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Marijuana and the Growing Drug Culture

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Marijuana and the Growing Drug Culture

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In recent years in the United States, marijuana (“pot” or “weed”) has come to the forefront as an issue with legalization in the states of Washington, Oregon, Alaska, Colorado and the District of Columbia. The trend toward legalization continues, as voters are likely to consider the matter in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maine, California, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Delaware. The trend is toward legalization throughout our nation.

There is no lack of material covering the dangers of this substance on the Internet. But there is also much advocating the use of the drug. The drumbeat that marijuana poses no threat has been beating since the 1960s. The only difference today is that the drumbeat is louder than ever and growing in intensity. With legalization an accomplished fact in four states and the potential of more states voting to legalize in 2016, it is vital we address this issue from a biblical point of view and not from human reasoning.

Does Society Consider Marijuana Morally Acceptable?

The Barna Group, widely considered to be a leading research organization focused on the intersection of faith and culture, conducted a nationwide online study between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5, 2014. Their report, “Legalize It? A Majority of Christians Say No to Recreational Pot,” was published online May 13, 2014 (www.barna.org/barna-update/culture/667-legalize-it-a-majority-of-christi...).

The report states: “Those who believe pot is morally acceptable are still in the minority, but the current numbers represent a significant increase over the past decade. In 2001, Barna Group asked practicing Protestants and Catholics if they believed non-medical use of marijuana was morally acceptable. Just 9% of Protestants approved, compared with 19% in 2014; 17% of Catholics approved in 2001, compared with 33% today. The general population has shifted, as well. In 2001, 25% of adults said non-medical pot was morally acceptable; by 2014, that proportion increased to 47%.”

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group and director of the study, said: “There is a clear trend toward greater cultural acceptance of recreational marijuana, even among many practicing Christians. National surveys are a great way to find out what people think and how their perspectives have changed over time. But why those changes are happening is more difficult to pin down through conventional polling.

“What we can conclude is that America continues to shift from a culture that values abstinence to one that focuses on experience. Marijuana use fits within a larger trend of liberalizing views and behaviors when it comes to activities like gambling, pre-marital or extra-marital sex, and drinking. As attitudes toward temptations shift, Americans increasingly define the ‘pursuit of happiness’ to include personally invigorating or even escapist experiences.”

As society around us becomes more accepting of marijuana, it is imperative that, as members of God’s Church, we are not influenced by the culture around us.

The Dangers of Marijuana

Although the acceptance of marijuana has increased over the past several years, the truth is that marijuana poses many short-term and long-term dangers. One way to know this for sure is to look at the impact of the legalization of marijuana. In 2010, Colorado legalized medical marijuana. In 2012, Colorado legalized recreational marijuana.

Various groups have quantified changes in the state of Colorado that occurred around this time period. For example, traffic fatalities involving operators testing positive for marijuana have increased 100 percent from 2007 to 2012. In addition, hospitalizations related to marijuana have increased by 82 percent from 2008 (4,441) to 2013 (8,070) (Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact,” Vol. 2, August 2014).

Clearly, the increase in marijuana use brings along with it increased risk to the safety of the community. One possible reason for this is that, over time, the potency of the psychoactive ingredient in the drug (tetrahydrocannabinol or THC) increases. In Colorado, the THC potency has risen from an average of 3.96 percent in 1995 to an average of 12.33 percent in 2013 (ibid.). This increase in potency increases the likelihood of adverse effects of marijuana.

Even if the use of marijuana does not lead to driving under the influence or hospitalization, it does cause immediate changes in brain function that result in changes in behavior. Marijuana users show decreased short-term memory, ability to remember to complete future tasks, attention, judgement, motor skills and reaction time (Laurent Karila, Perrine Roux, Benjamin Rolland, Benyamina Amine, Michel Reynaud, Henri-Jean Aubin and Cristophe Lancon. “Acute and Long-Term Effects of Cannabis Use: a Review,” CPD Current Pharmaceutical Design, 2014).

Long-term Marijuana Use

One researcher, Dr. Daniel Amen, has looked extensively into the subject of drugs on the brain, including marijuana.

Dr. Amen is a physician, double board certified psychiatrist, television producer and nine-time New York Times bestselling author. He is the founder and medical director of Amen Clinics in Newport Beach and San Francisco, California; Bellevue, Washington; Reston, Virginia; Atlanta, Georgia; and New York City.

Amen Clinics have the world’s largest database of functional brain scans relating to behavior, totaling nearly 90,000 scans on patients from 111 countries.

By taking brain scans of healthy brains and brains exposed to drugs one can see a difference. The vacant spots look like holes on the brain images, and they show that the brains of those using pot are not fully functioning in the pre-frontal cortex area.

From his experience with brain scans, Dr. Amen drew this conclusion: “After doing this work there’s no way you could get me to do marijuana, heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, LSD, PCP, inhalants or any more than a glass or two of wine or beer. These substances damage the patterns in your brain, and without your brain you are not you” (Amen Clinics, Inc., “Brain Pollution and the Real Reason You Shouldn’t Use Drugs”). An article with similar information can be found at www.ucg.org/character/vertical-news-teen-marijuana-use-and-memory-damage.

Supporting Dr. Amen’s findings, one study assessed individuals at 13 years old (before any marijuana use) and 38 years (Madeline H. Meiera, Avshalom Caspia, Antony Amblere, HonaLee Harrington, Renate Houts, Richard S. E. Keefe, Kay McDonald, Aimee Ward, Richie Poulton, and Terrie E. Moffitt, “Persistent Cannabis Users Show Neuropsychological Decline From Childhood to Midlife,” July 30, 2012). Those who did not use marijuana showed a slight increase in IQ between the two ages, whereas those who used marijuana regularly throughout their life showed a significant decrease in IQ (they lost about six IQ points). Those who used marijuana, but did not use regularly, showed a small decrease in IQ (around one point). In addition, tests that measured specific deficits in brain function showed that regular marijuana users experienced decreases in attention, planning and processing speed. This study also showed the age when users began using marijuana affected their outcomes: Those who began using before age 18 showed greater IQ decline over time and were more likely to be diagnosed with marijuana dependence (addiction to marijuana). The research shows marijuana is a dangerous drug that can impact the user in a lasting way.

Marijuana and Christians

God wants us to learn to deal with pain, stress and challenge by relying on His design and following His instructions. In this way we allow Him to help us grow in character.

Legalization or acceptance by society does not provide a justification for anyone, particularly a Christian, to use pot. The Bible, while not specifically addressing marijuana, gives us concrete principles, which must guide our decisions concerning drug usage.

First of all, why does a person smoke marijuana? The purpose is to get high. This high is very similar to the mental state of someone who is drunk from alcohol. Does drunkenness matter for us as Christians? God is clear about His position on drunkenness: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 [9] Know you not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, [10] Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortionists, shall inherit the kingdom of God. [11] And such were some of you: but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
American King James Version×
). God states here the drunkard will not be in His Kingdom.

Christians are expected to do even more than avoid drunkenness. We have a responsibility to strive towards perfection as we wait for Christ’s return. We cannot do this while under the influence of drugs: “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 1 Peter 1:13Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
American King James Version×
).

A second point for us to consider is that our bodies, and minds are precious to God. Clearly marijuana can negatively impact our minds and our thinking. Knowing the damage that is done to our bodies why would anyone indulge in the usage of any drug that pollutes the temple of God’s Holy Spirit? Here are three passages that give us insight into the way that is pleasing to God.

In the first passage in Ephesians 5:17-18 Ephesians 5:17-18 [17] Why be you not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. [18] And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
American King James Version×
we read: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” He is saying don’t get drunk since drunkenness leads to dissipation, a pointless and empty life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit and yield to It so you can discern the path pleasing to God.

In the second passage Paul addresses how important our bodies and minds are to God: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 [19] What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? [20] For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
American King James Version×
).

Finally, the apostle Paul addresses “the works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 [19] Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, [20] Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, [21] Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
American King James Version×
. One of the words mentioned by Paul is sorcery. The word sorcery in the Greek language is pharmakeia, and it pertains to the use or administering of drugs, poisoning, sorcery, magical arts, and is often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it. “Sorcerers” would use drugs to open their minds, which would be a pathway for demons to affect the mind. As Christians, we want to be in control of our minds. We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5 2 Corinthians 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
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to “bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” Also review Revelation 9:20-21 Revelation 9:20-21 [20] And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: [21] Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.
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.

It is extremely important to always be in control of our minds. When we do, we can control our senses and our actions. God is clear in the Bible: The recreational use of marijuana or other drugs does not edify Him, and it leads to serious destruction of our godly character and our bodies, in particular our brain. God desires us to have a spirit of love and of a sound mind.

Resist Negative Peer Pressure

Learning to resist negative peer pressure is an important part of growing in God’s way of life. Don’t give in to what others are doing. God advises us all, including young people, in Proverbs 1:10 Proverbs 1:10My son, if sinners entice you, consent you not.
American King James Version×
: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.”

As a young person, surround yourself with positive examples who don’t tempt you to sin. Choose friends wisely, and don’t keep company with those who are not good examples.

Escape From What?

Why is it so many individuals around the world are tempted by the effects of marijuana? As humans, we experience stress and emotional pain. God gave us the ability to deal with these negative experiences in our brain and body. And He gives us instructions in the Bible for how to cope successfully with difficult experiences. However, when we do not listen to His instructions and we don’t know how to cope, some turn to drugs such as marijuana as an escape from reality and the hurt in their world. It’s as if we are trying to hide from what is inside us. THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, activates the same system in the brain that God built to naturally respond to stress. In this way, using marijuana short-circuits the system, and your brain gets used to having this extra boost. Over time, the use of marijuana inhibits your natural ability to deal with stress successfully.

What is inside us is the emptiness, the angst and the anxiety that stems from the fact that inside every one of us has a deep-seated need for a personal relationship with our Creator God. The more we run from God and try to find out the answers to life’s complex issues without Him, the more some turn to drugs as an escape. This escape can also be in the form of the lust for money, illicit sex, pornography, addictive gambling, eating binges or alcohol abuse. In the end we end up still empty, still searching.

God wants us to learn to deal with pain, stress and challenge by relying on His design and following His instructions. In this way we allow Him to help us grow in character. God is our Healer and the One who desires to fill the emptiness inside us all (John 6:35 John 6:35And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.
American King James Version×
). Through God’s Holy Spirit and the Word of God, we can be filled with righteousness, and there is no greater blessing.

What We Can Conclude

It appears the trend toward legalization of pot and its use is going to continue across the United States. Moral values are continuing to be eroded in our American culture as it is in many others.

Using marijuana is not healthy for us and can negatively impact our minds, and more importantly, it can affect our godly character.

Being familiar with the Word of God, we can make wise choices about what we allow into our bodies. We can reject overtures to partake of this dangerous substance. As we reject the dangerous path of drug usage, we are taking a positive step toward a lasting relationship with God. UN