If there’s a place for proper alcohol consumption in the Christian life, is there a place for proper recreational marijuana use? How safe is marijuana?
In Part 1 we briefly discussed medical marijuana and also looked at what the Bible teaches about alcohol. We concluded that Christians aren’t forbidden from consuming alcohol, but it must be consumed in careful moderation. Various writers of the Bible are clear: drunkenness is clearly a sin.
Now, the question is: If there’s a place for proper alcohol consumption in the Christian worldview and lifestyle, is there a place for proper recreational marijuana use?
Marijuana typically refers to three species of cannabis plant. THC is the active ingredient in marijuana with medical value, and it’s also the only chemical in cannabis that is “significantly psychoactive,” meaning it gets people high. The THC over-activates parts of the brain that influence pleasure, memory, thinking, and concentration, sensory and time perception, and coordinated movement.
Inhalation is the quickest way of feeling the effects of marijuana, coming almost immediately. One pro-marijuana writer explains, experienced smokers can moderate their intake “fairly easily” by taking a small number of “tokes,” almost like sipping wine or beer. Eating cannabis cooked in, say, a cookie or brownie is another common way of taking the drug, but the effects take much longer to feel, are much harder to regulate, and a much stronger high usually follows.
Most opponents and advocates agree that there are negative effects of using marijuana, but their opinions differ greatly in how common and detrimental those negative effects are, including risks of addiction, depression, sexual dysfunction, and even traffic accidents.
I have to say, from my readings, it appears the studies testify more to the damaging effects of marijuana. Even if marijuana advocates decry the seriousness and pervasiveness of these negative effects, they’re negative effects nonetheless, which simply can be solved by not using marijuana in the first place.
But there are several things that appear the majority on both sides agree upon:
First, death from an overdose of marijuana is unheard of, though over-consumption can have negative, temporary effects.
Secondly, marijuana mixed with alcohol or any other drug is dangerous.
Next, adolescents and pregnant women should certainly not use marijuana, one reason being it has much stronger negative effects on developing brains. People who began smoking marijuana heavily in their teens lost as much as eight points of IQ between age 13 and 38. Cognitive abilities were not restored in those who quit as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana in adulthood did not show significant declines in IQ.
Finally, both sides agree to certain health concerns with use, such as “noxious smoke” and the negative effects on the lungs, but disagree on the extent of the danger.
The pro-marijuana camp typically explains away such concerns in a way duly represented on a pro-pot website: “Like virtually any other substance or behavior, consuming marijuana can pose some problems for some people.”
Yet, the safest, most logical course would be that pregnant women and adolescents should certainly not use marijuana. Moreover, since current research shows brain development continues well into our twenties, should not marijuana advocates agree that marijuana shouldn’t be used by people at least until their thirties?
Some marijuana advocates vehemently dismiss any reports of marijuana’s damaging effects, but they should agree – at the very least – that further research is vital before ardently declaring it harmless. If nothing else, they should heed the logic of one pro-legalization writer:
“The reality, for even pro-legalization people like myself, is that there’s a dearth [lack] of research on the effects of marijuana… It’d be illogical to think that a psychoactive substance that gets you high doesn’t affect the brain. By definition, it does and we should be honest about that.”
There’s a lot of wisdom in what he says. Anything that chemically over-activates parts of the brain and has psychoactive effects is bound to have side effects on the brain. The idea that marijuana is not a manmade chemical and therefore must be harmless doesn’t logically follow; deadly toxins are also found in nature, so being “all-natural” doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy to consume.
NEXT: Finally! The Main Event: Recreational Marijuana versus Alcohol!
 Steve Fox and Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert, Marijuana is Safer, (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013), 16.
 Sandra M. Alters, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit Drugs, (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2011), 149.
 Fox, 19.
Laura Larsen, ed., Drug Abuse Sourcebook – Fourth Edition, (Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 2014), 178.
 Fox, 21-22.
 Ibid., 22.
 Sean Williams, “A 20-Year Study on Marijuana Use Yields 5 Surprising Finds,” The Motley Fool, January 11, 2015. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/01/11/a-20-year-study-on-marijuana-use-yields-5-surprisi.aspx
 Mark Kittleson, ed., The Truth About Drugs, (New York, NY: Facts On File, 2005), 64-65.
 New York Times: Upfront Magazine, “Marijuana: Breaking Down the Buzz,” December 8, 2104, 21.
 Larson, Drug Abuse Sourcebook, 109.
 Fox, Marijuana is Safer, 22.
 “Brain Maturity Extends Well Beyond Teen Years,” NPR.org, October 11, 2015. Accessed January 2015. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=141164708
 Michael McCutcheon, “Here’s the Real Story Behind That ‘Marijuana-Changes-Your-Brain’ Study,” Mic.com, April 17, 2014. Accessed January 27, 2015. http://mic.com/articles/87875/here-s-the-real-story-behind-that-marijuana-changes-your-brain-study