Getting Lost in the Deep Weed

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I have written before on the sinfulness of recreational marijuana use. In an appendix to Future Men, entitled “Liberty and Marijuana,” I argued that the one use for alcohol that is prohibited in Scripture is a condition remarkably similar to the effects of marijuana — and to the extent that there is a distinction between being drunk and being stoned, marijuana is demonstrably worse. For more detailed argumentation on that issue, I refer you to that place. So it is a sin to get stoned.

At the same time, I have also repeatedly urged us to remember the distinction between sins and crimes. Not everything that is sinful ought to be against the law. Granted that marijuana use is sinful — although many Christians today are muddled enough to not understand that — ought it to remain against the law? I believe so.

Now I say this acknowledging that many of our current penalties for pot use have been draconian, and I believe that our “war on drugs” has been an over-reaching and very expensive joke. So in what I am arguing here, I am not urging us to maintain the status quo. At some other time, I might outline what I think the appropriate penalties might be. But for now I am interested in the politics of weed, from the vantage point of free citizens who are now on defense.

In the current climate, the way weed is being decriminalized, what we are seeing is not an expansion of personal choice, but rather a transfer of personal choice away from responsible citizens and to irresponsible ones. This is what I mean.

Suppose an employer does not want to employ potheads –whether they got their pot from a licensed retail outlet in Colorado, or from that guy in the park. The employer doesn’t care where the weed came from, he cares where the THC went. And where it went was into the body of this person who is supposed to be doing a job, a job that the employer believes (rightly) will be affected negatively by the pot.

Assume that the employer is not simply exercising irrational bigotries, but has sound reasons for his concern about likely impairment. He has a factory full of very expensive and high-precision equipment. Or he is a hospital administrator writing standards for the neurosurgeons. Or he hires airline pilots who fly passengers around the country. That pilot may be at 30,000 feet now, but that is nothing compared to where he was last weekend. Everybody fine with that? The fact that it was a Rocky Mountain legal high does not improve the safety considerations.

Before someone is tempted to dismiss this as me trying to peddle some sort of “reefer madness” thing, it is a simple medical fact that THC stays in the system. It does not do what alcohol does, which is to disappear. But whether the medical science on this is settled or not, if we were truly concerned about personal choice, we would make sure that responsible private citizens had a basis for protecting themselves and their businesses according to their own lights before doing anything like decriminalizing pot.

Anybody who thinks that the inevitable clashes that are coming between bosses and potheads are going to be decided in favor of the bosses . . . is a person who hasn’t been paying attention recently.

Principled libertarianism could argue for legal pot, and argue with equal vigor for the right of employers to sack employers for smoking dope. But the shift that our culture is going through on this and related issues is driven by licentiousness masquerading as libertarianism. And licentiousness is an approach that wants to push all the pleasure buttons in the brain, and to do so in a way that minimizes the consequences and ramifications for having done so. Since some of those consequences will naturally involve employment, one of the first things that will happen with this is that personal choice will be taken away from employers.

So we are not seeing an expansion of freedom. We are seeing it wither.

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David Koenig
David Koenig
7 years ago

And those who are most adamant about protecting cannabis users’ “rights” are the same ones who seem to be okay with workplaces that ban people from smoking even off the clock, generally with some token word about increased healthcare costs.

jay niemeyer
jay niemeyer
7 years ago

I was wondering where I had read that excellent argument against marijuana use. Was going to ask you about it… behold! 
Thanks for the reminder. I’ve not read anything better on that subject.

David Paul Regier
David Paul Regier
7 years ago

It’s primarily a medical issue.They’re trying to ease their joints.

timothy
timothy
7 years ago

Did you hear about the Christian bakers who where fined because they refused to put marijuana in the wedding cake? Me either, but give it a few months.
 
 

Josh Shelton
7 years ago

Hey Doug, in reading your thoughts about marijuana,  I have to disagree with at least one thing in the article. You say that it is a sin to get stoned, comparable to the sin of getting drunk, and I agree. But, there is an area in between total sobriety and drunkenness for which alcohol was designed to create that was meant to bring blessing and joy. If someone were to make the sort of argument with alcohol, that you are making about the sinfulness of being stoned, to say that the reason people of all sorts drink alcohol is to… Read more »

BJ
BJ
7 years ago

Two questions: (1) Is there a big difference between libertarianism and licentiousness? I have always understood libertarianism as the freedom to be licentious without being restricted. (2) As a postmiller, should we not strive to make God’s law, the law of the land. That was Bahnsen’s case for theonomy. Where in the bible does it distinguish between sin and crime? “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Pastor, your line of argumentation there at the end surprises me. It seems like the same thing could be said by some of the “let’s ban sodas” people. Sodas cause me to pay higher insurance costs due to obesity and diabetes. Ideally the obese and diabetics would bear that cost themselves, but since that’s not gonna happen, ban on.

Seth B.
Seth B.
7 years ago

I do think you’re overstepping here. Even if we legalize something for all the wrong reasons, it’s the legality itself at issue. I remember listening to a lecture by Greg Bahnsen where he insisted he didn’t think pornography (and I think he even specifically included child pornography as well) but vehemently insisted it’s still sinful. He also included in that lecture, I believe, the same view of drugs. Drugs and pornography are sinful, sure, but can you find any text in Scripture that proves it should be criminal? Sure we’d all agree an airline pilot on dope is super bad.… Read more »

Seth B.
Seth B.
7 years ago

Also, what punishment would you suggest? It’s can’t be considered a crime unless it’s punished in some way.

Justin W
Justin W
7 years ago

Seth, I think you’re missing the context for the article.  This is not a “in the ideal Christian republic” post, but rather framed by this statement:

In the current climate, the way weed is being decriminalized

That is, in our particular climate, is decriminalization a step forward in Christian liberty or backwards?

Max Curell
Max Curell
7 years ago

“what punishment would you suggest”

Perhaps a pillory in the form of a large roach clip?

JohnM
JohnM
7 years ago

“So it is a sin to get stoned.”  Yes, it is.  ” I believe that our “war on drugs” has been an over-reaching and very expensive joke. ”   Yes , it has. More than that, it has been one of the two major excuses for expansion of the centralized,  coercive, intrusive state over the past forty years. ” I am not urging us to maintain the status quo.”  But the status quo is what you have, apart from anything like Colorado has done.  Mind you I won’t be scheduling surgery in Colorado anytime soon, but I’ve been around drunks and I’ve been around potheads,… Read more »

Justin W
Justin W
7 years ago

Justin: What difference does it make? Yes, people are trying to legalize weed because they want their licentiousness protected. But just answer this simple question: should weed be legal, period? The answer, I think, is yes. That means legalizing the use of weed is biblical, even though it is a sin to smoke weed. Now, if America is not granted repentance that will probably change (A biblical law in a  godless society won’t stand for long, because every society works out the implications of its presuppositions, and a biblical law is inconsistent with unbiblical presuppositions) but that doesn’t change the… Read more »

Riley
7 years ago

I can see your concern, and I’m not arguing in favor of legalization, but to play devil’s advocate, don’t employers exercise this kind of discretion all the time when it comes to alcohol abuse?

Jon
Jon
7 years ago

I agree that marijuana use is sinful if it yields the same effect as drunkeness.  We are told that drunkeness is sin and marijuana leaves a person in a very similar state.  The problem with these states is that it suppresses our faculties.  Also, it covers over problems that need to be dealt with.  If you keep self-medicating, you are not working through your problems.  An addiction agency in Colorodo came  out with a statement criticizing the new acceptance of marijuana, saying that it’s exacerbating the problems of society.  A  new generation has arisen that doesn’t really care. 

Jill Smith
Jill Smith
7 years ago

I think it is only fair to recognize that federal law already requires that anyone responsible for safely  handling heavy equipment be tested for marijuana use.  My daughter was tested before she was allowed to operate rides at Disneyland; I was tested before working as a secretary for a defense contractor (as were all employees there, whether they swept floors or handled machinery).  Train drivers and pilots are subject to routine testing all the time.  I’m not sure whether I agree with full legalization (although I think Colorado’s approach is more honest than California’s medical marijuana law under which any… Read more »

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

One alcohol does no go out of your system right away. The degree may be different that marijuana, but that argument is not accurate. A lot of prescription drugs can stay in your system for a time as well. That being said, I have been looking through online personals. A woman in Washington State, where pot is marginally legal liked my profile and contacted me. Her screen name included 420. I said that I was uncomfortable about 420 to which she replied that it was for medical purposes. Maybe she really needs it, but I said to her that if… Read more »

Seth B.
Seth B.
7 years ago

Haha, oops that comments above should have my name on it, not Justin W’s. “Justin: What difference does it make? Yes, people…”

Justin W
Justin W
7 years ago

Seth B: The same difference as me not allowing my three year-old to drive my car.  Or God not allowing the Israelites to eat shellfish.  The questions of Why and Who are just as important as the What.  Imagine a nation of three year-olds asking the question “does the Bible say that the driving of cars is a crime?”  If not, it ought to be allowed, right? You imagine a law or lack thereof as some sort of abstract matter of justice.  What I understand Pastor Wilson to be suggesting is that there is a historical, physical context in the… Read more »

Seth B.
Seth B.
7 years ago

Justin: Plenty of things are illegal but shouldn’t be done by young children. But that’s the responsibility of the parents to decide. I know someone who’s been driving since she was 12, and a guy who’s shot guns since he was 6. I also know plenty of people whose parents were wise to never let their kids do those things at that young of an age. To be consistent with your analogy above, shouldn’t you be pro gun control, since children shouldn’t shoot guns? As far the Israelites eating shellfish, that law was done away with by the New Covenant,… Read more »

Justin Whear
Justin Whear
7 years ago

My point has nothing to do with whether the federal or state governments allow 3 year-olds to drive but it is right for me to do so as the head of a very small government.  I am suggesting, by analogy, that rules and laws ought to have context.  You make this statement:

 But just answer this simple question: should weed be legal, period?

Which suggests that you think the questions of “for whom”, “when”, and “why?” are irrelevant.  So I have one for you: should an armed citizen be allowed to shoot and kill another citizen?  Period.

bethyada
7 years ago

jigawatt, there are several issues you comment raises. The main issue is that marijuana is sinful, soda is not. Thus no parallel.

bethyada
7 years ago

BJ: (1) Is there a big difference between libertarianism and licentiousness? I have always understood libertarianism as the freedom to be licentious without being restricted.    //    Yes. While libertines favour libertarianism to facilitate their sin, the argument for Christian libertarianism can be made along the lines of not controlling men unnecessarily; and men are sinful including leaders thus the power we give them should be limited.    //    Concerning the first point Ballor said: “To put it bluntly, one views liberty as the freedom to do what we ought, while the other views liberty as the freedom to do what… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

Seth: Even if we legalize something for all the wrong reasons, it’s the legality itself at issue.    //    Possibly, but if there are laws that should not exist it may be the order in which they are repealed that makes a difference; and removing them in the wrong order may be worse than leaving them both.

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

bethyada, yes that’s right. But, Pastor Wilson said that not everything sinful ought to be against the law. And also, those soda jerks could point out that all they’re against (at least for now) is drinking soads to excess, which is also sinful.

Kyle LaPorte
Kyle LaPorte
7 years ago

I wonder if you would use the same arguments for the use of prescription pain killers. I happen to be on three different types at the moment and they alter the way I feel, think, and act. Are they sinful? Is the CBD sinful or just the THC?

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

Also, I’d be interested to know how Pastor Wilson felt about seat belt laws. I’ve heard some people argue for them like this: “Everyone ought to wear a seat belt because they save lives, BUT as a matter of personal liberty the gubbment shouldn’t make them mandatory. BUT BUT since I would have to pay either higher taxes or insurance premiums or hospital bills myself to cover that dummy in the ER who wasn’t wearing his seat belt, then I think the gubbment SHOULD make them mandatory. I’d really wish we get tort reform and whatnot so I don’t have… Read more »

Brian
Brian
7 years ago

Doug,
Did you mean to write “…the right of employers to sack employees for smoking dope,” rather than “…the right of employers to sack employers for smoking dope”?  Please feel free to delete this comment whenever you’d like.

Alli
Alli
7 years ago

Josh Shelton says that marijuana doesn’t compromise mental faculties the way alcohol does. Really? That’s just anecdotal, there needs to be research on that. I associate its use(especially regular use) with general spaciness and lack of concentration. Of course I haven’t smoked it since the ’70’s so maybe it’s totally different now but my experience was visual distortion of space and objects and distortion of time AND lack of even the desire to concentrate. The effect started after two tokes. I remember taking even one step seemed to take an eternity. I could drink 4 oz. of beer in the… Read more »

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

Allie, the DUI limits are based on federal blackmail. Ifd  each state didn’t adjust their limits to California’s .08 they would lose their highway funds.

bethyada
7 years ago

jigawatt, yes Doug thinks that not every sin should be a crime, so his argument is that: to be a crime something needs to be a sin AND…. Whether Doug is correct or not, the soda analogy fails because soda does not even meet the criteria of sin (in itself; too much is gluttony but this does not relate to soda but to too much).   //   Personally I think that (private) employers should be able to hire whom they wish, and that health insurance should not be attached to employment at all.  

Michael Duchemin
7 years ago

BJ: (1) Is there a big difference between libertarianism and licentiousness? I have always understood libertarianism as the freedom to be licentious without being restricted. Yes. Licentiousness is called being a libertine.  Libertarianism is the belief that actions that do not encroach on other persons or their property should not be illegal.  You can be a libertarian and not at all be a libertine. I would argue that a Christian who rightly distinguishes between sins and crimes is essentially a libertarian and not a libertine. (2) As a postmiller, should we not strive to make God’s law, the law of… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

Concerning seatbelts, a possible argument could be made based on the idea that driving on public roads is a privilege and government can set minimum relevant criteria, eg. speed limits, driving skill, not impaired by chemicals (alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs), seatbelts. Of course that would not be applicable on private land and roads.    //    I find the keeping costs low argument less convincing. Often socialists will propose new laws to solve a problem that arises from a current socialist law. The solution is to remove the bad law, not introduce new laws. It shouldn’t be too hard to have a… Read more »

bethyada
7 years ago

Kyle, Aquinas’ double effect deals with your question.

Michael Duchemin
7 years ago

As someone who has never used marijuana, I think Josh Shelton might be on to something.  There is an important subjective aspect to how marijuana may interact with each individual. The same thing is true with many prescription drugs today.  For one person, that drug might cause severe negative side effects or death; for another person, a drug might serve an important medicinal purpose.  Doug brought up alcohol in the post. Different people have different reactions to alcohol.  They metabolize it at different rates, they have varying degrees of tolerance and ability to hold their liquor. One would need to… Read more »

In Ohio
In Ohio
7 years ago

I smoked semi-regularly for several years. If it wasn’t a sin, it was the worst non-sinful personal choice I’ve ever made. Pot affects the psyche in subtle but serious ways that the user cannot easily see in himself. I haven’t partaken in six months and feel a great deal better. Several good friends of mine are quitting as well, one after experiencing several nervous breakdowns of the worst sort, brought on immediately after smoking. 
I urge young readers of this blog not to trust their (pot-addled) intuitions. Quit or don’t start.

Josh Shelton
Josh Shelton
7 years ago

Ali, I can’t relate to visual distortions or any of that. I don’t suppose that marijuana would make a person who doesn’t want to concentrate, suddenly want to concentrate. But, for someone who already intends to, I found it to increase the level of concentration. As far as 4oz of beer, that is not much alcohol at all seeing as beer is about 5% alcohol. The speed of influence seems to me to be irrelevant. Just assume moderation with both substances. If both are done in moderation, what is the basis for saying that one is good and should be… Read more »

jigawatt
jigawatt
7 years ago

bethyada, I don’t think the soda analogy fails simply because soads aren’t sinful and pot is. Yes it is a distinction, but not every distinction tanks an analogy. Here’s what I’m imagining: Doug’s talking with someone (let’s say, a college student named Steve) about sodas. The college student argues for a ban on huge sodas not because they’re bad, but because when people (sinfully) abuse them then unfortunately everybody has to pay for it. I’m guessing Doug would say, “That’s a bad argument. You’re proposing a new law (banning sodas) that’s trying to solve a problem that was created by… Read more »

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

How much do our employers own us? The Duck Dynasty issue brought this to the forefront. Can an employer fire you for having trace amount of alcohol in your system?  Alcohol is legal.

Nick e
Nick e
7 years ago

I know this has been brought up before, but I work as an RN in a hospital. I see all kinds of drunks come in every week. I see violent drunks, liver failure drinks, driving drunks, impulsive drunks, overdosing drunks, and withdrawing alcoholics (fun fact: alcohol is the only drug whose withdrawal is potentially lethal). I have never seen anyone admitted to the hospital because they smoked too much marijuana (and we drug test for it on admission). Admissions for marijuana use are usually the result of the weed being unknowingly laced with other drugs (something that wouldn’t occur with… Read more »

Doane
Doane
7 years ago

I cant wait until I have time to comment on this thread. 

bethyada
7 years ago

jigawatt, your argument on the face of it seems somewhat reasonable, though I would suggest that the idea of banning anything non-sinful (ie. sodas) strikes me as disastrous, and Doug is probably in agreement here (as judged from previous writing) though he can give his own opinion. My response to your soda example would be regardless of the idiocy of politicians in making the cost of existing prohibitive (exorbitant unfair health costs) I am not willing to criminalise and punish these sort of activities. So the sinfulness remains an assumption in the argument, even if it is unstated.     … Read more »

Andrew Lohr
7 years ago

Swallowing camels while straining gnats is sinful, eh?   More people are arrested for marijuana than for murder, rape, and robbery combined (Libertarian Party brochure some years ago).   So decriminalize, while amending state constitutions to say “The right of people and groups to discriminate against drug users shall not be infringed,” and perHAPS punishing drug-related crimes more heavily (as gun-related crimes may be, with NRA approval, eh?)   /   /   /   /   /   /   /   “Libertarianism” in a broad sense favors a smaller government than we have now, privatizing e.g. schools, welfare, parks.   I favor this on Biblical grounds (I Sam 8,… Read more »

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

I am assuming that the phrase “marijuana is sinful” contains an implicit exception for any medically valid use that may exist (assuming such uses actually do exist.) After all, if one said “morphine use is sinful” it would have to include the caveat that we are not talking about carefully administered pain relief for genuine medical conditions, as opposed to recreation or reckless self-medication.

KSM
KSM
7 years ago

Typo alert:

Shouldn’t “employers to sack employers” be “employers to sack employees”?

Jon
Jon
7 years ago

I would assume marijuana use for medical purposes is fine, since we’ve been using pain killers and medications of all varieties for years.

Robert
Robert
7 years ago

Jon, most people opposed to marijuana include medical use even if marijuana works.

bethyada
7 years ago

Jane, yes. Morphine is used medically as are amphetamines. There are medicines that stimulate cannabinoid receptors in the brain; I believe they are available in Canada. So there is no problem in using them medically. My suspicions are raised when the proponents of medical marijuana are potheads who think that the best medical formulation is a joint rather than isolating the active compound(s) and prescribing in a fixed dose.

Jane Dunsworth
Jane Dunsworth
7 years ago

bethyada I agree, I was just giving Doug a chance to clarify if he chose. And I agree with the rest of your comment as well. It’s just that “marijuana is sin” is a rather sweeping statement that wouldn’t be made of other substances as such, so I was looking for a more careful expression to avoid confusion.

Jon
Jon
7 years ago

I think if we were to argue against medical use of marijuana we would have to argue against all other types of medicine that work in a similar way, such as morphine.  That wouldnm’t be right.  So we havbe to admit medical use exists and is OK.  We feel it ought not to be used recreationally, since this bears a striking semblance to drunkeness, which Scripture outrightly condemns.