By Jacqueline J. Holness
The use of marijuana in American culture has long been associated with a subculture characterized by freewheeling, lackadaisical, radical aberration to societal mores. “Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. However some Americans have become marijuana legalization devotees, championing the fight to legalize marijuana use for recreation and medication.
Whereas those who advocated for marijuana legalization were once marginalized, their voices have now become central in a growing nationwide debate about the benefits of marijuana use, particularly medicinal marijuana use for people suffering from epilepsy, HIV, cancer, and other conditions. Previously public opinion seemed staunchly resistant to discuss medical marijuana, but now Americans from doctors to ministers have become willing to engage in the debate. And many have become advocates of marijuana legalization as well.
Medical & Political Approval
According to a 2014 WebMD study, a majority of 1,544 doctors from more than 10 states believe that medical marijuana offers benefits to patients and should be legalized. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN chief medical correspondent, has admitted in various articles that he was once too dismissive about the benefits of medical marijuana and now says he is “more convinced than ever that it is irresponsible to not provide the best care we can, care that often may involve marijuana” (from his article “I Am Doubling Down on Medical Marijuana”).
In fact, as of the writing of this column, medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, with New York governor Andrew Cuomo signing the Compassionate Care Act into law regarding its use in July. In a press release, Cuomo said the legislation “strikes the right balance between our desire to give those suffering from serious diseases access to treatment, and our obligation to guard against threats to public health and safety.”
Also in July, North Carolina governor Pat McCrory signed legislation approving the use of “cannabidiol oil from hemp plants to treat drug-resistant epilepsy” and will be available in clinical trials. In the very same month, Georgia governor Nathan Deal announced his support for the coordination of clinical trials of marijuana-derived oil to treat children who suffer from seizure disorders.
Doctors and politicians are not the only ones taking part in the medicinal marijuana debate. Ministers are also speaking out. Jim Burgen of Flatirons Community Church in Lafayette, Colorado, one of two states where recreational marijuana use is legal, said via YouTube video, “Using medical marijuana doesn’t make you a pothead or a bad person. I’ve got a bunch of kids over in our special needs ministry—the oil is saving their lives.”
Brett Hartman of New Covenant Fellowship Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, is also an advocate for medical marijuana, particularly as one of his members, 11-year-old Anna Knecht, suffers from a severe form of epilepsy. “Anna’s condition isn’t getting better, and so we’re kind of like, ‘Let’s make sure our representatives know this. Let’s make sure that maybe we don’t have to go through all the bureaucracy,’” according to an article in The Christian Post.
While politicians, ministers, and doctors have expressed their views on marijuana use, the Bible is silent on this topic—although there are verses that some people have used to form opinions against marijuana use.
Romans 13:1, 2 says: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities . . . whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” But as the laws are changing, marijuana users may no longer be categorized as criminals.
Another popular Scripture advocating against marijuana is 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? . . . Therefore honor God with your bodies.” But if medical marijuana is proven instrumental in restoring health, isn’t maintaining health one way to honor God with your body? These are questions we must now investigate more deeply.
On whatever side of the issue that Christians find themselves in the medical marijuana debate, we can certainly no longer ignore it. Prayerfully, with God’s leading, the church can respond in this debate in a manner that glorifies God and ministers to his people.
Jacqueline J. Holness, a member of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia, is a correspondent for Courthouse News Service, an online, national news service for attorneys. Contact Jacqueline at afterthealtarcall.com.