Special interest groups are throwing around millions of dollars of secret money to drag each others’ candidates through the mud.
Probably the most interesting issue of the upcoming election is marijuana. It’s just a shame that only a fraction of the population gets to vote on it. Because, unlike most of the races for public office, the majority of Americans have a strong opinion about pot.
Some are convinced it should be legalized and regulated, thus increasing our freedom, freeing up cops to focus on violent crimes, and freeing up jail cells to house those criminals. Some are convinced it should remain banned, to prevent society from degenerating into a stupefying Cheech-and-Chong-take-the-Pineapple-Express reality.
Pick your poison… because both options are fraught with peril. Laws against pot obviously don’t keep people from growing it, selling it, and smoking it. And repealing those laws won’t eliminate the black market or drug-related crime (especially if those laws aren’t repealed nation-wide.)
But for the purposes of this post, I’m more interested in the moral and spiritual implications staring us in the face. In other words, how do Christians see it?
I hope we can all agree that the question of morality and legality are connected, but separate. Just because something is morally wrong doesn’t mean it should be illegal. As long as we’re not infringing upon others’ legal rights, sometimes the state needs to let us make our own mistakes, and deal with our own consequences. So let’s start by looking at the moral pro-con, and go from there.
First, you’ve got your Christians who think smoking pot is a sin. This is usually for one of two reasons: a) they believe the Bible somehow defines it as such, and would say the same about tobacco, or b) they believe it is a sin only because it’s illegal. These Christians, if pressed, would admit that, they don’t think it’s inherently a sin. Nevertheless, many of them hate marijuana, and are certain that the Bible would have Thou Shalt Notted it, if it had existed in biblical times.
Second are the Christians who just believe that the government got this one wrong. They’re not at all likely to be pot-heads if they believe in treating their bodies as Temples of the Holy Spirit, and for this reason may forgo smoking entirely. They’re even less likely to be growers or sellers, if their good standing within the community is a spiritual issue to them (not to mention their aversion to prison.)
If we look back at the first group, I’m actually not worried about sub-group (a), because I really don’t know how to reason with them. Even though Scripture behooves us to treat our bodies well, that cannot be leveraged as a ban on smoking, drinking, or consuming any particular substance, even if it’s mind- or mood-altering (think coffee.) So sub-group (a) is out, for purposes of this post.
The real discussion here, I think, is with group 1(b). Up to this point, the law has been a nice cushion for these folks… It’s wrong because it’s illegal. This is easy to explain to the kids: “You don’t want to go to jail, do you?” If the ban were lifted, it would force them to wrestle with the reality of cannabis in a new way.
So now the question becomes, how does God view one substance over another? Mormons have a caffeine ban, which you may find ridiculous, but as a mind- and mood-altering substance, you have to admit, the ban has some logic to it. But if you’re not Mormon, or are not otherwise opposed to the consumption of caffeinated tea, soda, or energy drinks, how do you divide it all up? What if you could set all these substances in front of you, removing all cultural bias, and move the prohibited stuff to the left, and the permitted stuff to the right? (Ignoring for the moment whether the substance is organic, fair trade, etc.)
Almost all foods and juices would go on the right, although New Yorkers would exclude the trans-fats. And we’d all put the deadly poisons on the left. We could perhaps remove the prescription drugs from the table, putting them in a box and letting your doctor make that call.
So now you’re left with the non-juice beverages, the smoking substances, and the illegal drugs (which are not actually illegal in this scenario.) You might easily move things like cocaine and heroin to the left. But I think if you move alcohol to the right, you have to move tobacco with it. And wherever tobacco goes, marijuana must go, based purely on the danger level, and addictive power. Honestly, I could see some people moving tobacco to the left, and marijuana to the right.
This might sound like a lot of unnecessary hair-splitting, but if California passes Proposition 19, lifting the ban on marijuana, a lot of this thinking will become necessary. It’s one thing to live in a country where a substance is illegal in every state. It’s another thing to be able to take a road trip on an American highway to a place where you can buy a pack of joints at a roadside gas-station, or light up a doobie in a cannabis cafe.
That’ll mess with your morality… so you might as well deal with it now.
P.S. To enjoy what I consider to be the second-half of this post (written by my friend Rob), please read the 3rd comment below.