Christians and Smoking Pot

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Have read quite a bit in the past week on the topic of legalizing marijuana and have come to a some conclusions I will share.
1. Within a short time, marijuana will be legal as a recreational drug in California.
2. Pastors who use Romans 13:1-7 (believers must submit to the laws of their government if they do not conflict with Scripture) as an out, will no longer have that option.
3. There is a significant difference of intention between having a drink, and smoking a joint.
4. When I picture Jesus having a relaxing time with his apostles, I could see him having some wine, bread, and meat. I can’t picture him having some hits, bread, and meat.

I will grant that number 4 is probably influenced by personal life experiences, the fact that I am no longer 25, and my generally conservative world views. But, I will also give you reasons I have come the conclusion that recreational use of marijuana is not a path you want to head down.

I remember as a young man playing games with a circle of friends who were all smoking weed. I would often find it amusing how they would have these long lapses of awareness. Just staring off at nothing, and then having a fit of laughter. Not hysterical mind you, but rather relaxed chuckling as if they were in on a joke that I was clueless about. Over a period of several months, I too began to smoke pot and noticed the effects first hand. Two things stand out in my memory, at least from what I can clearly recall. One was the lost sense of time. I would often be surprised by the amount time that had passed while hanging out with my friends and we were high. Many times I would look at the clock and an hour or two had passed, while I thought it was only a matter of 15 or 20 minutes.

The other was a chess game I played in my head. I used to play chess every week and was a pretty decent player. I could plan 3 or 4 moves ahead and would generally win more games than I lost. I remember walking home late one night after having smoked some weed and then playing a game of chess in my head. I was amazed how I was able to plan 6, 8 or even 10 moves ahead, both sides mind you. Remember, this was a game I was playing in my head. I remember thinking that I would have to play some time while I was stoned, and that I would cream some of the best chess players around. Next morning I recalled the game in my head during the walk home. Try as I might I could not recall all those moves, not even a small fraction of them. It was then, I realized, first hand, that what I thought was an enhanced, awe-inspiring state of mind, was actually a drugged stupor that had an illusion of brilliance.

What is your reason for smoking a joint? What is your reason for having a beer? Everyone who has a beer does not have the intention of getting drunk, but everyone who is smoking a joint has the intention of getting high. Is it just semantics when we discuss the difference between having a beer to relax, and having a joint to get high, (a form of relaxation)? I don’t think so. I have had beer with pizza over the years many times without any intention of getting drunk. In fact, the last time I intentionally drank to get drunk was over 25 years ago at a bachelor party. Every time I smoked a joint, it was my intention to get high.

THC is the molecule of tetrahydrocannabinol, or the main mind-altering ingredient found in the Cannabis plant. It works by activating the reward system and releases dopamine, like most abused drugs do. If you read my last blog post, Sex is Better with Drugs, you learned something about dopamine.

THC also interferes with the communication between neurons within the brain. Science has been researching new drugs that will have the medicinal properties of medical marijuana, but reduce the addictive traits. Some research is looking at the brain’s natural cannabinoid system to treat chronic pain, obesity and some mental health conditions. I personally believe that some may have legitimate medical reasons for smoking marijuana, but it is something that should not be flaunted or bragged about.

Women who are pregnant certainly should not use marijuana. Research has shown that women who used marijuana had babies that had different responses to visual stimuli compared to babies whose mothers did not use marijuana. Also, these babies has increased tremulous (shaking or trembling), and a higher pitched cry. In school, children who were exposed to marijuana in the home were more likely to have lower memory and problem solving skills coupled with short attention spans. 1

If you just taste a beer, your brain will release dopamine in your brain. And this is before you can even detect any blood alcohol levels. It is also no surprise that those with a history of family alcoholism had much greater dopamine levels after just tasting a beer. If you smoke marijuana, you will also release dopamine, which is the drug that research links to addiction. Dopamine is the feel good drug, and influences the following functions: Sleep, Mood, Attention, Memory, Cognition, Motivation, and Voluntary movement. 2 It also gives feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Our brains naturally produce dopamine during intimate moments, but now we have discovered other ways of artificially producing dopamine, namely drugs.

Gail Harrison, a friend at church, shared in a Facebook thread that someone once told her, “When my dad comes home and has a beer after work, he isn’t drinking to become high. When you smoke a joint, that is your purpose.” This ran right beside my train of thought when considering the differences between having a beer and having a joint. If I have a beer or glass of wine once or twice a year, it is never with the intent of entering an altered state of mind. Someone may say they smoke marijuana without the intent of getting high, but I would not believe it. What else would be the purpose of having a joint?

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In October of 2013, Gallup took a poll that showed for the first time American’s are in favor of legalizing marijuana, with a jump of ten percent in just twelve months. Washington and Colorado have become the first states to legalize the use of marijuana. Back in 1969, only 12% of the population favored the use of marijuana. The same poll showed the views of marijuana by age, and nearly 70% of 18-29 year old’s favor the legalizing of marijuana, but those at 65+ is at 45%. Based on the poll trends, it will not be long before other states follow suit and eventually the federal government, especially when you consider the potential tax revenues. “In August of 2013 Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the Justice Department would not challenge the legality of Colorado’s and Washington’s new laws legalizing marijuana.” 3

In 2012, Pat Robertson said in an interview with the New York Times, “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol, I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.” 4

I don’t agree; just because a government deems something legal does not make it moral. Abortion is legal, but it is anything but moral. It will not be long before smoking pot as a recreational drug in California will be legal, but Christians everywhere will have to consider the moral side to this issue.

Mark Driscoll, who is head of a mega church in Washington State, wrote in an online booklet titled, Puff or Pass, concerning the use of marijuana “…as a pastor I have noticed that people tend to stop maturing when they start self-medicating. Everyone has very tough seasons in life, but by persevering through them we have an opportunity to mature and grow as people. Those who self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol, (as well as other things), often thwart maturity as they escape the tough seasons of life rather than face them.”5

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 10,288 people died in drunk driving crashes in 2010.6

According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, in 2011, 226 children were killed in drunk driving crashes. 7

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1.4 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. 8

I can’t help but wonder if 20 years from now we will be reading about statistics concerning deaths and marijuana use? No, not to the scale of alcohol. No, I don’t think the sky is falling, or that we will become a population of drugged out fools who spend all their spare time smoking pot. But I do think two things about this trend. It shows rather plainly the direction our nation is heading, and that future generations will pay the price for this unhealthy direction of self medicating and a desire to escape the realities of life. Sadly, those that already have drug addictions in their family may already have the biological tendency for addiction, and instead of being told to avoid drugs, our culture tells them not to worry.

Second, I would ask if even just one death, or one addiction was caused by the legalization of marijuana, would it be worth it? Where does our indignant sense of, “If it feels good do it” halt and take a look at the cost of such freedom. Is the price of lives lost, or ruined, worth the seemingly inherent freedoms we give ourselves? I sometimes wonder which is a lesser of two evils, a government that takes our freedoms to keep us from harming ourselves and secure its own magnate, or a people who vote themselves freedoms at the price of national and private welfare.

What a fallen world we are living in. These issues and others bring to light what a great need individuals have for Christ and how people and nations have fallen away from the one and only true hope for humanity. It is obvious we are incapable of saving ourselves as we vote in freedoms that remind me of an eight year old voting on when he gets sweets, if he has to do homework, chores, or can play video games.

*In just the time I spent writing this article this past week, I heard the news that Alaska is going to put on the ballot a bill to legalize marijuana. Voters in Alaska approved medical use in 1998 and pro activists have spent that time changing the attitudes for the next step. If it passes, Alaska will be the third state to legalize marijuana. After that activists will target Oregon, and then work to get legalization on the ballots in 2016 for several other states, including California. Efforts like these don’t come without some push back. On Tuesday, January 7th 2014 Fresno County supervisors banned the growing of medical marijuana with a vote of 5-0 and is said to be the first county in California to ban the growing of medicinal marijuana.

1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, 2 to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. -Titus 3:1-8 (NIV)

 

Sources:

1. Volkow, Nora D. MD “Marijuana’s Lasting Effects on the Brain.” Drugabuse.gov. National Institute on Drug Abuse, September 2012. Web. 6 January. 2014.
2. Pedersen, Tracy. “Just a Taste of Beer Releases Dopamine.” Psychcentral.com. Psych Central Learn. Share. Grow, 20 April 2013. Web. 5 January. 2014.
3. Swift, Art. “For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana.”Gallup.com. Gallup Politics. 22 October 22. Web. 4 January. 2014.
4. McKinely, Jessie. “Pat Robertson Says Marijuana Use Should be Legal” Nytimes.com. New York Times. 7 March 2012. Web. 4 January. 2014.
5. Driscoll, Mark. “Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?” theresurgence.com. Resurgence. 2012. 5 January. 2014
6. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Drunk Driving Fatalities-National Statistics.” Centurycouncil.org. The Century Council. 2011. 3 January. 2014.
7. O’Malley, L.D. “Statistics” madd.org. Mothers Against Drunk Driving. FARS data 2013. 5 January. 2014
8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Impaired Driving: Get the Facts” cdc.gov. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 17 April. 2013. 6 January. 2014.

 

Other Links:
http://www.livescience.com/24553-what-is-thc.html
http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-abuse/how-does-marijuana-use-affect-your-brain-body
http://www.brainfacts.org/about-neuroscience/ask-an-expert/articles/2013/how-does-marijuana-affect-brain-function/
http://www.promises.com/articles/abused-drugs/marijuana-your-brain/
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/01/08/alaskans-likely-to-vote-on-marijuana-legalization-this-summer/
http://www.fresnobee.com/2014/01/07/3702201/fresno-county-supervisors-ban.html

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