By Kymberlee Smith
Cannabis: You’ve heard of it, you’ve seen it, you may have even used it at some point in your life. There is a lot of controversy about both recreational and medical marijuana use. This topic can feel particularly heavy in the Christian world, especially when it can seem unclear about what is right and what is wrong. There is growing evidence that medical marijuana can treat or aid in the treatment of a wide variety of diseases and conditions. Adversely, lines in the Bible can seem blurred, and contradicting standards are being taught from different pulpits all over the nation.
If you have never been in a situation where you’ve needed to weigh medical marijuana as an option to treat a medical condition, it can be easy to jump to conclusions about the plant and what it is. Because of the negative social stigma using cannabis can have, Christians in particular can be prone to shy away from considering the use of marijuana in place of or in addition to pharmaceuticals. But what do you do if you -or a loved one – needs to be treated for something like chronic pain, PTSD, or cancer? What happens if they experience adverse effects of the prescribed medication, and need to find an alternative route?
When people hear “marijuana,” they often associate it with smoking pot or eating weed brownies to get high. This is simply not always the case, and as efforts are moving forward in medical cannabis use, we are learning more about this plant and why it is being met with so much success as a medicine. As Christians, this can be a tricky line to walk. There are dozens of Bible verses warning about intoxication:
1 Peter 5:8 KJV “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour.”
1 Corinthians 3:16 ESV “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
These solemn warnings are enough to make many Christians turn away from the intoxicating effects of marijuana. Before ruling it out completely, it’s important to understand what cannabis is and how it can be used when treating a medical condition.
Cannabis carries over 85 “cannabinoids” (another word for the different chemical compounds unique to cannabis). The exact number varies as research is still being conducted, and we are learning new things about the plant every day. There are a handful of cannabinoids that have been studied quite in depth, however, and have been found to be notably successful in treating a variety of ailments. You may have heard of the chemical compounds THC and CBD. They are the two most popular and well-researched cannabinoids found in the plant so far. What is surprising to some is that scientists have been able to isolate the cannabinoids and study them in great detail, individually. Because of this, we know that THC is the cannabinoid directly responsible for intoxication, whereas CBD has no known side effects. This is important especially for people who want the benefits that marijuana can offer, without getting the high. Many people find it shocking that not all cannabis and cannabis treatments will have intoxicating effects. This is because not all cannabinoids were created equal.
There are a wide variety of options available when it comes to administering cannabinoids. CBD oil, for example, can not only be used orally but topically as well. This is beneficial when treating a localized area (for things like chronic pain from arthritis or certain skin conditions). Because the layers of the skin are naturally resistant to cannabinoids, the CBD cannot enter the bloodstream (that is, unless you are using something like a transdermal patch, which are specially formulated to pass through the skin and circulate the system). CBD topicals stay right where you put it, meaning all benefit, no intoxication.
But what does God say about marijuana use? Not much, actually, which adds to the confusion regarding the plant. There are some Bible verses that may allude to the use of cannabis, however it is still met with apprehension by many Christians because these verses can be interpreted a multitude of ways. “It’s a natural herb,” Pastor John states. “It’s something that God put here on earth. Weed in a controlled environment…has a lot of benefits and a lot of opportunity to help people.” Pastor John is careful to warn, however, “…I know the world of alcohol and drugs can lead people to hell, and people can go through hell, and I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with addiction.”
And this may, in fact, be the key. The intoxication and, in severe cases, dependancy that can come with certain forms of cannabis use is one of the biggest reasons for controversy among Christians. The Bible warns over and over against intoxication, losing self control, and inhibiting the Holy Spirit. Although marijuana is never mentioned specifically, it is safe to assume that verses referncing alcohol abuse can also be translated over to any substance that has the power to intoxicate or inhibit the Spirit. However, the main caution in these verses typically point to excess consumption:
“…be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 KJV
Alternatively, some verses seem to encourage wine in moderation:
“Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.” 1 Timothy 5:23 NIV
“Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” Ecclesiastes 9:7 NIV
These may seem contradictory, when in reality this is simply a case of how anything (like wine) can be used for evil or good. We see many examples of that throughout the written Word. This is what Pastor John clarifies further when he says (regarding marijuana), “I want to be careful about saying it’s okay for everyone. Some people can handle a glass of wine, some people cannot.” He says this, stressing the importance of moderation if you decide to treat with medical marijuana.
The takeaway from this is, there can definitely be potential spiritual risks with using the herb. “Evil personified is in the world of drugs and alcohol, and I’ve seen a lot of people throw away their lives for that,” Pastor John warns. If you decide that medical marijuana is the right option for you, it’s important to exercise caution, as it is with any drug: “…it’s no different than giving someone Ativan, or SSRI inhibitors, or Prozac…” He continued, “Do it carefully.” Bottom line is to educate yourself, consult your doctor, always dose correctly, and, most importantly, do what you feel is right for you.
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