Life is beautiful and imperfect, a source of wonder and a challenge so complex that it’s good to pause from time to time and check our perspective and priorities against eternal truth. Jim Daly’s blog, Daly Focus, is full of daily insight and wisdom that promises to help you navigate today’s culture.
By now you’ve probably heard that Colorado is the first state to legalize marijuana. If you watch late night television at all, chances are good that you’ve heard a number of jokes about it.
Here’s a thumbnail history of how we got here:
A couple years ago a majority of voters in Colorado backed an amendment to the state constitution making it legal for individuals age 21 and over to possess and use a small amount of the drug for recreational purposes. That law took effect on January 1 of this year. This followed years of lobbying and campaigning by a group of committed activists who compare marijuana to alcohol. By making marijuana legal, like alcohol, they say, the state could regulate its manufacture and distribution, and generate revenue by taxing it.
I live in Colorado and I’ve heard the arguments for years. I understand them, but I still have serious concerns.
First, making marijuana legal at the state level doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a banned substance according to federal law. While the federal government has taken a hands-off approach so far, the discrepancy between state and federal law has a lot of people wondering what will happen in the future. In any event, marijuana remains illegal to grow, possess or use according to the law of the land.
My concerns aren’t mainly legal ones, though. Does simply legalizing something make it a good option? My friends on the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family have drawn attention to many of the downsides of marijuana: diminished cognitive function (including concentration, memory, learning and judgment), impaired motor skills, and decrease in motivation, not to mention health problems that may result from the irritating and toxic mix of chemicals that are inhaled when pot is smoked.
Add to all this the fact that marijuana keeps bad company. Marijuana is often referred to as a “gateway drug.” Now of course that doesn’t mean that anyone who tries marijuana is fated to a life of drug use, but research shows that marijuana use in many young people leads to the abuse of alcohol or use of illicit drugs (or the abuse of legal prescription medications).
Of all the problems associated with marijuana, however, the moral concerns might be the strongest. The Bible is very clear in warning against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). Granted, a person might drink a glass of wine at dinner and not become intoxicated, but what about marijuana? Isn’t “intoxication” the main point of using marijuana for recreational purposes?
As a father of two boys who’ll have the legal right to try marijuana when they turn 21 here in the state of Colorado, all these things make me uneasy, but they don’t make me disheartened. My responsibilities as a dad don’t hinge on whether a particular drug is legal or illegal. My job remains the same: to raise young men who know and love God, to teach them to lean completely on Him, and to give them the tools to make wise decisions for life.
While Colorado is the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, voters in the state of Washington have also opted to allow its recreational use, and sales of marijuana in that state will be allowed later this year. Depending on how the experiment goes in these two states, marijuana will likely be legalized in other states in the years to come. Even if you don’t live in Colorado or Washington, now is the time to get informed about marijuana and, if you have kids, start a discussion with them. Pastor John Piper has a good article on the topic from a theological perspective you might want to read.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.
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--Actually, the Federal Government doesn't have the power to ban a substance. All it can do, marijuana wise, is regulate interstate commerce and tax. It doesn't really stand up to say that it's immoral because it might possibly be understood to be illegal at the federal level.
And the differences between the leaf and alcohol, the whole purpose of knocking back a few beers is the intoxicating effect. And to be honest, alcohol is way more dangerous in both it's potential effects and the actual measured harm that it has caused. Marijuana has no lethal dose. That's kind of staggering when you think about it, a drug that has no lethal dose. I'm not saying that it doesn't cause harm and I would like to see more study of what it does to young and developing brains (from what I saw in friends growing up it seems to stop development). So treating it exactly the way we treat alcohol makes perfect sense. Restrict access for young people and make sure that people who do bad things under its influence are held responsible.
It's pretty clear that the prohibition of alcohol was a huge mistake that only made matters worse. (Though some argue that things before prohibition were so bad that it made things a little bit better but then they got much better when it was repealed.) So why is it so hard to understand that the prohibition of marijuana also just makes matters worse? And as Christians, and as citizens, we must not loose sight of the fact that the law is looking the other way when white folks are using the stuff but coming down hard when anybody else is using it. If you're not going to argue that fewer people should be tossed in a cell to rot over this then fairness requires that you fight to have more white people suffering the same fate.
--Jack said, 'And as Christians, and as citizens, we must not loose sight of the fact that the law is looking the other way when white folks are using the stuff but coming down hard when anybody else is using it. If you're not going to argue that fewer people should be tossed in a cell to rot over this then fairness requires that you fight to have more white people suffering the same fate.'
Jack, genuine Christians don't deliberately lie to try to prove a point. To claim somehow that white people don't get busted for pot use is absurd. I guess you would make the same foolish claim about minorities and violent crime? You are entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Get a clue!
--PLEASE support your local elected officials who are taking a stand against this in your communities. We are getting lots of comments from the "other" side and few to none from those who do not want it in their communities. In CO, the law gave each city/county an opt out provision, you need to make your voice heard and keep saying it, if you do not want it in your CO city or county.
--I live in Colorado and have kids. Marijuana now fits into this category for me: "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything." It's really really hard to start down the road with a substance like marijuana and not be mastered by it. I've seen it happen over and over.
--@JBarnett, I can do better than a clue, how about the numbers. In the US white people are about 3/4 of the population (quickfacts.census.gov/.../00000.html ) yet they represent about 1/3 of the people imprisoned for drug offenses ( www.drugpolicy.org/drug-war-statistics ) while usage rates are about the same. I didn't mean to suggest that white people get off scott free but there is certainly a whole lot of injustice going on.
--The state of Colorado was grievously wrong in legalizing the use of this drug. The decision permits those who deal in the sale and proliferation of this drug to be legally one step closer to our children. Anytime a barrier of protection is reduced, the possibility of abuse increases. Whether or not this drug is more or less addicting and harmful than another is a debate of little consequence compared to enabling a drug to get closer to those where harm is greatest. Legalizing this drug is just another compromise in a society where compromise is vogue. I don't understand the mindset of the Colorado legislature that would permit such an action. I pray that other states are not so foolish.
--The long term scientific study out of New Zealand shows definitively that it reduces the IQ of juveniles permanently, who have used it over a long period. But it doesn't say the same thing about those who start using it as adults.
The issue of legalization has many problems. One being that most employers have drug tests. A positive test results in action taken against the employee. From as little as having to go to counseling and AA to termination. Just because a drug is legal doesn't stop this. It will also prevent a person from getting hired. If the law is written in such a way as to force employers to hire those who fail a drug test and not discipline those who fail one? Then the work place becomes very unsafe. What employer would want to operate in such an environment.
As to the issue of using the drug. I find this to be more of a moral and spiritual issue.The problem with marijuana is that we don't have any hard scientific facts as to how long it still affects the person who is using after they stop. Some would say a sobriety test would be good enough. The police will tell you that they have arrested many a drunk who passed the sobriety test.
What message are we giving to the next generation or to others? How is the use of marijuana giving honor to God? If we are to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within us. How can one do this if they are stoned or drunk? We are told to be separate from the world. One of the problems today is that most professing Christians can't be identified as Christian based on the way they live their lives. I was one of those. I was a professing Christian and doing anything I wanted to do. It took God to wake me up and show me that I was on a path to Hell. Had I not changed my ways it would have been one of those who stood before God and told that he didn't know me. Today I pray that I am called a good a faithful servant.
The argument has long been made that they will do it even if it is illegal and has proven to be true. All sin is harmful to society. So what is needed is to win the hearts and minds of the public. Not an easy task as we tend to always run to evil and darkness and away from the light.
--By legalizing marijuana government makes another pact with the devil to the detriment of individual citizens and our national well-being. Not to take this discussion too far off course I cite the ubiquity of legalized gambling. For a not too flattering discussion of same I direct readers over the age of 50 to an articel in the Jan - Feb issue of AARP Bulletin, page 24, Gambling: Why So Many Get Hooked.
--Mr. Daly, thanks for sharing this. I have internet friends who are all for legalizing marijuana. What I think some of them forget is that this isn't about medicinal usage. Not by a long shot. This about recreational usage.
THC ( tetrahydrocannabinol) is available in pill form and can be prescribed by any physician in the US for treating the nausea associated with chemotherapy in some cancer patients, vomiting and loss of appetite. It is also approved to treat HIV patients with cachexia (weight loss, muscle atrophy, fatigue and loss of appetite).
Studies have also been done which show that THC and cannabidiol (CBD) provide therapeutic benefit for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) spasticity symptoms.
It's a controlled substance just like any other prescription medicine. We wouldn't want someone to recreationally use medicine to treat Rheumatoid Arthritis for instance, so why as a society, do we think it's okay to use this one recreationally?
Those are my thoughts on this.
--I am against this. Making it legal for those 21 and over can make it like a rite of passage, just like drinking. "Oh now that I am 21 I can smoke pot"
I started smoking pot when I was around 14. Prior to smoking pot, I was very creative and could grasp mathematical and scientific processes with incredible ease.
After I started smoking pot, I lost my ability to stay focused, my math and science skills plummeted. My relationships suffered and I became very rebellious and paranoid. I also started drinking. I realized it was all just not worth it and stopped all drugs (yes I used many others) when I was 25. I am now 52 years old and still suffer with attention issues and although I got straight A's in math after going back to school in my late adult years-it was incredibly hard.
I have to say that the high one gets from marijuana is very different from alcohol and does not create the same dangers with driving.
I think the governments efforts to create more revenue will probably be offset by the increased costs of the damages that will follow the legalization of the drug.
The cost to keep offenders in jail for DUI's and the suffering of the families that have lost people as a result of drunk drivers is probably close to the revenue earned through taxation.
It also won't deter drug cartels and others involved in similar lifestyles to stop what they are doing. Legalizing alcohol didn't stop mafia activities.
As far as a spiritual issue..even though it was back in the Old Testament days that the Lord warned against taking on the customs of the surrounding cultures, that wisdom still is good advice today. Any mind altering substance has the potential to alter our true identity and affect our relationship and intimacy with the Lord.
--Other comments have talked about the dangers of marijuana use on the developing brain in adolescents, but a factor seldom mentioned is the risk on the developing brain in-utero (before birth). The risk of fetal alcohol syndrome has been widely publicized and pregnant women know that they should not drink, but few know of the association of marijuana usage and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, ADD). (see the NIH reference cited by the American College of Pediatricians at www.acpeds.org/.../marijuana-legislation-protects-children) Lots of people wonder why the incidence of ADHD is increasing, but as a pediatrician, I see the positive urine drug screens for marijuana on the prenatal records of the mothers of what has recently become a majority of newborns. This is undoubtedly not the only cause of ADHD, but it certainly would explain a significant portion of the increase. Legalizing a substance increases its use, and as Christians we should not be promoting actions that are harmful to the children in our community.
--Not all pot smokers end up on heroine but all heroine addicts started with marijuana. We're just playing Russian Roulette with our future.
--If we as Christians take seriously Paul's counsel found in 1 Corinthians 10:31; 7:19, 20; 3:16, 17 - (not to mention the strong cautions found in Proverbs) Should we not take as strong a stance against alcohol as we do marijuana???
--Marijuana use has caused mental illness issues with my son who is now 35. When he was 30 he was in a deep depression due to lost of his job, home and fiancée within a year. Anti-depression meds did not help enough and he found a doctor at a medical dispensary to approve use of marijuana to ease his pain. What happened after 2 months of strong use he become paranoid and had an acute psychotic attacks. This was a healthy young man with no prior health issues. During one attack he was driving recklessly and ran into 2 police cars and was arrested. He was in jail and then beat up by other inmates. With several in and out of mental hospitals he is now under control with prescriptions of anti-psychotic meds and anti-depression meds for probably the rest of his life. God is good and he now has a full time job and living with us. We would not wish this on any person or family. This is a serious concern for us and it is morally wrong to pass laws for recreational use. May the Lord help us all to be obedient and trust Him in all things.
--I am flabbergasted by the amount of people in favor of marijuana. It makes me sad to know that so many individuals need (or think they need) this drug as badly as they do. The Bible is clear when it says, "Do not give the devil a foothold." This, in my opinion, is just another link in the chain. Freedom can only be found in total surrender to Christ and him alone. Through Him, we are free from any and all things that bind us. Break free.