Alcohol vs Marijuana: Both are intoxicating substances. Does that make them the the same in God’s eyes?
By Kymberlee Smith
No matter where or how you grew up, substance use and abuse was likely taught to you in some way or another. Behind the doors of various churches lie many different standards taught when it comes to alcohol. Jim Burgens speaks of this openly during a sermon at Flatirons Church in Colorado:
“I had bought a lie,” he begins boldly. “All my Christian life I was told that drinking beer meant that I wasn’t a good Christian, I didn’t love Jesus enough, and that I didn’t care about causing other people to stumble.”
Many Christians can relate to this, whether they continue to abstain from alcohol or not. But if alcohol is forbidden, why do so many Christians still drink?
An interesting fact about alcoholic beverages is that they were considered to be a perfectly acceptable by many Christians and non-believers alike, up until the Temperance Movement (early 19th century). This was a period of time -not so long ago -that greatly inspired the Prohibition over a century later. Advocating for complete abstinence or beer over hard liquor, “…pastors, civic leaders, and especially women argued that liquor destroyed lives, ravaged families, eroded morality, and contributed to crime.” (link)
To substantiate this argument, the Bible specifically warns about intoxication in multiple verses:
Proverbs 20:1 NIV Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
Ephesians 5:18 NIV Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
However, not once in the Bible does it say that it is not okay to drink alcohol.
“…and I allowed myself to be imprisoned by people-made religious rules.” Burgens continues in his sermon, “That’s not in the Bible, Jesus never said it, and it’s not true….Drinking alcohol in moderation doesn’t make you a bad Christian.”
Burgens then dares to cross a controversial Christian line in his next statement:
“Using medical marijuana doesn’t make you a pot head or a bad person.”
Are we to assume that as long as marijuana is being used wisely – in a controlled environment, in moderation – that it’s okay for Christians to light up? It’s not quite that cut and dry, according to Burgens:
“Now, I can’t make blanket statements. Let’s be honest: for most people smoking weed has nothing to do with their cancer,” he pauses, alluding to recreational marijuana use.
They key word in Burgens sermon may be the “medical” before the “marijuana.” This can make all the difference to some Christians, or anyone who is still unsure about using cannabis as an alternative treatment. We know that marijuana can legally be used recreationally and medically in many states, but what many people are unaware of is that not all marijuana is created equal. Sure, there are hundreds of different strains of the plant, but there are many different methods of administering those strains, and many of these methods won’t even get you high.
Through many years of research, scientists have been able to break down the different chemical compounds (called cannabinoids) that are unique to the cannabis plant. Even better, by isolating each compound, they were able to discover what made them different, how they each can affect the body, and as a result, how they can be used to treat different conditions. A brief example:
THC: Short for tetrahydrocannabinol, THC is the compound in cannabis responsible for the intoxicating effects recreational marijuana users typically desire. Studies are also finding that THC can aid in a wide range of conditions, from treating cold sores to pancreatic cancer.
CBD: Cannabidiol, or CBD, is an amazing find within the cannabis plant. Unlike THC, CBD has zero psychoactive side effect. This means there is no chance of getting high with this compound. It has been found to be successful in treating an impressive number of ailments.
If CBD is all benefit and no intoxication, what makes it so controversial? This may seem like a rhetorical question, but many Christians are still apprehensive about medical marijuana. This can largely be due to the negative social stigma that smoking can have. This is why CBD, in particular, is such good news for many people. Besides not having any intoxicating effects, CBD oil can be administered multiple different ways. Along with smoking it, CBD oil can also be taken orally, used topically, or even as a suppository.
CBD oil is typically made by soaking the cannabis plant in ethanol, which extracts the CBD from the plant matter. The alcohol acts as a carrier for the CBD until the last step: evaporation. The CBD infused ethanol is carefully heated until it is completely evaporated and only the CBD oil is left. This potent oil can then be used to make lotions, salves, tablets, and many other products. Again, this particular cannabinoid is associated with zero psychoactive reactions. It is important to note that the quality and strain of cannabis really counts when making CBD oil. Please exercise caution when choosing a product, and especially when extracting at home.
Although the Bible never specifically mentions cannabis, we know that cannabis is a plant, a natural herb that God put on this planet along with every other herb and plant:
Genesis 9:3 NIV Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.
“I am done with religion, and stupid rules that somebody other than Jesus thought up for my own good.” Burgens says passionately.
He makes it very clear that marijuana can be used wisely and unwisely, and to use judgement regarding the plant. From aspirin to sugar, too much of almost anything is still too much. There are absolutely potential spiritual and physical risks to cannabis. Marijuana, when used improperly, can cloud the mind and potentially inhibit the Spirit. Alternatively, it is believed to aid in meditation and prayer in many users. If you decide to opt for any type of cannabis as a medical alternative, it is important to consult your doctor, educate yourself, and ultimately decide if it is right for you.