To start off, I’m going to say that I have never smoked pot, but I’ve had several opportunities throughout my life where I could have easily taken it up. My first second-hand experience was in grade 8 during a track and field event at a neighboring school. When my friends and I wandered into the bushes nearby the event, one of them pulled out a pipe along with what appeared to be three small vials of green herbs. I was never offered any, but I had kept my mouth shut about it due to my fear of getting into trouble.
During high school, I had very little exposure to drugs while I was in high school mainly because my circle of friends were mostly Christians – although that changed the moment I entered the work force as an adult. As a tradesman, I’ve worked with a lot of guys who frequently smoked recreationally while at home, although I’ve dealt with the odd coworker who would show up at work stoned out of his mind. While some would argue that they work better when they’re under the influence, to me that is just as irresponsible as showing up at work drunk. †
After experimenting with my adult freedoms in my late teens and early 20’s, I took up smoking cigarettes. Before I started dating my wife when I was 22, she told me that she would never date a smoker. I willingly gave up smoking in order to prove a point to her. I still enjoy the odd flavoured cigarillo on the rare occasion (the last one back in 2014 before my second son was born). But as much as I enjoy smoking, I also realized that I feel a hundred times better without it. My wife also wouldn’t appreciate it if I drank so frequently that it started to affect my ability to be a competent partner. Similarly, I believe the same thing applies to the use of marijuana.
Cannabis usage is now officially decriminalized here in Canada. I remember nearly 20 years ago, the mere mention of the possibility seemed laughable as though the only people who seemed to endorse such a movement were juvenile addicts and people who didn’t want any responsibility in life. I think a significant contributor to the controversy of legalizing pot may stem from how western society has been ingrained with puritan culture. Anything to do with smoking, alcohol, playing cards or even dancing in general can be viewed as intrinsically evil (namely by ultraconservative religious groups). I don’t believe consuming alcohol is inherently wrong – after all, Jesus Himself turned water into wine at a wedding feast during a time when all the wine had already been consumed. Similarly, I don’t believe cannabis itself nor its usage is intrinsically evil either.
I know many of my religious readers will disagree with me on this, but I’m fine with the legalization of marijuana – provided that it is heavily regulated like alcohol and cigarettes. However, that does not mean that I don’t believe cannabis usage can have potentially harmful effects on the body, let alone society in general. In a biblical perspective, it reminds me of the passage when the Apostle Paul talks about whether or not Christians are free to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols,
“Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. Only take care lest this liberty of yours somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if any one sees you, a man of knowledge, at table in an idol’s temple, might he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak man is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall.” – 1 Corinthians 8:8-13 RSV
Some who smoke pot regularly would facetiously argue that God created the hemp plant, therefore it’s okay to use it – which I would agree to an extent. The Book of Genesis gives an account of how God created all living things and saw that His creation was good. But whether or not the hemp plant had evolved since the Garden of Eden is another topic worthy of its own separate article.
As far as legalizing pot is concerned, I think it is always a worthwhile conversation to have whether or not using it will either enhance or destroy their lives. In one hand, I’m actually quite excited for the realm of possibilities in new and innovative hemp-based construction materials. ‡ But if anyone chooses to smoke, I believe it’s important that they are educated about the effects of any kind of drug. One of my biggest concerns would be early adolescent exposure to pot as well as the long-term effects of cannabis usage on the brain during early development. As quoted from an article by the Centre of Addiction:
“Science has proven – and all major scientific and medical organizations agree – that marijuana is both addictive and harmful to the human brain, especially when used as an adolescent. One in every six 16-year-olds who try marijuana will become addicted to it. And if an adolescent has a genetic predisposition for schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder, using marijuana as their brain continues to develop can increase the risk of that disorder.
Marijuana use also has an impact on academic motivation and achievement. Research shows that adolescents who smoke marijuana once a week over a two-year period are almost six times more likely than nonsmokers to drop out of school and over three times less likely to enter college. And scientists have also found that youth marijuana use is associated with lower scores on IQ tests.” ◊
Granted these liberties, I can foresee a lot of problems waiting to happen – especially with cannabis-induced mental disorders such as psychosis. In which case, I would hope the government would invest into more social programs for managing addictions in order to counter any of the negative ramifications of the drug’s decriminalization.
On the flip side, I think there will be plenty of benefits that will come with the legalization. I can easily foresee major tobacco companies monopolizing on mass production while the government simultaneously taxes the living hell out of cannabis sales – which will hopefully help eliminate our nation’s financial deficit. In that case, I think it will somewhat help rid the ‘little guy’ drug dealers off the streets which, in turn, would hopefully create safer communities. I think it will also promote more studies on the effects of the drug as well as encourage more drug and alcohol awareness campaigns at schools. There has already been a push in the police force for innovative testing for THC levels in impaired drivers.
It is also worth considering how certain euphoric drugs seem to open people up to possible spiritual vulnerability. Some friends of mine have claimed they quit smoking pot and doing other drugs because they had felt a hostile and unwanted ‘presence’ nearby and feeling scared for their lives while under the influence. Some would argue that these experiences are due to how every person’s body reacts differently to certain drugs – to which I would say that those who are skeptical ought to not disregard my friend’s experiences but treat them as cautionary tales.
Knowing how volatile harder drugs like heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy are, I actually wonder how long before there will be a push for their decriminalization. Unlike cannabis, these drugs are man-made products that are chemically altered and manufactured for the sole purpose of giving the user an extreme euphoric experience. People have argued that placing restrictions on drugs and alcohol would not prevent them from finding ways around them, but the same type of arguments could be made about abortion and gun control. My biggest concern would be whether decriminalization actually empowers those struggling with addiction, or enables them to further harm themselves on a larger scale.
In summary, I believe the morality surrounding cannabis usage depends on the intent. Like alcohol or nicotine, I believe it can be enjoyed in moderation yet can be detrimental when used excessively. One of the biggest takeaways from the whole pot legalization controversy is great freedom comes with great responsibility, and we are not only culpable for ourselves but for the well-being of others. Just because something suddenly becomes legal, does not mean the freedom to use it ought to be exhausted beyond measure.
And as a society, we need to continually be reminded that sobriety ought to be valued utmost and addictive tendencies are a powerful force that are not to be treated lightly.