Cannabis and Christianity – My Favorite Bible Verses

Christianity and Cannabis


For some, the words cannabis and Christianity go together about as well as oil and water. When many Christians hear that their brothers and sisters in Christ use cannabis, either medicinally or casually, they tend to twist up their faces in horror and wonder, “How can someone who uses cannabis call themselves a Christian?”

Why is this?

Well, for starters, ever since the early to mid-1900s, cannabis has become “substance non grata” here in the States when it was placed on the Schedule I drug list (which means that it is considered both a highly addictive and non-medicinal substance) back in 1970. Ever since, nearly everyone has simply bought the line that cannabis is all bad, all of the time.

Sure, some opinions on cannabis are beginning to change. Especially as more and more studies are being done to reveal the incredible medicinal properties of cannabis-derived substances like CBD – or cannabidiol – which has been found to relieve anxiety and reduce epileptic seizures, among other things.

Still, the phenomenon of supporting or denouncing something based on one’s own moral compass is, historically speaking, very unique to our time and place. Dr. Carl Raschke, professor of religious studies at the University of Denver, explains why:

In ancient Judea and Christianity, the focus wasn’t on the substance itself, but how it was used. This legalistic approach of forbidding some substances was a late development. It’s not an ethical issue but a legal one. In America, we’ve decided cannabis should be a Schedule I drug for whatever reason, but we didn’t have those reasons before the 1930s.

To that end, I guess my question is this: “How can we go about changing our minds about this issue? And further, should we?” Because, if we’re being completely honest, this business of making illegal the substances we find objectionable is simply not working. And for my money, much of this problem comes down to how we are approaching our Bibles.

That is to say, many of us are looking to prohibit what we already believe to be evil, and are cherry-picking the Scriptures in order to justify our stance. And so, I would suggest we are long overdue for a change.

With this in mind, here are my 5 favorite biblical passages that I believe can help us to rethink our position on cannabis:

For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, provided it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:4

I can almost hear the rebuttal from anti-cannabis Christians: “You are taking this verse out of context!” Well, in the most explicit sense, yes, this verse isn’t about cannabis per se. It’s about marriage and abstaining from certain foods.

These matters were, among a few other ones, the hot-button issues within Christendom during the first few centuries. However, the spirit of the passage can no doubt be applied to the issues we are dealing with in today’s world. Indeed, no matter what we try to take away from folks, no matter how we try to coerce others into abstaining from certain substances, just as the writer of 1 Timothy says,

God created everything and everything God created is good and if we say otherwise, we render ourselves hypocritical. 1 Timothy 4:2

It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles. Matthew 15:11

This passage makes if fairly obvious that Jesus wasn’t so much interested in what foods people eat or what substances enter their bodies, rather, he was interested in what comes out of our mouths and how we treat others. What enters the body, according to Jesus, simply goes into the stomach and then out into the sewer. End of story.

What comes out of the mouth, however, comes from the heart. And if the heart is oriented toward evil things—murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander—then the person is defiled. In short, it’s a matter of the heart, not an issue over what a particular person chooses to consume.

God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.Genesis 1:29

Now, this verse obviously doesn’t mention using cannabis per se. However, CBD oil – which is derived from hemp rather than cannabis—can be ingested by tincture, in a capsule, and even rubbed onto the skin as a balm or salve. And it has been shown to help people in a variety of ways—to reduce inflammation, anxiety, and so on. Perhaps this is why all the plants, according to the first Genesis story, are called “very good.”

All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are beneficial. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything. 1 Corinthians 6:12

Great advice, am I right? The problem, of course, is that we have to have personal responsibility when it comes to anything we do, including what we put into our bodies. This can be a challenging task, but it also allows for us to not have to concern ourselves with what others are doing. We don’t have to judge them should they choose to do something that we don’t find beneficial in our own lives. It’s strictly about us, and since we know ourselves better than anyone else (other than God), it’s up to us to figure out what does and does not dominate our lives. If cannabis does, then it’s best to avoid it. If it does not, then it’s lawful.

I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. Romans 14:14

In other words: Nothing is inherently bad, but if you think it is, then it essentially is. Again, there is a huge emphasis on personal responsibility here. For Paul, because of his revelation of Christ, he came to realize that everything is good, that nothing is “unclean” in and of itself. But, on the other hand, he still had empathy for those who disagreed with him. So, his solution was to not put his freedom in Christ in people’s faces. As the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

All that said, my goal here is not necessarily to change anyone’s personal stance on the issue of cannabis use. My hope is to get people to realize it’s not up to them what others do with their bodies; it’s up to each one of us to figure out whether things are beneficial—whether they lift us and others up in love—or whether they are harmful, and then act accordingly.

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Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano
Matthew J. Distefano blogs for the Progressive Christian channel on Patheos. He is the author of 4 books, including 2 Amazon best sellers, and co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour podcast. He lives in Chico, Ca with his wife and daughter.

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