Several weeks ago we received a question on our Ask Anything page about marijuana use and the Christian. More and more states are legalizing the use of cannabis for various purposes, and Minnesota is currently considering the question as well, and it will only be a matter of time before legal recreational marijuana use becomes a reality. Therefore, it seems wise for Christians to think biblically about this question. But to do so, I think we need to break it down into two categories.

Medicinal Use
When it comes to using marijuana for medicinal purposes, Christians should whole-heartedly support its use. God has given us a multitude of substances and chemicals that treat diseases and alleviate pain. To the extent that marijuana can be used to these ends, by all means. We should invest time, energy, and money into studying how marijuana can be used to serve humanity in these ways. There are already a myriad of studies and testimonials of people who have used marijuana effectively as a medicinal agent.

As with all substances, however, we should give careful time and attention to how it is dispensed and utilized for medicinal purposes. Numerous medications are controlled substances that must only be used under supervision and dispensed in a controlled manner. As long as medical marijuana can be supervised and controlled, Christians should rejoice that elements of God’s creation are being used to alleviate human suffering.

Recreational Use
All of creation is God’s good gift to us (Genesis 1.29-30). There is nothing that he has created that is inherently sinful or wrong. It is only when we use God’s creation for purposes outside of his intention that our use of them becomes sinful (see Romans 1.22-23). Such is the case with marijuana. Like anything else, God created it good, and it can serve a good and beneficial function when used rightly. But when used wrongly it leads to intoxication and sin.

There is only one purpose for recreational marijuana use: intoxication. Whereas the Bible instructs us to keep our minds focused and ready for action (1 Peter 4.1), marijuana slows our minds down and clouds our thinking.. Paul says that one of the effects of living in the Spirit of God is that he gives us a “sound mind” (2 Timothy 1.7), whereas marijuana use diminishes our capacity for clarity of thought and righteous decision-making. Why would we knowingly resist the Spirit’s work of giving us a sound mind by clouding it up with marijuana smoke? Marijuana is an intoxicating drug, and there is no way to use it recreationally without becoming intoxicated (in fact, that is its only purpose when used recreationally). When we become intoxicated (by any substance) we are less prepared to fight sin, ward off temptation, make God-honoring decisions, etc. When our minds are clouded over by drugs, we are more inclined to give into temptation, to make decisions we might otherwise regret, and so on. It seems to me that the Bible would have us preserve the soundness of our minds and not willfully cloud them over with something like recreational marijuana use. It’s hard to fight the fight of faith in a haze. Everyday we face new temptations and the devil throws challenges are way. We would be wise to address those head on, with a clear mind.

To be sure, alcohol can have these same affects on the mind when used and abused. To this extent, a Christian should regard marijuana and alcohol similarly. Any substance that clouds our thinking and inhibits our decision-making should be avoided. There is a significant difference between alcohol and marijuana, however, in that alcohol can be used without feeling its intoxicating effects. We see this pattern in scripture as well, as many in the Bible (including Jesus) imbibed during celebrations and festivities. But God forbids drunkenness. Marijuana, however, can’t be used apart from its intoxicating effects.

The issue is not so much the substance, but rather the purpose of its use. It’s possible to use alcohol without becoming intoxicated. It’s not possible to use marijuana without becoming intoxicated. Because of the intoxicating nature of substances like cannabis and alcohol, my advice to Christians would be to use alcohol only after a good deal of thought and introspection, and for Christians to not use marijuana for any recreational reason.

Also, no matter what Christians do, whether enjoying a beer after a long day or smoking a joint to relax, we should ask ourselves why we are doing the things we do, and what impact they have on our Christian testimony. What messages is sent (if any) to the world about my faith if I need a beer in order to relax? What does it say about my faith if I need to get high in order to have a good time? We should learn to temper our actions through introspection.

Paul says that all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial (1 Corinthians 10.23). Marijuana use for medicinal purposes is clearly good and right, but for recreational purposes it is far from beneficial.