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In July, I traveled to Los Angeles and took a drive down near San Luis Obispo to be the guest on Christian television show Real Hope with Briane Dennison. The former police-chief-turned-television host invited me to talk about CBD oil, GodsGreenery.com, and the changing face of culture. When I got into Los Angeles, a billboard greeted me. Perched right on the top of a major hotel, it featured a scarlet red background with a familiar seven-blade leaf in the center. The marijuana leaf was bright white, and the block font underneath read “Welcome to the New Normal.”
Twenty-three years ago in 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana use. In the two decades since, 32 more states have joined decriminalized marijuana for medical use (although some states limit it more than others). Eleven states – Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington – have laws that allow for the recreational use of marijuana. Vermont’s law even allows people 21 years and older to grow and possess small amounts of cannabis.
Many marijuana advocacy groups are pushing hard for marijuana to be declassified as a controlled substance, and some say the first step toward that came when President Trump signed the 2018 Farm Bill, which took industrial hemp, cannabis that contains only trace amounts or no high-producing THC, off the Schedule 1 list.
American culture is moving at a rapid pace towards accepting marijuana as a good option for some medical conditions and even for a plain, old good time. Change is coming. You may not like it. You may not agree with it. But it’s here. Now, as a Christ follower, what are you going to do?
As believers in Christ, how are we supposed to feel about this? How do we talk about it? Is marijuana straight from hell itself, or did God create this plant too and intend for it to have any at all uses by the humans He also created?
No matter where you fall in the debate, as a Christ follower you should become educated as fully as you can about the subject and all of its nuances. Not just “your” side. Only when you examine the whole subject, not just your own viewpoint, can you intelligently enter the cultural conversation. Take the time to hear the stories, read the scientific and medical studies, learn the differences between recreational and medical use, know what hemp is vs. marijuana, understand what CBD is and how it differs from THC. Only then are you likely to have your views heard by those who believe differently than you, instead of being labeled one of those “narrow, judgmental Christians.”
The dialogue is happening. Everywhere. At local, state, and federal legislative levels. Among doctor’s offices and big pharmaceutical companies. On Wall Street. In financial firms and the banking industry. Among law enforcement officials and local schools. Among family members and friends.
You may have loved ones who have struggled with substance abuse and addiction. You may have struggled yourself. You have seen what addiction can do to bodies, finances, lives, families, and children. The opioid crisis in this country is staggering and absolutely heartbreaking. Yet many Christians take pain pills after surgeries or major accidents. Are prescription medicines, which are mostly derived from parts of plants and animals or designed artificially to mimic what a plant or animal part can do, spiritually wrong? Diet sugars, like aspartame and sucralose, are chemicals that alter our bodies too. Should they be off the list of approved items a Christ follower can ingest?
This Friday, I will be in Las Vegas speaking at the Religion News Association’s annual conference. The panel I am on will discuss in front of a room full of religion newswriters the subject of religious responses to drug policy changes. I can’t wait to join this thoughtful conversation and take a look at how believers can engage with cultural changes.
I don’t have all the answers. I can’t give you a list of “recommended items” to stay away from. I can only tell you this: I desperately want people to know my Jesus. I believe, in this post-millennial age, that people are begging for connection and community. I know they are longing for love and acceptance.
And I know that I know that I know Jesus loves them so much that He died a horrible, painful death for them. He advocates for them in Heaven right now. He sings over them. His Holy Spirit collects every tear they have ever shed in a diamond bottle. Every single one of them.
From the homeless addict who begs you for a dollar in front of the convenience store to the multi-millionaire who looks like she has everything going for her, if you follow Christ you are called to love them. To engage with them. To form relationships and eat meals and talk about stuff. Including the hard stuff. Including marijuana.
If a young adult struggling to find his identity, drowning in student loans, entering a job market that may not want him finds a sense of calm in the midst of his panic by smoking marijuana, is he sinning? Or is he trying to cope? If, as a Christian, I did not condemn his marijuana use or dismiss him outright because of it but instead got to know him and ask why he uses it and how it makes his life better, wouldn’t he do the same for me? Might not he allow me to share something about my life? Then I could tell him about how Jesus makes me feel and how surrendering my life to Him makes my life better.
In relationship, we can connect. And talk. And share. And love. I’m not telling you to accept marijuana. I’m telling you to accept people. I’m suggesting you learn instead of avoiding and speak with knowledge so you can be heard in a culture that needs the love of Christ.
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