focused on individual responsibilities and actions. Many seem to be overlooking the social components at play. Indeed, the Bible itself warns against social sins as well as individual sins.

As theologian Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite rightly reminds, “We might think primarily of the individual body and marijuana use, but first let us consider the social body and what will happen to our social body by legalizing marijuana.”

As is usually the case, the social dimension of the marijuana debate is not nearly as simplistic as the individual.

If marijuana is legalized en masse, American culture can expect to face a litany of potential negative social impacts. Marijuana affects attention, memory, and the ability to think clearly for days or even weeks after use. A recent meta-analysis of 48 studies found that pot was associated with “reduced educational attainment.” Those who smoke cannabis are less likely to complete college and tend to make less money than their non-smoking counterparts.

Additionally, people who admitted to using marijuana or cocaine in pre-employment tests have higher rates of workplace absenteeism and work-related incidents. This represents an untold economic impact if recreational use of the drug is normalized.

And yet, many in society—particularly the poorest members—are already experiencing deleterious effects of the current war on drugs. The negative social impacts of our current situation have been detailed by many of late, including Michelle Alexander, in her illuminating book, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.”

Though the drug is at least as prevalent in middle-class white communities as predominately minority-inhabited inner city neighborhoods, current laws (such as “stop and frisk”) have created an exponentially higher marijuana arrest rate among blacks. And a marijuana conviction against an inner city young person acting foolishly could mean they’ll be “deprived of professional or driver’s licenses, educational aid, food stamps, public housing, their right to vote, and they may find themselves fired and unable to find new employment, having been marked by society as little more than a criminal.”

To get a full picture, you must add to this the economic boondoggle that is the American war on drugs. We’re spending billions of dollars—money that could be invested in proven social goods—to achieve marginal results. These two elements are just the tip of the iceberg of the damaging side effects of our current drug war. As it turns out, the racial, economic, and yes, sin elements of this debate are more complicated than we might assume.

It’s good to talk about the individual elements of this issue, from impacts on one’s health to whether or not it should be considered sinful. But we must also begin thinking about the broad communal and social elements at play.

If evangelicals want to fight the legalization of marijuana—and recent polls show they are increasingly less willing to do so—then they are going to need to have a full-orbed conversation. Let’s “Just Say ‘No'” to letting American individualism or simplistic pietism drive our theology and thinking, as evangelicals are often wont to do, and instead step back and have a Biblical but complete conversation.


About the author

Jonathan Merritt

Jonathan Merritt is senior columnist for Religion News Service and a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He has published more than 2500 articles in outlets like USA Today, The Week, Buzzfeed and National Journal. Jonathan is author of "Jesus is Better Than You Imagined" and "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars." He resides in Brooklyn, NY.


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  • current laws (such as “stop and frisk”) have created an exponentially higher marijuana arrest rate among blacks.

    One of the reasons for that, as studies have shown, is that drug deals in minority neighborhoods tend to occur outdoors. Because whites tend to deal drugs from their own home (or at least indoors), it makes it much more difficult to catch them in the act.

    <emAnd a marijuana conviction against an inner city teenager acting foolishly could mean they’ll be “deprived of professional or driver’s licenses, educational aid, food stamps, public housing, their right to vote, and they may find themselves fired and unable to find new employment, having been marked by society as little more than a criminal.”

    This seems to conflate a conviction for possession (for personal use) and for distribution. For instance, you don’t lose the right to vote unless you’ve been convicted of a felony (e.g., intent to distribute).

    Also, in what states does a minor being convicted of a misdemeanor carry over until adult? In almost every state I know a minors record is sealed and can’t be used against them once they become an adult.

  • “(McCracken) says Christians should oppose smoking weed, even for medical purposes, because the act is associated with laziness, irresponsibility, rebellion and mischief.”

    It is distressing to hear that some Christians oppose the use of marijuana even for medical purposes. Do they oppose the use of all barbituates too? Will the withhold morphine from their family members at the last stages of life, because it has been abused? I suspect this is an opinion held in ignorance, not from a conversation with someone in physical agony, who has been helped by medicinal marijuana.

  • But teens age 16 and older are often charged as adults. And that record is public and permanent. There is a difference between dealing and using. And we need to be aware of that. But relatively small amounts of possession can still be enough to be charged as a dealer. And minorities that possess those amounts in poor neighborhood are more likely to be charged as a dealer if the possessor had been white and in a non-poor community. There is a clear racial component to the drug laws. And while I am not a fan, nor will I be a user or a supporters of use, I have a hard time supporting current drug laws if for no other reason than the disproportionate harm on minority (especially poor) communities.

  • Your distinction between the individual and the social costs of marijuana use is well-stated.

    I also appreciate your balanced approach to the social costs both of legalizing and of maintaining the criminalization of marijuana

    In places, however, it seemed that you blurred two different issues together: (1) the legal status of marijuana, and (2) the appropriateness of using marijuana legally. This blurring may just have been a matter of unclear transitions between the topics, however. Whether or not one takes the same or different stances on these two issues, or whether or not one makes distinctions between recreational and therapeutic (“medical”) use of marijuana, the discussion needs to clearly treat them separately.

    Also, it bears pointing out that arguments against marijuana use which are based on either scriptural prohibitions against drunkeness or the consequences of intoxication leave the door open to “use in moderation.”

    As a physician, I am uncomfortable calling the use of drug a drug that is (wildly!) unstandardized “medical,” even when the use is intended therapeutically. The “medical” product corresponding to marijuana is dronabinol (Marinol), which has a limited (but extremely important) role in medicine. I recognize that dronabinol is not a “therapeutic equivalent” to.marijuana. At least could we please refer to marijuana that is used with therapeutic intent, but not under the supervision and according to the detailed instructions of a physician, as “over-the-counter,” rather than “medical,” marijuana?

    I choose not to use either alcohol or marijuana at all (even legally and “in moderation”), but I agree that anyone taking a position against the legalization of marijuana needs “to have a full-orbed conversation,” as you put it. Of course, the same would apply to absolutist positions against legal marijuana use, as well.

  • Re-read the quotation.

    In the first place, it is one Christian’s opinion.

    McCraken is basing his argument upon marijuana’s “reputation in culture” and the need to be “sensitivity to the perspectives of both other Christians and unbelieving observers.”

    Whether you agree that it applies, or not, his argument is similar to Paul’s position on eating meat that had been offered to idols (paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 8:1-13): The idol is nothing. We know that we are no better whether we eat meat that has been offered to idols or not. Be careful, however, not to let your knowledge result in someone who is weaker becoming ensnared and destroyed, thereby sinning against both him and Christ. Therefore, if eating meat ensnares my brother, I will not eat meat from now until eternity!

    In my opinion, whether or not this argument applies to the appropriateness of personal legal marijuana use in “in moderation” by a Christian (whether therapeutic or not), it is inappropriate to apply it either to marijuana use by unbelievers or to the legal status of marijuana.

  • “”Marijuana affects attention, memory, and the ability to think clearly for days or even weeks after use.”‘
    The study you are using to support the above lie has been peer reviewed and eviscerated by other scientists and researchers,,so much so the researchers that did the study admitted their methods were not the standardized format,,the reviewers also added they used too few subjects and did not formally investigate other substances used by the subjects that could have influenced the findings,,they only tracked marijuana use and did not even ask about tobacco or alcohol use.
    If all you track is marijuana use it must be marijuana’s fault.
    Please,,you guys are supposed to be Christians,,aren’t Christians supposed to be honest?
    Or since we are talking about marijuana any “fibs” are allowed to save America from it’s self?

    29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

    If God did not exempt the hemp plant from the above edict,then how can you?

    Smoking marijuana is a product of prohibition because smoking it is the fastest way to determine if the substance is marijuana when you are buying it from someone you may not see for two weeks or ever again.

    Until 1937 the vast majority of people ate or drank their cannabis and when it is returned to stores where it is labeled and produced by growers than can be held responsible for ingredients that could be harmful instead of a black market where nobody can be held responsible many will return to eating and drinking their cannabis.In other words,,supporting the present policy is more harmful than all the “could be linked with ” studies,the “may cause” studies the government feeds you.

    If you accept could be linked with as science you have no idea what science is.

  • Appreciate the discussion, appropriate to the time and status of our American culture.
    Just to mention that I have had friends on chemotherapy who maintained, in some cases gained, their weight from using marijuana medically.

    (I personally totally refrain from alcohol and cannabis.)

  • @Norman Gooding: I have a very good idea of what science is, since I am a scientist, as well as a physician. Would you be so kind as to give the references to the meta-analysis and its critiques, so that I can evaluate their scientific (and statistical) merits for myself?

    You brought up the use of “every” plant as food. Unfortunately, I do not read Hebrew, but, based upon what I can gather from a standard Hebrew dictionary (Brown, Driver, and Briggs), the sense in Genesis 1:29 should be collective–“all” plants, taken as a whole–not individually or particularly (“every,” “each”). I do read Greek, and I can vouch that that is the sense in which ancient translators of the Old Testament into Greek (the Septuagent) understood it. It would be an absurdity to say that every particular plant was intended as human food, because many are clearly not suitable for that purpose, and some are even poisonous to humans. In my opinion, this verse tells us nothing about whether not any particular plant should be used for food.

    Your anger against Christians seems misplaced. While some Christians (and many non-Christians!) oppose the legalization of marijuana, according to the article, almost 3 out of 4 white evangelical Protestants do not believe that the Bible prohibits marijuana. It is safe to say that the numbers are even higher among other Christian groups. Even Jonathan Merritt, the author of the article above, and everyone who has commented so far, seems at least sympathetic to the legalization of marijuana, even though some of us have made it clear that we no interest in using it, ourselves.

  • Are there significant numbers of people you know of who are eating marijuana plants for “food” and nourishment in-line with the verse you cite? My thinking is that most people use that verse improperly in this discussion to distract from the deeper nuances of the Biblical passages that actually speak about using intoxicating substances.

  • Don’t you divinely delusional deity devotees have anything better to do with your time ? This is just another example of self-righteous simpletons trying to impose their bible-based biases upon those far too intelligent to drink their Kool-Aid & believe such nonsense anymore ! Bless your little hearts & your narrow minds !!!

  • What the mainstream media doesn’t tell you is that all those edible,,the candies and cookies that kevin Sabet,Linda Taylor,Paul Chabot and Patrick Kennedy scream are aimed at children like “Joe Camel” was alleged to have been for the tobacco industry are what most of the patients with arthritis,,muscle spasms and cramps use for treatment while pain and nausea patients smoke it,,nausea obviously because nauseous patients have trouble keeping pills down long enough for them to be digested and pain because the relief is instantaneous,,there are several sites with the proper dosage,method of treatment and even recipes for people that want to eat their medicine to avoid any possible lung damage even though the largest and longest lung function study done by NIDA reports no cancers,copd or lung damage was found,,and tha t tobacco smokers that smoked pot had fewer cases of lung damage and cancers than subjects using tobacco only and that daily marijuana users had fewer cases of cancer than the people that smoked neither pot or tobacco.. the NIDA held the study until it “leaked” out and to this day NIDA has not allowed any researcher to investigate the reason marijuana smokers had fewer cases of cancers.
    Here is a link to a video of the lead researcher on the study explaining what the study entailed and found,,there is a link to the pdf on the study there..

    Here is a link to over 22,000 studies of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant,,a vast majority of the searching for the “magic medicine marijuana has in it that it can treat so many health issues and is non-toxic you can’t understand half the terminology on the warnings on Tylenol.

    Since the NIDA refuse to allow medical research on the organic cannabis plant these studies are all on synthetic chemical compounds produced naturally in the cannabis plant,we really don’t know the total number of health issues cannabis is capable of treating but the Israelis use it for MS,cancer
    blocking,depression,insomnia,Alziemers,ADHD,bipolar,PTSD,COPD and several other health issues,,they don’t have the DEA and NIDA keeping cannabis Schedule 1 as we do and are decades ahead of us on research of the organic cannabis plant,

    Our medical marijuana advocates,patients and doctors willing to help are finding new ways to use and treat health issues nearly every week,,we had no idea that low thc/high cbd’s hash oil that does not get anyone “high”could reduce a child’s 300>400 seizures to 1 or 2 per week with Dravets syndrome until 2 years ago,,we knew hash oil helped people with epilepsy but didn’t realize they didn’t need to get high to stop the seizures,,until someone noticed that when they used a strain of cannabis that was high in cbd’s it worked better than a strain low in cbd.s,,from that was born /charlottes Web,,a special strain that is for treating epilesy and does what no pharmaceutical drugs can accomplish,,Dravets syndrome patients usually die young from all the chemicals the doctors try to stop the seizures with.

    Yet the DEA/NIDA still claim cannabis is not medicine,they spend millions of tax dollars searching for harm,,have never found any harm that gets close to the harms of tobacco or alcohol and is less addictive than coffee with less severe side effects yet they stand up and wave their hands in the air and moan “what about the children and Christians believe every word out of their mouth as if it is gospel,,that is my anger at Christians,,with your support the government continues prohibiting a plant that is an ancient herbal medicine that mankind has used as food,clothing,recreation and medicine since man started cultivating crops.

    You are speaking about legalization but you can see that our government does not care if cannabis is medicine or not,,for some reason they refuse to allow us to use it,,they begrudgingly allow states to change their laws,,set up distribution and production then knowing strict regulations will keep the production and dispensary prices much more than the street weed prices come in and bust every dispensary in a town trying to find the criminal operations.

    The report on the IQ study is here,,I have seen the peer review but now I can’t find the link,,will continue searching tomorrow.

    If marijuana advocates sound a little angry you will discover why if you research past NIDA and any government outlet and find the truth.

    A good place to start learning why marijuana was made illegal is here:

    And it has nothing to do with people getting high but plenty to do with using it as a medication,a renewable biofuel source, the longest continuous fibers with 5 times the strength of cotton,,when the history books say homesoun it was hemp clothing,the constitution was drafted on hemp paper and Henry Ford built a car using hemp everywhere he could that ran off the biofulel produced from the seeds just before the Marijuana tax Act was enaacted,,,no wonder Henry Ford was mad enough to support Hitler,,,

    With your support and help we,the people can take hemp plant back from the corporations that had it banned and legalization by the people is the only way,,legislators refuse to discuss it,,that is corporate lobby money talking loud and clear,

    Sorry this grew so long and if you need more information or links I hang out at with a couch full of other anti-drug war warriors.

    Someone there knows the answer or where to find it if it concerns cannabis or it’s prohibition..

  • Do you accept “could be linked with” or “may be caused by”as scientific proof because if you don’t look at the science the NIDA claims is proof that marijuana is a dangerous addictive drug,
    I am not aware of a single study the hold up as proof ever reporting “is caused by”.
    And the possible harms they list,,the actual percentages of “possible” people being affected compared to the people not harmed makes banning it foolish

    the IQ loss percentage of effected teenagers was 8%,,that means 92% were not effected,,when you the factor in that only about 12% of teenagers try marijuana the 8% of 12% really gets to be a small risk.

    It is all in how they spin the data. Climbing trees has broken more children’s bones than any other activity young children do,,we warn the kids,,they climb the trees any way so do we ban the trees or the children.

  • Not long ago I heard a medical doctor who talked about the risks of Cancer by using Marihuna. Can someone confirm is this is true? And if it is true, why legalizing something that will add more troubles to what we already have? I am wondering what Mr. Eric Lawson could add to this discussion.

  • Evangelicals, like any other sect of any other religion have no say in the laws of our land. Not that I think everyone should go around stoned on marijuana, or use it on a daily basis, I don’t see it as being anymore harmful than other legal drugs such as tobacco, alcohol, and prescription drugs, actually less harmful.

    If I had to choose in in being the passenger of a automobile driven by someone under the influence of any mind altering drug, my choice would be someone high on marijuana.

    Man has used mind altering drug that are much more harmful than marijuana for centuries. The war on drugs has done nothing but rob American citizens of freedom and create a criminal enterprise. Marijuana should be taken out of this equation and legalized. Religion should have no part in any laws, as their are those, like me, who don’t believe in any religion, and the state should remain fully separate from the church.

    Religion is poison!!.

  • I do believe that Jonathan Merritt the writer is a highly intelligent Christian man who is trying to bring to light a topic about what Evangelical Christians think about this topic. It seems that you are not a Christian but a mocker of the faith.

  • I agree with you Jonatnan. You article was well researched and well written. We evangelical Christians should be taking more of a stand to not let pot be legal in more states. I was shocked when it did become legal for recreational use in the two states it is now. It’s just outrageous. Legalizing a street drug so people can get high when ever they want is just crazy. I know what pot does to people. My older brother use to use it all the time in high school. I watched the effect on him. You are right to say that it can have lasting memory effects for a long time. I saw it in him. This is no kind of “drug” that should be legalized. It’s not good for ones body, especially if you call yourself a Christian. Did not Jesus say
    Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Matthew 6:25, 31-33 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    The point in that verse is God will take care of you, you shouldn’t be worrying about what you put into your body, which includes pot. It also says that the pageans run after these things. Stand up for God and do what’s right and fight against legalizing pot in America.

  • Hi there. Just wanted to share something I have been thinking about a lot lately. Please pardon my poor writing skills. 🙂

    The endocanabinoid system. The ECS is a network of receptors that occupy every organ in our bodies as well as bones. These receptors are activated by naturally occurring cannabinoids similar to those in cannabis. Introducing cannabinoids from the cannabis plant seems to profoundly benefit human health. Even the seeds of the plant are highly nutritious and contains oils with perfectly balanced nutrition for humans.

    So if God created us and everything on the earth, doesn’t the fact that it is so go for us make it a gift rather than sin?

    Cannabis/hemp have been food for thousands of years and hemp foods can still be found in most larger grocery stores.

    1 Timothy 4:1-6

    Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.

  • Just because people are changing their minds does not explain why Christians have been wiling to lock up people,destroy families and lock people into a life unable to reach their full earning potential because of an arrest record from using a plant God made,not man.
    It requires no help from man to do what it does,,it requires no added ingredients,brewing,or man to do anything but use it.
    And because people don’t know is not an excuse,,the court we are all going to accept ignorance as a defense.

  • A herb without thorns, anybody else know where I’m about to go with this?
    What image are you protecting? Yours or the image of truth. You can side with others who label, then you will be labeled and measured in the same likeness. The blind lead the blind and both shall perish. This isn’t made by the hands, where all sin comes from, in which you have excepted manythings. Instead it is grown from a seed. I personally think the pose of your picture is worse then what can be harvested at the bloom of a natural plant. Nevertheless how of the many words you subjected As truth in your 1000 articles. Bite your tounge, or be ready to stand accountable… It is not the object, it is the mind state in which why you do something.

  • Joe, on your point about minors records eventually being sealed, that’s true, but these records never really go away in the computer age. In my state they actually destroy most of these criminal records when a child turns 21. But, the computer record is still there. Where this can really hurt people is in getting certain jobs. If you want to be a stockbroker when you fill out your SEC forms they’re going to ask about your juvenile record. If you want to be a lawyer they’re going to want to know about your juvenile record. Most people won’t end up in jobs like these, but an awful lot of underprivileged people go into the military where they are going to want to know about your juvenile record. Relatively minor arrests keep people out of the military all the time. I’ve dealt with recruiters a lot on this as a criminal defense attorney who represents children and adults.

  • Marijuana is bad. It is a harmful vice. The ban against it is worse. Like alcohol, it is too popular to ban. Like it or not, over half of all young people growing up today will end up trying marijuana, as has gone on for decades. According to data from the federal government’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health over half of all American adults under the age of 65 have smoked marijuana. Federal surveys also tell us that more high school seniors smoke pot now than cigarettes. We’ve had great success discouraging tobacco use even though it is legal, but people aren’t getting the message when it comes to marijuana.

    In the Netherlands they’ve been selling pot from shops with permits to sell it since 1976. Does everyone there smoke marijuana? No. In fact, a lower percentage of the Dutch smoke it than Americans. It just has limited appeal. We see the same thing with medical marijuana states where it is practically legal. Use was higher in those states to begin with. that’s why they were targeted with these ballot initiatives, but it hasn’t just gone through the roof like it should if the laws were really stopping many from smoking marijuana. marijuana is practically legal in California and has been since 1996, but since they passed their medical marijuana laws use has just gone up and down with the times like everywhere else and while the percentage of Californians using marijuana is higher than the national average as it has always been, there are many states with much higher use rates, even states with no medical marijuana and certainly not the loose medical marijuana laws they have in California.

    Our marijuana laws have really never put a dent in the supply or demand for marijuana, at least since marijuana became popular. Marijuana is everywhere, super easy to obtain and generally cheaper than beer on a per use basis. We’re stopping nothing with our laws. We’re just blowing a fortune, enriching organized crime and making it easier for them to reach the millions who buy marijuana with their far worse drugs. We are causing every problem we caused with our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition and more. We’re doing far more harm than good and that isn’t smart from a Christian perspective or any other perspective.

    I don’t smoke marijuana. I think it’s waste of life. It’s dumb thing to do. I’ve always tried to steer my children away from it and have one in high school and one in college who have never touched it and seem to have no desire to do so. I am 110% for legalizing it though because I realize that this prohibition stops nothing and that while marijuana may be bad it is nowhere near the threat to nonusers that we see from drugs like meth and Oxycontin and even alcohol. I’ve handled well over 2,000 criminal cases as an attorney along with other types of cases where substance abuse issues came up and from my experience and the statistics know well that most marijuana related crime arises directly out of the fact that it is illegal. We don’t see the property crimes that we see from people addicted to drugs like meth and Oxycontin or the violent crimes and other stupid harmful conduct we see from people who were drunk. It’s too popular to ban with any success. It’s not that much of threat to nonusers. We aren’t stopping anything with our laws. We shouldn’t legalize it because we think it is good or that everyone should do it. We should legalize because we are doing far more harm than good trying in vain to keep up this ban, and after we legalize it and regulate this entirely unregulated multi-billion dollar business we should continue to discourage use and abuse of this drug like we have done with tobacco.

  • I am a Christian, and I have smoked marijuana more times than I can count.

    Several therapists have observed that my heaviest use occurred between the time my bipolar disorder developed and the time I received effective treatment. To use the words of one therapist, I was “self medicating.” My subsequent periods of regular use coincided with very stressful life changes and times when I needed changes in treatment methods. (Like many chronic conditions, bipolar disorder can change over time and requires adaptation.)

    For long stretches of time, smoking a bowl after drinking a few beers was the only thing that would quell the uncontrollably self-loathing feelings, the crippling anxiety, the racing thoughts. (Although it didn’t help with the delusions of grandeur; weed isn’t panacea for mental illness.)

    I don’t care if John Piper or whoever else thinks I was sinning. In fact I scoff at any human being’s presumption that they have the standing to theologically judge what I did during those terrible, terrible years. Only God knows what was happening in my mind and soul, and only God knows the role marijuana played in my survival.

    As for folks who think it’s right for me and people like me to be classified as criminals, the commandment that I love my neighbor forbids me from inviting them to walk in my shoes.

  • It’s encouraging to see evangelicals begin to have a more nuanced discussion about drug legalization and the drug war. I hate to agree with “Religion is poison!!” Earold Gunter (actually people like you are poison), but I think the war on drugs has created far more damage than legalizing drugs would create. There is no perfect solution; we live in a fallen world. I was your typical evangelical prohibitionist up until I read an entire National Review magazine in the early/mid 90s dedicated to the drug war. It was eye opening to say the least. And just because something is a sin (and I’m not sure pot is or isn’t) doesn’t mean we should support it being outlawed.

  • Jonathan, Perhaps that wasn’t written well enough to express my point clearly. Unfortunately most Americans are religious, or at least still say they are. Fortunately that is changing though. Regardless everyone should have a say, but no laws should be established because of religious beliefs.
    My freedom, and all other Americans were established by religious people, although I would argue a better term may be spiritual people, but like my opinion on laws, they didn’t use their beliefs in doing so, and went to great pains to insure that it would be separate from our government in the future. Many people since then have died to protect that freedom, not all of them religious.

    Religion is poison!!

  • @Mike D’Virgilio. Well said.
    I would point out that Christians are not responsible for the “war on drugs,” but the civil government is, and its motives were anything but “Christian”: “The racist roots of America’s medical marijuana policy” ( Individual Christians may support the criminal status of marijuana, just as other individual Christians oppose its criminal status, but that does not make either position the “Christian” stance.

  • Mr. Merrit’s only two medical research citations of marijuana’s deleterious effects were a) “reduced educational attainment” and “higher rates of workplace absenteeism and work-related incidents.”

    The former of those citations was but a single line item in twelve page 2012 NIDA report ( containing nearly two dozen different references from independent peer-reviewed medical studies on the effects of marijuana – all of which are significantly more pathological than mere “reduced educational attainment.” Why Mr. Merrit chose to cite only one of the maladies from that report, and the least of all of the maladies discussed in that report, only Mr. Merrit can know.

    The latter of Mr. Merrit’s medical citations was from a NY Times story well over twenty years old ( The number of high quality, peer-reviewed research studies done on marijuana’s many maladies since 1990 far exceeds even the nearly two dozen left uncited by Mr. Merrit from the NIDA report he did cite.

    Readers interested in a small sampling of the research left uncited by Mr. Merrit – and uncited in the NIDA study which he did cite (it too, now, is almost two years old) – can peruse the citations on the following Web page.

  • Please be careful with the peer review – global warming is a great example. While we must be careful about the climate, there is documented evidence that the peer reviewed information deleted or omitted facts and fabricated other information to make their statistics work. What does this have to do with cannabis use – depending upon which information is provided into the media, the same effects occur. While we hear about the seamless roll-out in Colorado, we hear very little about the organizations that have set out underground smuggling and provision routes into states where it is not legal (that’s called dealing no matter how you look at it.) Additionally, the White House’s own Drug people have set out that cannabis does indeed impair memory, destroy brain cells, and has more carcinogens than cigarettes.

  • @claygooding:

    If corporations “had it banned,” why do you blame Christians for the Federal ban on marijuana?

    The hemp uses to which you refer employed the version of the plant without the “active” (drug) components of marijuana. I am not sure what that says, one way or the other, about the drug uses of the plant.

    As shocking as it seems now, in light of the post-war revelations about the atrocities in Germany, pre-war support in the U.S. for Hitler was commonplace and unrelated to hemp (“Support for Hitler (or Fascism) in the United States,” While I cannot vouch for Henry Ford’s fuel preferences, I doubt very much that his well-known racism and support for “eugenics” were due to restrictions upon the drug-bearing version of the plant, any more than were the similar views and objectives of Margaret Sanger* (for which she founded what became “Planned Parenthood of America”). Hitler’s Germany was the model (See footnotes.).

    In the late ’70’s, when I was working on my Ph.D. (Physiology and Biophysics), I was puzzled that the library at the North Chicago Veterans Administration Medical Center (originally a psychiatric hospital) consisted of about 25% pre-1939 “eugenics” journals. Even more interestingly, I could not find any other kind of journals from that era. Browsing through some of them, I was struck by how full they were of favorable references to Hitler’s Germany (I wish now that I had spent some of my very limited income as a graduate student to copy a few examples.) I asked someone who had worked at the VAMC for a very long time about this. She said, “They used to do that,” clammed up, stared up at the ceiling for a few moments, then entered her office and closed the door (the only time that I remember her closing it), and immediately start making VERY intense telephone calls; through the window, she looked extremely worried. I never did get an answer to what “that” was, but forcible sterilization seems like a good guess. Two weeks later, I noticed that every single one of those journals had disappeared. When I asked the librarian what had happened to them, she became extremely tense and told me that they had been “shipped to someplace” “across the country” “for storage,” because it was necessary “to make room” for other books and journals that were coming in (There had already been A LOT of empty shelf space.). When I asked her why the the shelving had been removed along with the journals, if the space was needed for new books and journals, she abruptly turned and walked away, closing her door behind her. Previously friendly to me, she never spoke to me again, even when I greated her. Tell me, @claygooding, what was the connection between hemp and a U.S. Veterans Administration psychiatric hospital’s obsession with German-style “eugenics”? Nothing more than Ford’s support for Hitler.

    Clearly, @claygooding, the hemp/marijuana story is more complicated than what you have shared.

    *For example, she said:

    “… of 1,500 women admitted as charity obstetrical patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, 39% o [sic] the whites and 70% of the negroes were found to have a mental age of 11 years or less.” (Human Conservation And Birth Control, March 3, 1938)

    “Eugenics is … the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.” (“The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” October 1921, page 5.)

    “Again, however, we must stress the fact that in a national program for human conservation institutional and voluntary sterilization are not enough; they do not reach those elements at large in the population whose children are a menace to the national health and well-being.

    “Reports in medical journals state that the indications laid down in the German law are being carefully observed. These are gongenital [sic] feeble-mindedness; schizophrenia, circular insanity; heredity epilepsy; hereditary chorea (Huntington’s)’ hereditary blindness or deafness; grave hereditary bodily deformity and chronic alcoholism.” (Human Conservation And Birth Control, March 3, 1938)

  • @claygooding

    You have misinterpreted the study ( It says nothing about the percentage of people who experienced IQ declines. The 8% represents the proportion of ALL those whom they studied who were in the group that was diagnosed with marijuanna dependence before age 18 AND were among those who most persistently used it, not the percentage of such youths who were affected. The average decline, for those who were diagnosed with marijuana dependence before and persistently used it was in the 8 IQ points, which corresponds to a “large” decline. This decline was broad, remained after accounting for years of education, was greater for those with more persistent use of marijuana, continued after cessation of marijuana, and was not seen among those who started marijuana in adulthood.

    The article that supposedly refutes it does not claim that much: “Although it would be too strong to say that the results have been discredited, the methodology is flawed and the causal inference drawn from the results premature.” ( It looked at socioeconomic status and suggested that the first paper’s results could have been explained that way. It fails to mention, however, that this alternative “cause” for IQ declines may have been due, in part, to the use of marijuana. In addition, it does not explain how (or cite evidence that) socioeconomic status would cause individual’s IQ’s to go down over time, independently of exposures such as marijuana. My take is that the evidence is suggestive, but definitely not conclusive, that long-term use of marijuana might damage the developing brain.

    There are precedents for this. Alcohol and tobacco both have a greater impacts on adolescents than upon adults. Likewise, both drugs are legal for adults, but not adolescents, so I am not sure what either of these papers say about legalization of marijuana.

  • One big problem with legalizing pot is that growing it and selling it then becomes a business that law enforcement resources are needed to protect and the state becomes dependent on that business for tax revenue. So change the laws so that users get minor penalties for use, sellers and growers get stiffer penalties and the state is allowed to confiscate and destroy the supply instead of having to protect it. Pot is still going to be a controlled substance which, by the way, needs to be grown in large open fields that will have to be protected from theft as the plants mature. You can’t rob a farmer’s field and steal beer, wine or whiskey. But you can do that with pot.

  • (This is not about marijuana, but I believe that it is relevant to the debate about its legal status.): “Change is coming to criminal justice because an alliance of evangelicals and libertarians have put those benefits on trial. Discovering that the nation’s prison growth is morally objectionable by their own, conservative standards, they are beginning to attack it—and may succeed where liberals, working the issue on their own, have, so far, failed.”

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