The Theological Debate Over Marijuana
4/20. The date that will in infamy to anyone in the 1990s. Where once marijuana use was seen as completely taboo, it has now widely supported for legalization and its use is becoming as normalized as drinking alcohol. You can even watch morning news shows that offer tips on how to enjoy the holiday responsibly.
But there is one area of the United States where opposition to marijuana is still relatively high, the South. It is also the most religious part of the country. This is no coincidence. Marijuana has been seen as “the Devil’s lettuce” by Christian groups which have made it both legally and morally banned. We see this beyond the South, where Attorney Jeff Sessions has used his Christian faith as a foundation for his attack on marijuana, just recently canceled because of lack of public support.
So what does the Bible say about pot? It depends who you ask.
Proponents of weed will usually point to Genesis 1:29 “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.” Since Cannabis can be consumed they point to this as proof that marijuana is acceptable. There is even a nonprofit advocacy group trying to use Scripture to legalize marijuana that calls itself Genesis 1:29. But, like most justifications for modern actions in the Bible, there is a bit of creative reading of this passage. The second most used passage is “let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” Pro-marijuana figures guesses that this acts as a block to any criticism.
But this has not persuaded those that believe it is a sin. They look to numerous passages that speak against drunkenness “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Since marijuana is not listed in the Bible, they draw an analogy to alcohol. They point to the fact that alcohol can be consumed without intoxication, while marijuana cannot, therefore the Bible would find it a sin. This argument, as well, requires leaps of logic. There are numerous ways to consume marijuana, some of them with no narcotic effect. With pot avoiding many of the most harmful effects of alcohol, like overdosing, it seems a specious connection.
While most faiths have come out with tepid support for marijuana there has still been resistance. Pope Francis called drugs “evil” and even Jamaica, known for the religious use of marijuana for Rastafarianism, only legalized the substance for religious use in 2015. A cynic could argue that the warming up to marijuana has more to do with the sagging support of younger generations for religion than about a change in attitude. But it does demonstrate that a trend is occurring where religious disagreement with pot may soon be up in smoke.