What do you think about marijuana?
The days of D. A. R. E. and “Just Say No” passed us by a long time ago. I myself grew pretty cynical about drug abuse prevention for a while as a high school student. I found myself disturbed that the same kids who wore red ribbons to advocate against drug abuse in elementary school could not endure an entire day of high school without using LSD (a still often used drug at my high school during my time there). The reality of having friends numbering in the double digits who needed drug rehab shocked me out of cynicism to a place of real concern for young people. Not one of my friends meant to become a heroin addict or anything similar. Even so, it happened.
So what about marijuana again?
For many of us, it brings up associations with a sort of counterculture and certain classic rock albums. For a time, I think such descriptions fit. As with “Just Say No” such a time came and went.
While most of us counted House and Senate seats won and lost by Republicans and Democrats in a bid to stay informed, four crucial votes took place in four states. Marijuana measures featured on the 2018 midterm ballots of Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah. Michigan became the first midwestern state to legalize recreational marijuana. The citizens of Missouri and Utah voted to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes in their states.
North Dakota voted down a measure to legalize recreational marijuana.
Note the map below:
Let’s ponder a few points, shall we?
1. Note the geographical distribution of recreational legality against the states with broad medical legalization. Outside of Michigan and Alaska, we might chortle to ourselves. Of course the Northeast and the West have recreational pot. Those places are just crawling with Democrats. However, we cannot so think when we view the places with broad medical legalization. West Virginia, Florida, and Ohio all have some form of legal medical marijuana. Additionally, so does every state bordering Texas. I write mainly for people residing in South Carolina. If Arkansas will legalize medical marijuana, do we honestly think we will find ourselves exempt from dealing with the same issue?
2. North Dakota voted down recreational use of marijuana; however, the state did not vote it down for moral reasons. Look again at the explanation provided in The New York Times. The proposal “was too open-ended.” Lack of clarity on regulations torpedoed the bill, not a moral argument against intentionally clouding one’s mind. I suspect the lack of regulation has something to do with the state not receiving enough tax revenue from the sale of the product.
3. If a state in the USA has religious influences, Utah wins the prize. The LDS church shrank in numbers a few years ago; however, the trend reversed. Over 62% of Utahns identify with the Mormon faith. While the LDS church teaches anti-Trinitarian heresy, they traditionally practice a morality in line with conservative Western norms. If a religious group known for its morality did not or could not stop something seen as traditionally immoral (such as use of marijuana), we need to key in on a changing (or changed) moral norm.
Recently, I heard a pastor from Colorado remark, “If your state does not have some form of legal marijuana, you need to get ready. It’s coming.” I think he’s right.
Rather than list a long and tortuous piece of prose about the sinfulness of marijuana usage (I believe it is), I think it more prudent to supply some talking points to use with teenagers and other believers who may think legalization of marijuana renders its usage moral.
1. What do you seek to gain by using marijuana?
I would expect an answer like “relaxation” or “relief.” However, I would challenge the individual who answers in such a way on the point. Relief from what, specifically? Does anything external help that person relax? As a general rule, folks who stress about things will find something to stress over. In my own experience, people who drink to relax do not actually relax while drinking. They only lower their inhibitions to express their stress on various matters. As someone who attended school with plenty of individuals who came to school stoned on marijuana and various other drugs, I generally saw the following: people who were jerks remained so whether they had marijuana or not. No jerk I knew ever became a laid back individual from doing drugs.
2. Do you understand what the drug will do to you?
While not all marijuana users smoke the drug, many still do. I have heard from multiple people that marijuana smoke does not harm lungs. Man, it just doesn’t. When the American Lung Association or some similar body produces empirical evidence in support of a non-harmful marijuana smoke, I will believe. Right now, they claim the contrary. Their research mainly has its basis on the fact that burning things in one’s lungs do not promote good respiratory function. Furthermore, in a day in which we distrust all sorts of additives in food and beverages, do we really want to add more chemicals to our bodies?
3. Who stands to benefit from its legalization?
What made marijuana cool in the potential users eyes anyway? Just like with tobacco companies in the mid-twentieth century, opportunists look to profiteer off the cool factor marijuana has. On top of that, state governments seem willing to forgo health concerns in order to generate tax revenue. You can quote me on this later: the tax revenue generated by marijuana will result in no substantive improvements to public education, infrastructure, compensation and equipping of emergency service personnel, or poverty relief. Does the potential user want to become a sales target? We can hardly call succumbing to marketing and peer pressures autonomy or rebellion. The consumer will not benefit, even in the warped ways he or she might intend. No, peddlers will benefit from marijuana legalization.
4. Why cloud your mind?
Scripture commands us to possess sober minds (1 Peter 5:8), and I’m fairly certain that means we should not add to the swirling confusion around us. In a day of irreconcilable claims by every media outlet, doctored video footage, and never ceasing busyness, do we need something else to obscure our vision and fog our minds?
American Christians let too many issues like gay marriage and matters of transgender identity sneak up on them, thinking they would never have to face such things. Let’s learn from our past mistakes there and lead forward on this one.