Medicinal Marijuana vs. Recreational Marijuana: Are they the same in God’s eyes?
By Kymberlee Smith
Marijuana: a heated debate for quite some time and a sensitive subject to many Christians. As it is being legalized in more states across the nation, the push to hardline the morality of marijuana is becoming stronger and stronger. Different standards are taught from different pulpits, and the argument on either side can be very convincing. But what does God have to say about marijuana?
Pastor Steve Myers poses this very question: “Do we not bother to think about God’s perspective on it?” He then points to the Bible for answers:
Galatians 5:19-21 NASB 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…
those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Myers emphasizes the word sorcery, a word we are warned about repeatedly throughout the Bible. He points out that the Greek translation of the word sorcery is ‘pharmakeia,’ which is the same Greek word in which we get the word ‘pharmacy.’ Many Christians interpret this to be pointing to the evils of modern pharmaceuticals. Is this accurate? And what does this have to do with marijuana, a natural plant?
The root meaning of the Greek words associated to sorcery are ‘magic,’ ‘druggist,’ or ‘giver of potions.’ A sorcerer in the Bible was referring to someone who dispensed potions, or drugs. Again, this is oftentimes interpreted by Christians as a reference to modern doctors. However, it is interesting to note that physicians, healers, and medicine are also all mentioned numerous times in the Bible. They, too, are words that reference the administration of drugs, but are intentionally segregated from sorcery. In the Bible, sorcery comes with a warning every time.
Another substance that constantly comes with a warning throughout the Bible is alcohol (wine). Although the Bible never says to abstain from it completely, several verses warn against overconsumption, and the intoxicating effects that wine can have. Drunkenness is mentioned on many occasions in association with inhibiting the Spirit of God. This would lead us to believe that, perhaps, sorcerers used and dispensed drugs or potions that had some type of intoxicating or hallucinogenic effects, either for recreation or pseudo-spiritual purposes with intent to deceive or lead followers away from the Spirit.
In the verse above, the Apostle Paul warned against the deeds of the flesh: the behaviors that will keep someone from the kingdom of God. Among them are sorcery (inappropriate drug use) and drunkenness (overconsumption of alcohol).
But what happens when a drug can be used to stop seizures in children, but that same drug can also be used to intoxicate? What happens if this medicinal but psychoactive “drug” is totally natural? After all, God said:
Genesis 9:3 NASB Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.
Genesis 1:29 NASB Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;
Cannabis is a seed yielding plant found naturally growing in many places around the globe. The missing link here is, perhaps, the misunderstanding of cannabis itself: what it is, what it does, and what it is capable of. Could it be possible that God put this plant on the Earth to benefit us, but we have found ways to use it incorrectly (just like we can misuse over the counter medications, prescription drugs, and alcohol)?
Many Christians are surprised to learn that it’s not marijuana itself that intoxicates, it’s actually a compound found in the marijuana plant that has psychoactive effects. Cannabis is home to over 85 different chemical compounds unique only to the cannabis plant, called cannabinoids. The intoxicating effect of marijuana is all thanks to one of over eighty-five cannabinoids. This particular cannabinoid, called tetrahydrocannabinol (or, THC), is what makes marijuana illegal in most places. But THC does more than get you high: it has been linked to the successful treatment of a variety of conditions, from glaucoma to pancreatic cancer. But because we can isolate the compounds in the plant, scientists were able to discover other cannabinoids that also have incredible medicinal benefits, but with no intoxicating side effects.
Enter cannabidiol, or, the cannabinoid known as CBD. CBD has been linked to treating an astonishing variety of conditions, and has absolutely no psychoactive side effects. It can be administered a number of ways, including orally, topically, or even as a suppository, largely depending on what you are treating. It has been proven safe for children and can be used without entering the blood stream. Again, using this cannabinoid correctly won’t get you “high” or make you fail a drug test. Even better? The cannabis sativa L. plant has a handful of different varieties, one of which you may have heard of: industrial hemp. Industrial hemp is non psychoactive and purchasing quality products made with industrial hemp from reputable companies is totally legal.
Cannabis, it seems – a natural growing drug – can be used for both ‘sorcery’ and ‘healing.’ Since marijuana is never directly referenced anywhere in the Bibles pages, it can be difficult to blur the lines.
It’s important to remember that – just like anything – drugs can be used to benefit, or harm. A drug administered to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson’s would not be considered the same as a drug used to intentionally intoxicate or hallucinate.
Pastor Myers explains why the word sorcery comes with caution in the Bible: “They didn’t repent of …their use of drugs. The kind of use of drugs that’s going to put them in a state of mind that they don’t have full control of themselves. Because that’s exactly opposite of what God wants for us. God says, He’s given us us a spirit of love, and of a sound mind. A mind that is in control of our senses.” He stresses the importance of keeping control of ourselves, what goes into our minds and what comes out of our mouths. This applies to anything from alcohol to opioids – legally distributed substances, when used incorrectly, can alter the mind and become addictive and even destructive:
Proverbs 22:21 Drowsiness will clothe a man with rags. Later, it bites like a snake and strikes like a poisonous snake….Your eyes will see strange sights and your mouth will say embarrassing things
The Bible is full of warnings when it comes to intoxication and mind altering substances. Ultimately, God specifically wants us to keep our minds and hearts clear – clear of chatter, clutter, anxiety, and yes, substances that could inhibit His Spirit. Marijuana, when used incorrectly, can be spiritually destructive and physically intoxicating. It is not, however, a ‘gateway drug,’ it is not linked to death or injury (Understanding Marijuana: A New Look At Scientific Evidence, pg. 49-50) and when used correctly can change peoples lives for the better. If you are considering cannabis as an alternative treatment, it is important to educate yourself, speak to a trusted physician, and always dose correctly.
Matthew 15:11 It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.
Kymberlee Smith is a writer by day, musician by night, and still finds time to knit sweaters for her dog, Dexter. She is passionate about educating herself and others in regards to cannabinoids and hopes to be a voice in rebranding them along with other alternative methods for medicine. Follow her on Twitter @kymsmithter