Now that Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C. have legalized the recreational use of marijuana, more Christians are asking whether smoking marijuana is truly immoral. After all, it’s legal. Joe Carter has a thoughtful article on this issue that I found extremely helpful. He argues that smoking marijuana is immoral. Here is Carter’s argument in a nutshell (with some ad-lib on my part at certain points):
- While the Bible does not speak to this issue directly, analogical reasoning from Biblical principles leads us to conclude that smoking marijuana is sinful.
- The principle of analogy holds that if X is similar to Y, and Y is judged as sinful in the Bible, then X is also sinful.
- Drunkenness is analogical to smoking marijuana because both have a psychoactive effect on the brain which results in cognitive and behavioral changes that impair our moral judgment by reducing our self-control.
- The Bible condemns drunkenness as a moral wrong, and since smoking marijuana is analogically similar to drunkenness, smoking marijuana is also wrong.
- One might argue by analogy that since the Bible condemns drunkenness rather than alcohol consumption, it would also be morally permissible to smoke marijuana so long as one does not become intoxicated. The analogy between the two in this respect is weak, however. While one can drink small amounts of alcohol without becoming intoxicated (and thus, without sinning), it is nearly impossible to avoid intoxication (and thus, sin) when smoking marijuana. Whereas one can drink several beers without experiencing intoxication, an impaired state is typically reached after just four puffs of a joint (7 mg of THC). Indeed, the only reason people have for smoking marijuana is to reach an impaired state. In contrast, people drink alcohol because they like the taste or for its medicinal benefits.
- If recreational drunkenness is a sin, then so is recreational marijuana.
What do you think of this argument? If you agree, what is the strength of the argument? If you disagree, which point of the argument do you disagree with? What sort of argument would you offer either for or against recreational marijuana use? The confusion between what is legal and what is moral is persistent in our culture, and for good reason. The law is a moral teacher. The purpose of law is to extol the good and punish the bad. When laws are passed that permit or extol immoral activities, it brings moral confusion to the citizens. We saw the same thing when laws were passed legalizing abortion and no-fault divorce. Joe Carter, “Is Recreational Marijuana Use a Sin?”; available from http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/is-recreational-marijuana-use-a-sin; Internet; accessed 18 February 2015.