Christians & Marijuana – Part 3 – The Main Event: Marijuana vs. Alcohol

Is marijuana less harmful than enjoying a pint of beer or a glass of wine? The Bible allows alcohol consumption in moderation, so can adult Christians use marijuana in moderation?

READ: Part 1 – On Medical Marijuana & Alcohol

READ: Part 2 – On Recreational Marijuana & the Brain



A constant thread of thought running through many pro-marijuana arguments is how alcohol has far more negative effects – physically, mentally and socially – than marijuana.

For instance, alcohol plays a role in 2/3 of all violence by an intimate (spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend)[1] and contributes to 25% to 30% of all violent crime in America.[2] Alcohol is responsible for approximately 100,000 sexual assaults among young people[3] and an average of 79,000 premature deaths every year.[4] People are eight times more likely to be abusive on days they consumed alcohol compared to days they didn’t.[5]

Thus, marijuana advocates present the illegality of marijuana as an arbitrary law continued by decades of anti-marijuana bias.[6]

Is marijuana less harmful than enjoying a pint of beer or a glass of wine? The Bible allows alcohol consumption in moderation, so can adult Christians use marijuana in moderation? Christians should take good care of their God-given bodies, but is an occasional marijuana cigarette any worse than an occasional cigar or espresso shot or candy bar?

When speaking of recreational marijuana use, the key characteristic that differentiates it from other relatively unhealthy acts is that the vast majority of users only partake in marijuana for the sole purpose of becoming high.


In 1 Peter 5:8, Christians are called to be sober-minded (but joyful – Gal. 5:22-23), and drunkenness is clearly forbidden throughout Scripture. Outside of arguments for the medical uses of marijuana, I didn’t come across a single argument in my research that marijuana was for any other purpose than to become intoxicated.

Here, the comparison with alcohol breaks down because one can enjoy a pint of beer or a glass of wine without becoming inebriated. Many people enjoy beer and wine for the taste. Conversely, I’ve never come across an argument for marijuana legalization based on the pleasure of the taste or smell. Cigar smoking can be an unhealthy habit, but many Christians enjoy an occasional cigar because of the flavor. The reason for recreational marijuana use, whether stated or implied, is mental impairment.

To illustrate, even while arguing that increased numbers of traffic accidents in states with legalized recreational marijuana are inflated or inaccurate, marijuana advocates still freely admit that marijuana impairs driving abilities.[7] One advocate even tried to argue that marijuana users drive safer when they are high because they “are aware of their state and compensate for it”![8]

Even if the strength of one’s high can be regulated by a number of small “tokes,” the writer who careful explains all of this still says the goal is to achieve the smoker’s “ideal level of intoxication.”[9] Where there is nothing unusual about the idea of enjoying a glass of beer or wine without intoxication, it’s safe to say the idea of someone smoking marijuana without intoxication is, at best, an odd idea.


Modern Prohibition 

Furthermore, the idea that marijuana is safer than alcohol so it should be legalized doesn’t constitute a solid logical argument. Just because one harmful thing is allowed, it doesn’t follow that something else that’s harmful should be allowed also. Because a parent may allow a child to eat a candy bar before dinner, it doesn’t follow that the parent must also let the child eat a bag of chips before dinner because the chips are a bit healthier. Obviously, this train of thinking is moving in the wrong direction.

Christians are fully aware of the destructive effects of alcohol on individuals, families, and society, and if Christians were somehow oblivious to the negative effects of alcohol, the Bible’s many warnings would tune them in to the danger. Alcohol is a gift from God to be enjoyed, but this doesn’t stop Christians from speaking out against its misuse. Likewise, one should expect Christians to speak out against another intoxicant such as marijuana. In fact, due to the destructive nature of alcohol, many Christians voluntarily abstain from alcohol completely so not to cause others to stumble (1 Cor. 8-10), though alcohol isn’t wholly forbidden to Christians by their Scripture.

Russel Moore wisely points out that alcohol “already had a ubiquitous [ever-present; found everywhere] presence in American society long before Prohibition, in ways marijuana has not.”[10] What Moore is saying is that Pandora’s Box has already been opened with alcohol, so mass prohibition like in the U.S. in the 1920s was a failure. On the other hand, marijuana does not have the pervasiveness that alcohol does, so why give it such pervasiveness by making it legal in the first place?

NEXT: Final: On Dependency & Legalization


[1] Steve Fox and Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert, Marijuana is Safer, (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2013), XiV.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., XiX.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Sandra M. Alters, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Illicit Drugs, (Farmington Hills, MI: Gale, 2011), 147.

[7] Chrsitine Van Tuyl, ed., Marijuana – Introducing Issues With Opposing Viewpoints, (Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press, 2007), 38.

[8] Ibid., 34.

[9] Fox, Marijuana is Safer, 22.

[10] Sarah Pulliam Bailey, “Christians Torn About Legal Marijuana,” Christian Century, March 5, 2014, 14-15.

One thought on “Christians & Marijuana – Part 3 – The Main Event: Marijuana vs. Alcohol

  1. Pingback: Christians & Marijuana – Part 4 – On Dependency, Legalization & Glorifying God | god from the machine

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