Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound extracted from cannabis. However, unlike THC (the other major compound contained in cannabis plants), CBD does not ‘get you high’ or have any intoxicating or psychoactive effects. In other words, CBD oil is not a ‘drug’ in the street sense. Quite the opposite; studies have shown that CBD oil is a natural remedy and that it is safe, with virtually no side-effects or addictive qualities. For example, CBD oil has been shown to be an effective medicine or treatment for a number of diseases, disorders, and ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, inflammation and arthritis, aging skin, and nausea. It has also been shown to be an effective treatment or adjunct treatment for mental disorders such as different forms of anxiety, depression, and even ADHD.
Even though CBD oil is derived from cannabis, and therefore carries the stigma of ‘marijuana,’ the states in America ranked as the “most Christian” have embraced the use of CBD as a medication. The “most Christian” states, according to one poll, are mostly concentrated in regions: in the South, the ‘Bible Belt’ states of Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, dominated by Southern Baptists; in the Midwest, where the bulk of Christians identify as Lutheran or Catholic, the most religious states are Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska; in the West, the two most religious states are Utah, where more than half the state’s population is Mormon, and Idaho, where Mormons make up the majority but alongside significant populations of Baptists and Catholics; and in the Northeast, the most religious states are Massachusetts and Pennsylvania where most church-goers are Catholic.
Utah, where over half of the state’s population is Mormon, is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s most religious states, if not the most religious. Utah was also the first state in the country to legalize CBD oil. On March 11, 2014, the Utah State Senate unanimously passed the bill, and on March 25, Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed it into law. Gov. Herbert said at the time, “Cannabis oils show promise of offering some relief to Utahns suffering from seizures and epilepsy and we should do all we can to help them.”
Utah’s neighboring state, Idaho, only recently legalized CBD oil. In 2015, Idaho Governor Butch Otter vetoed a bill passed by the Idaho State Senate which would have legalized medicinal CBD oil in the state. At the time Gov. Otter wrote that he “believes the outcomes of patients using the oil are more speculative than scientific and that there were too many questions posed by the bill to allow it to become law.” Two years later, Rep. Brent Crane, Idaho’s Assistant House Majority Leader, stated that he is confident that a new bill to legalize CBD oil would eventually pass in Idaho: “If you were to take a vote on cannabidiol oil, I think it probably would pass.” Rep. Crane’s predictions appear to have been accurate; the Idaho State Senate passed a bill later that year that will legalize the use of CBD oil, although with heavy restrictions on THC content.
Along with Idaho, another of the nation’s “most Christian” states also only legalized CBD oil in 2017. South Dakota is especially adamant about not legalizing medicinal marijuana in their state. However, instead of a direct legislation, the South Dakota legislature used a ‘loophole’ bill to legalize CBD in their state. In 2017 South Dakota State Senate passed a bill that excluded CBD oil from the state’s definition of ‘marijuana,’ therefore making CBD exempt from the South Dakota’s ardent anti-marijuana laws and CBD use became implicitly legal. Despite using different methods, both Idaho and South Dakota paved ways to legalize CBD in their states in 2017.
Of the country’s “most Christian” states listed originally, CBD oil remains illegal in only one: North Dakota. In May 2017, North Dakota police targeted stores selling cannabidiol and CBD oil was removed from North Dakota shelves. During this ‘raid,’ a shop-owner in McKenzie County, North Dakota was prosecuted for selling “products showed that they contained cannabidiol, or CBD.” The district judge, who is insisting the case go to trial, stated simply, “CBD found in the items tested in this case are illegal under North Dakota law.” McKenzie County’s sheriff told reporters, “It’s the state’s position that if it’s not from a mature [cannabis] stalk … it’s a controlled substance. What it boils down to is interpretation of North Dakota law and where the CBD came from on the plant.” The case has yet to go to trial although the district judge is still insistent that it will.
That CBD oil, despite being derived from cannabis, is legal in all but one of the nation’s most religious states might be shocking to some people. However, it could easily be argued that the legalization and use of medicinal CBD is perfectly in-line with Christian morality. Throughout the New Testament, Jesus was a compassionate healer and urged others to do the same. For example,
“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:14, NIV)
Compassion and the desire the heal the afflicted are essential to Christianity.
The Bible also speaks of holy anointing oils and burning incense being used, which some believe may have been cannabis:
“Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.” (Exodus 30:25, NIV)
The “sacred anointing oil,” as the verse says, was a blend made up at least four separate herbs. One of these ingredients used by the Israelites is usually rendered in English translations as “aromatic cane” (or something similarly vague). However, Jane Marcus at the Huffington Post points out that some scholars believe that this “aromatic cane” may have been a form of cannabis. For example, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, in The Living Torah, writes “that some sources identify [the Hebrew words translated as] ‘fragrant cane’ … with the English and Greek word ‘cannabis,’ referring to the hemp plant.” Marcus also adds, “The Ben Yehuda Hebrew-English Dictionary, written by Eliezer Ben Yehuda, the father of modern Hebrew, defines the Hebrew word ‘kanabos’ as hemp, a botanical relative of marijuana.” In her article, Jane Marcus concludes,
“The ancients had no problem using this plant along with other healing herbs and medicinal plants. Perhaps it was because of its many potentially healing properties that they chose to invest this particular plant with holiness by blending it into the sacred oil.”
Finally, there are Christians who interpret a passage in the Book of Revelation as referring to or even being fulfilled by the modern use medicinal cannabis.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” (Revelation 11:1–2, NIV)
Whether literal or metaphor, the cannabis plant—and especially the CBD oil derived from it—do seem to fit these verses well.
Trevor Antley is a writer, editor, and historian. He was raised in Louisiana but has lived most of last ten years in Utah. He studied history, classical languages, and editing at Brigham Young University. He can be reached on Twitter, Facebook, or his personal website TrevorAntley.com.