Christians and Smoking Pot

Posted by on Jan 10, 2014 in Knowing for Sure Blog, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Christians and Smoking Pot

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

3 Comments

  1. Well done James. (as always)
    Regarding the difference between having a glass of wine and tokin’ a joint, (in my opinion) Gail hit the nail on the head. A glass of wine is typically not going to produce an extreme ‘high’. And the purpose behind a glass of beer or wine is not the same as having a toke.

    The cannabis of today is the not the same as what was available in the late 50’s through early 70’s at all. As a child of the 60’s I can state that the product went through the same sort of marketing process as any other product for sale. The Holy Grail was, and still seems to be, a new product with higher potency and more affect.

    The point to my diatribe is this: Getting “stunned” is the objective of getting high. That process means losing some or most of the higher cognitive function of the brain. Hence the feeling people get when high that they are doing the most brilliant work, or reaching new heights in perception. And the truth is, “it ain’t happening”

  2. I confess to rolling my eyes (not a joint!) after reading this post, and I am heartened the author reports no serious health consequences followed his youthful “illusions of brilliance.” If we can set aside such childhood memories for the moment, we can dig into some grown-up illusions of logic dispassionately.

    We begin with a statement of fact that is revealed as an opinion upon instant replay: “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.” That’s a one-size-fits-all moral judgment, not a scientific observation. I could as easily say that all people do indeed drink to get drunk, and nothing from my teenage years would disprove that statement. But neither would it be proof of that statement, not even when viewed with full knowledge of the highway carnage, serious health consequences and other documented social ills caused by alcohol.

    This is not to discount the author’s experience, nor the experiences of others who have tried cannabis and found it wanting. If there is one common theme to the ongoing debate about cannabis policy, it is that cultural beliefs often dominate the discussion, making it difficult to focus on the true issues at hand. Back in the day, there was no such thing as “medical marijuana,” and even card-carrying Prop. 215 patients may put quote marks around the term to this day. We will concede, for the purposes of the discussion, that much if not most of what is called medical marijuana today is consumed for social use, aka “just to get high.”

    Having said that, we must also acknowledge and understand that times have changed in the past four decades, sometimes dramatically in terms of cannabis laws and policies, and more slowly in terms of social acceptance. This does not invalidate the experiential nature of our own core beliefs, but it does remind us that our beliefs are every bit as malleable as the human beings who hold them.

    There is not space here to pick apart these claims blow-by-blow, nor is that my intent in commenting. I just wanted to share some things that I have witnessed through the years that may be used as springboards for future discussion:

    — It is not valid to say that everyone uses cannabis to get high, not anymore. You will get more than eye-rolling should you keep saying that, and more than that you will get schooled. I had no clue 40 years ago that cannabis and hemp have played substantial roles throughout recorded human history, both for medicinal purposes and as plant crops that provided fiber and food. This is not the most scientific book on the subject, but it is more scholarly than most of the disinformation put out by the U.S. government. http://www.jackherer.com/thebook/chapter-one/

    — If there is only one take-away from all this, it is that medical cannabis usage exists, and it’s not confined to patients in the last throes of a terminal illness. People can and do use cannabis to treat chronic pain, nausea/vomiting commonly associated with chemotherapy, migraine headaches and glaucoma. There is substantial scientific evidence that cannabis may help people with spasticity disorders including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, including Dravet syndrome. Some of the most exciting research involves cancer-fighting mechanisms attributed to THC, CBD and other cannabinoids, but our own federal government blocks wider research into this potential. If it were any plant other than cannabis, it would be hailed as a miracle and rushed into clinical trials.

    — Assuming one can accept that some people use cannabis medically, there still is the nagging cultural belief that most “patients” aren’t truly sick and are somehow abusing the law to get their weed, you know, just to get high. This perception is very common among non-users of cannabis, not to mention law enforcement. We’re still stuck in the 60s mindset of soshes, jocks and stoners, but our laws have changed, starting with voter-approved Proposition 215 in 1996 and followed up by the Legislature with SB 420 in 2004. This goes to the author’s observation about obeying the laws … but which ones? The total prohibition under federal law? The state laws providing personal cultivation and/or dispensaries for medical cannabis patients? Or another total prohibition, such as the one passed by the Fresno County Board of Supervisors. I suppose it’s only natural for us to observe the laws we like better than the ones we don’t, but when a local government refuses to follow state law by adopting a zero-tolerance ban, it creates both a legal and moral choice for those affected.

    — I can’t speak to how Christians might deal with the apparent disconnect between their personal beliefs and a society seemingly going to pot. Cannabis advocates often point to Genesis to support the notion that cannabis, like all plants, is a gift from God deserving of good stewardship. (One example: http://www.equalrights4all.org/religious/bible.htm) They also point out some of the moral inconsistencies that allow alcohol and tobacco to be legal despite their much greater potential for causing serious illness and injury. Cannabis may not be entirely benign, but neither is it toxic even when ingested in very high doses. (You have more to fear from a Tylenol overdose than a pot brownie.) Moral discussions also must consider whether the punishment fits the “crime”; simple possession of cannabis is now an infraction equivalent to a $100 traffic ticket. For the end user, it isn’t a huge jump from decriminalization to legalization.

    — I cannot claim to have all the answers about cannabis policy, but my questions have improved over the years if only because I’ve paid attention. It is no longer useful to say that all stoners just smoke weed to get high, or that everyone is growing weed just to get rich, or that all weed is illegal under federal law, because those stereotypical statements block the development of regulations that would bring some sense to the chaos. Our goal is to carve new pathways of lawful conduct for both users and non-users, and to help clarify the hazy boundaries between medical and social use.

    For me, the most important goal is to broaden public understanding of medical cannabis, because many good and moral people who might benefit greatly from its use remain mired in fear and ignorance. Because I grew up in the ’70s, my “stoner” identity is firmly entrenched, and I have to give myself permission each time I use cannabis medically. I can only hope future generations will have a more balanced and complete understanding of the plant and the fascinating science behind it. Who knows, they may even become better chess players!

  3. Hey Mike!

    Was wondering if I was going to hear from you about this.

    Your right, the statement “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 a one-size-fits-all, but why else would someone smoke pot, if not to get high? Sure, some may have legitimate reasons for medical use of cannabis, (you listed quite a few) and I said as much in my post, but what other reasons are their for smoking pot?

    So it provided fiber and food in recorded human history. What does its use in history have to do with legalizing pot today? Pointing out how Native American’s or other cultures used it, does nothing to address the issues that have to be addressed today. When and how it was used in the past has nothing to do with how it is used or or more specifically, abused now?

    You mention how our core beliefs are every bit as malleable as the humans who hold them. And that times have changed how we view cannabis, but social acceptance of smoking weed is slow to catch up. Pointing out how our views change over time on social issues has nothing to do with the moral implications of smoking weed. The fact people can legally drink in excess in their own home, does not make it a wise choice. The fact that Finland and Norway allow teens to have sex at 16, Denmark and Greece at 15, Italy at 14, or Angola at 12 does not make it wise.

    Move beyond what the cultural norms say. Those are irrelevant. You and others may have medical needs for its use. Those that don’t, are a concern for me.

Feel free to leave a reply. :)

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