This is going to be a little longer than normal, so bear with me.
All of us who live in Arkansas will be deciding in less than three weeks whether we think our state will be a better place to live if we legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
The question will appear on the ballot in Arkansas as Issue 4: The Marijuana Legalization Initiative. If passed, it will make it legal for Arkansans over the age of 21 to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana. If it fails, the existing laws of our state will remain in force and possession and use of marijuana will continue to be a crime in Arkansas.
Marijuana isn’t mentioned in the Bible. That means this is a wisdom issue. With wisdom issues, the Bible tells us to be wary of leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Instead, we should look at how the Bible speaks to matters that overlap with the issue at hand.
In this case for example, it would be wise to consider what the Bible has to say about the use of other intoxicants or depressants (wine and strong drink):
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery (Ephesians 5:18)
The deeds of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)
Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
Those who tarry long over wine;
those who go to try mixed wine.
Do not look at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent
and stings like an adder.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your heart utter perverse things.
You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
like one who lies on the top of a mast.
“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt;
they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
I must have another drink.” (Proverbs 23:29-35)
In addition, the Bible clearly commends “sober mindedness” – being and staying alert.
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:6–8)
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
Be sober-minded; be watchful. (1 Peter 5:8)
As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)
Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. (1 Corinthians 16:13)
As far as I know, the only verse of scripture ever used as a defense of the use of cannabis is Genesis 1:29: “And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.” Some suggest that this provides biblical warrant for everything from marijuana to psychoactive mushrooms. But by stressing the idea that every plant is given by God for our consumption and benefit, they ignore the reality that some plants are deadly, like hemlock or oleander. Obviously not all plants were made by God for our consumption.
It’s clear that the weight of biblical wisdom points in the direction of sober-mindedness. Some enjoy drinking wine or having a beer or a mixed drink, not primarily because of the effects brought on by the alcohol, but because they like the taste of the beverage. But the only reason people ingest or inhale cannabis is to experience the drug’s effect.
While scripture does not give us a clear prohibition against the use of cannabis, I think the wisdom of 1 Corinthians 6:12 fits here. Even if marijuana is made legal, that doesn’t mean it’s safe or beneficial. Paul writes “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.”
There can be circumstances where using cannabis has medicinal value. I know people who have used marijuana under a doctor’s supervision for pain relief or for controlling nausea. As with other controlled substances – everything from opioids to cyanide, from morphine to all kinds of chemotherapies – there are instances where medical use may be beneficial. But as with all controlled substances, the dosage should be carefully controlled and the potential for side effects must be closely monitored for the substances to be advantageous.
The Arkansas Marijuana Initiative is not about medical use of marijuana. We already have that in Arkansas. Issue Four is about legalizing recreational use. The proponents are suggesting legalized pot will bring needed reform to our drug laws, provide new jobs to our state, along with increased funding for law enforcement and cancer research. Behind those attractive sounding goals is a fairly obvious ulterior motive. Those who are bankrolling the ads we’re seeing on TV are anxious to be in on the ground floor of a new and lucrative business venture.
These proponents are betting that if Issue Four passes, there will be a substantial increase in marijuana use in Arkansas. Anyone who has ever run a business knows that the key to success in your work is to expand your customer base while finding ways to increase the spending patterns of existing customers. What that means for Arkansas is that there will be business people working hard to find ways to have more of us using cannabis more often, so they can make even more money and sell even more products. That’s how businesses work.
What the proponents of legalized marijuana leave unaddressed are the social costs that come when more people are using marijuana more often.
No one would accuse Time Magazine of being a right wing, conservative publication. But in 2014, they ran an article written by Dr. Marty Nemko, who has his PhD in Educational Psychology from UC-Berkley. The title of the article was “Legalize Pot? You Must Be High.” In the article, Dr. Nemko reviews the overwhelming number of studies that point to the deleterious effects of marijuana use among teenagers, in the workplace, and on physical and mental health. He concludes his article by saying “Like millions of Americans, I enjoy having a drink or even sometimes three. I have smoked pot. But I would gladly give them up for the societal benefit: less disease and fewer car accidents, more fully functioning people, a more employable work force and, in turn, better products and services, plus the richer lives people would lead.”
Dr. Samuel Wilkinson, an assistant professor of Psychiatry at the Yale School of Medicine has also done extensive work cataloging the negative impact of marijuana on people’s physical and mental health. The idea that marijuana is not addictive, he says, is a myth. Ten percent of users become addicted, with that number being higher among adolescents. Marijuana use is also a risk factor for schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders. The effects of cannabis on cognition are unmistakable.
Opponents also fail to point out that the cannabis being cultivated today has a much higher THC content than cannabis from years ago. Today’s pot is not your father’s weed. It’s much more potent.
They also ignore the reality that in states where cannabis has been legalized, the majority of marijuana being sold is still happening on the black market, where it’s cheaper and remains unregulated.
For those who are interested, I had an extended interview several months ago with Todd Miles, a professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland OR who has written a book called Cannabis and the Christian: What The Bible Says About Marijuana. You can listen to or download the interview here. Dr. Albert Mohler has been addressing the issue recently on his podcast, The Briefing. The most recent instance can be found here. And here’s a previous episode which also spoke to the issue. Finally, in recent weeks the Arkansas Democrat Gazette has editorialized against passage of Issue Four (the editorials are behind the newspaper’s paywall).
For those who like to review the arguments from both sides of the issue, the pros and cons for legalizing marijuana are well represented here.
As you can no doubt tell, I think the legalization of marijuana in Arkansas – or in any state, for that matter – is a bad idea. At the end of all the arguments for me is this simple question: Will we have a better society with more human flourishing in the future if we make recreational use of marijuana legal? Legalizing pot will mean more people will be using cannabis more often. Since recreational marijuana was legalized in Colorado marijuana use for ages 12 and older increased 58 percent and is 78 percent higher than the national average. Adult marijuana use increased 94 percent. College age marijuana use increased 18 percent. As I’ve said, it’s numbers like these that the proponents of Issue Four are counting on.
If marijuana use increases, will more of our neighbors thrive? Will marriages and families be stronger? Will more people be excelling in the workplace? Will students do better in school? Can we expect more positive health and safety outcomes? Will crime decrease? It’s naïve to think any of those outcomes will be realized.
If we legalize cannabis in Arkansas, we’ll be sending a loud and clear message to the next generation. Whether we like it or not, our laws have a pedagogical impact on a culture. When we, as a society, declare that something is legal, the message we’re sending to our fellow citizens and to the generations to come is that we see the activity as acceptable, safe and even good for society. When we decide something is illegal, we’re declaring that we believe it’s harmful and wrong and bad for society. Today, our laws say that marijuana use is not a social or personal good. Issue Four on the ballot in November here in Arkansas would change that message. We’ll be telling ourselves and future generations that having easy access to marijuana is a social good, a benefit for us as a society.
If we pass Issue Four in November, I think we’ll accelerate the moral decline of our culture. That’s the primary reason I’ll be voting no.
tRUNK -OR- TREAT | SAT OCT 29
A week from this Saturday night – it’s Trunk or Treat time!
Brings the kids, bring their friends, invite the neighbors. We’re hoping that like last year, we’ll have more than a hundred kids, along with their moms and dads, joining us in the parking lot on Saturday night, October 29. The Arkansas/Auburn game will be long over by that point. So plan to be part of the fun.
This Sunday is your last opportunity to bring candy to church to help us stock up for the event. Thanks again for your generosity!
ladies fall retreat | nov 11-13
The Ladies Fall Retreat is just a few weeks away, November 11-13. Are you signed up? Why not? Sign up now to reserve your space and be part of the fun and fellowship.
men’s first tuesday | nov 1
|Men, make sure you have Tuesday night, November 1 circled on your calendar. Chili and Fritos at 6:30, then Pastor Dean Inserra joins us at 7:00 for a discipleship checkup. All men, young and old, are invited.|
10-day tour of israel
|I mentioned in church a few weeks ago that we are rescheduled for our Israel Tour for May of 2023.|
The longest recorded prayer that Jesus prayed is found in John 17. And this Sunday, we’ll begin an extended look at what was most on the heart of Jesus on the night before His crucifixion.
Soli Deo Gloria!