Don’t Call the Pot Black

Special interest groups are throwing around millions of dollars of secret money to drag each others’ candidates through the mud.

Proposition 19
...or is it?

But California might LEGALIZE POT!

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 And repealing those laws won’t eliminate the black market or drug-related crime (especially if those laws aren’t repealed nation-wide.)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.

15 thoughts on “Don’t Call the Pot Black

  1. As far as legalizing marijuana is concerned, I don’t understand how California can vote to do that.
    The law that currently declares marijuana as an illegal substance is a federal law, and federal laws trump state laws which means the only thing California can really do is decriminalize the use of marijuana rather than actually legalize it.

    1. Decriminalization would mean the state employed police/law enforcement agencies would no longer arrest/prosecute/etc. citizens for the possession of marijuana. Federal law enforcers/law enforcement agencies, on the other hand, could still arrest and prosecute people for possession of marijuana.

      If it were to be legalized, federal and state law enforcers/law enforcement agencies could not arrest anyone in possession of marijuana because it wouldn’t be illegal.

      A state cannot make a law that is in direct opposition of a federal law. They can choose to no longer view something, such as possession of marijuana, as a criminal act, but they can not legalize something that has a federal law against it.

  2. I have always viewed pot as something that should be legal. I would smoke it if it was. But like anything, the moral considerations should be as follows:

    1. If anything you use will inhibit your relationships or duties, it should be avoided.

    This was a difficult point for me when it came to alcohol and my relationship with my parents. They do not think that the bible views alcohol as inherently wrong, but they don’t drink it and did not approve of me drinking. At the point when I began drinking, I didn’t care as much what they think. However, my views are radically different now and I greatly respect the advice they give to me. As we talked about it and they saw proof (by my grades, friends, and involvement in the university and community) that I was not hindered by this recreational and relational endeavor, we reached an understanding. They still don’t really drink, and I brew my own beer now, but we are at peace. I have great respect for those who do not drink because God has told them not to due to unique situations.

    2. If anything cause one of the least of these to stumble, be free of it.

    My friends have encountered many struggles and problems through the use of marijuana. I would never tempt them (if they had quit) or encourage them (if they continue to bring consequences upon themselves) by smoking pot with them. However, if someone says that smoking is wrong and sinful, in general, then that is room for discussion. I should not have to give something up that is safe and enjoyable and alright with God because someone else said i should. There are many examples of things people have told me, “As a fellow Christian” that need not be thrown out, and it would be weak and foolish of me to simply follow their guidance when it does not reconcile with what God has made known to me, through scripture and prayer. All this said, we must be sensitive to Gods voice through those around us. Sensitive and discerning, to know our Shepard’s voice, and not to follow any who speak “in His name.”

    3. If we are unwilling to give it up, we must give it up.

    In other words, something may not be inherently wrong (the rich young ruler’s wealth) but if we only seek God in order to keep it, and walk away sadly when he asks us to give it up, then we are in sin. This is something God has laid heavily on me lately and something that is at the core of our salvation and service to God. I would abstain from drinking if God asked me to. I will not do it to prove to others that I can, and God has not asked me to yet, so I brew beer in my basement and freely enjoy alcohol with good friends when time allows and the situation is appropriate. Singing well is not a sin. There was a time, however, that it became an activity of pride and distraction in worship. My convictions lead me to sing out of tune on purpose. This was an incredibly humbling experience and God worked in that humility and brought me closer to Himself through worship than I had ever been. I now am able to use the talent God has given me freely and without distraction, because He has taught my heart to worship. This obedience over burnt offerings idea is clear in scripture and brings us into true worship in all of our actions.

    That’s my two cents, or better yet, that’s my dimebag.

  3. I don’t know if you can always have a left and right list for what you can consume. I am being foolish if I consume caffiene or much sugar after 3pm. My usual sleep problems are highly aggravated if I do. I feel like I am much more likely to show impatience to others, and be in a miserable mood for most of the day if I don’t watch my sleep.

    I imagine everyone has to make those choices based on things like cholesterol test results, addictive tendencies…etc…

    I don’t have a problem with smoking but wouldn’t want to on a continual basis because of the health risks. Wieghing out risks probably applies to many substances (and activities).

    I don’t know much about marijuana to make the same judgements I have made of other stuff.

  4. Caleb… your criteria are important to consider, although I was really talking more about dividing up what is moral to eat, from what is immoral. I believe that can vary from one individual to the next, but it’s a separate issue from the consideration of what is healthy or unhealthy, or what is smart or dumb.

    1. Maybe you understand more about what I was saying than I think. I think those lists arn’t as important as many see them and I fear these lists can make us think that as long as it’s on the “consumable” list then I can breath a sigh of relieve and not worry about the when/where, instead of learning to make wise choices in everything (as Rob put it). On the other hand, maybe others aren’t as brainless as I have been with those lists. You are right that there often is a distinction between what is healthy/stupid/unhealthy/smart and what is right/wrong. I guess I was using my eating guidelines because they could be used to explain how one could weigh out their own guidlines for more serious issues. But I don’t think I am stretching, maybe I am, by saying that much of what we put in the right/wrong category comes from what is often dumb/unhealthy (maybe we place only the dumb, dumb, dumb stuff or reeaallllly unhealthy stuff in the category of wrong)

      1. One fact that muddies the water: It’s right to be wise, and wrong to be foolish. But because some things are wise at one moment, and foolish at another moment (like whether you’re drinking caffeine before 3 pm, or after) you can’t attach a label of “sin” or “righteousness” to that particular activity. All you can say is whether you’ve made a wise or foolish decision. Once you’ve decided, then you can determine whether you’ve sinned or not. But in issues like this, you have to let the question of wise/foolish (or in other cases, legal/illegal) be the “middle man” of sorts, and make sure not to attach the sin label directly to the things you eat, drink or smoke.

        Remember how Jesus said that it’s not what goes into the body that makes us unclean, but what comes out (meaning our words and actions.)

  5. All very true. I just read this and my thoughts went to those (including myself) who have often “enjoyed” something on the okay to partake of list without realizing that you have to use discretion. Maybe I was too critical of the lists you were describing. But I see the bible, as I believe it applies today, as not so much giving lists about what we can and can’t drink, eat, enjoy or who can marry and not marry and a million other things we might put into lists; but it does talk about eating without gluttony and drinking without getting drunk and marrying or living alone while applying certain principles. (although verses that talk about submitting to authorities and parents would cause us to put some items into lists). I think we are both discussing sister principles. I hope I haven’t gotten too far off your original post.

  6. I appreciate this disscusion considering I’ve believed both views at different times in life. Instead of commenting I’ll just throw out some questions. What about the issue of stewarding our money well? If it is not what goes into our body that makes us unclean but what comes out, does that make the exhaled smoke unclean? How should we look at our holiness (being set apart, not conforming to this world) with stuff like this, even alcohol and tobacco?

    There’s more to ask, but I’ll leave it at that.

  7. Those are good questions. If the inhaled smoke is “clean”, but the exhaled is unclean, I guess that makes the breather of second-hand smoke the real sinner, huh? (Wait… except it’s not unclean when it enters the second body, either. So then the third-hand smoke is unclean. Forget this.)

    But still good questions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *