Praise the Lord and Pass the Joint.

“We don’t smoke marijuana in Muskogee”, sang Merle Haggard back in the hippie days. Today in Oklahoma, a person can get a medical marijuana license following “a documented in-person medical evaluation”. Times have changed. In the anti-drug propaganda 1967 episode of Dragnet,The Big High”, Detective Joe Friday hears reports of marijuana smoking in a white suburban home. The husband in a normal-looking, well-bred family declares, “In a couple of years, things may change when all the kids grow up and start wearing ties and go into to the polls”.  Prohibition-oriented evangelicals fighting the cultural “war on drugs” have opposed legalizing weed since forever. Perennial culture soldier Franklin Graham has drawn his line in the sand, warning Christians not to allow dragging the U.S. “into the drug pit”.

Overwhelmingly, evangelicals take communion with unfermented grape juice, as opposed to a thimble-full of wine. They maintain weed use is almost always sinful, analogizing it to alcohol. I have known many evangelicals priding themselves on life-long tea-totallers. There is apparent ambivalence in the Bible, where it often speaks of wine as a divine blessing, which for example “gladdens the heart of man” (Ps. 104:15). Jesus himself “brought” some 1,000 bottles of the best wine to a wedding feast in Cana (John 2). Perhaps that’s why the brick wall against pot is eroding, with only 40 per cent of white evangelicals now saying using is a sin or prohibited by the Bible. (Although pot is never mentioned in the Bible). And recent archeology has found that cannabis was used in early Jewish temple worship.

“I do not believe that the Bible teaches teetotalism”, Billy Graham once pronounced. And some 77 percent of evangelicals do not view drinking alcohol as morally wrong where used in moderation. And for morally-proper purposes. For example, St. Paul himself advises Timothy to “use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities” (1 Tim 5:23). It would be a far stretch to say its biblically appropriate to use alcohol or psychotropic drugs recreationally with the intent to get high. But many users take marijuana for medicinal purposes. Disclaimer: I’ve taken edibles twice for painful osteoarthritis. I found those small (legal) doses to be medically helpful to this elderly man.

Many evangelical leaders like Mike Huckabee fixate on the dangers inherent in “reefer madness”, pointing out that states where marijuana is legal have seen an increase in traffic accidents involving drivers testing positive for THC. “Legalization of marijuana doesn’t come without a cost”. Although “increased marijuana use itself is likely not the sole cause of the increases seen.” Bingers gonna binge, and there is evidence indicating excessive alcohol consumption is often also involved. The risk from driving under the influence “of both alcohol and cannabis is greater than the risk of driving under the influence of either alone.”

Vehicles, like many everyday items – chainsaws, hairdryers, propane space heaters or even Tylenol – can kill when used against instructions. (Let’s not talk about guns!)  But the potential for improper use does not ban their use. In fact, laws exist to minimize their inherent risks – for example, showing an adult ID when buying the sorts of spray paints used by adolescent taggers. The same for cigarettes. A highway safety engineer brings an important perspective: “First, convince everyone that driving under the influence of marijuana is not okay,” he says. “Then, enact laws and sanctions penalizing those who ignore the message. Finally, make sure you have the resources (i.e., staffing and training) to enforce these laws and sanctions.”

Years ago, I knew a newly-Christian couple who thanked Jesus when they lit up together. Based on the spiritual guardrails of sound judgment and discretion I see in the Scriptures, I don’t see why not. In everything give thanks. Praise the Lord and pass the joint.

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