Updated June 12, 2023
In November 2012, Colorado passed the Colorado Marijuana Legalization Amendment, or Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana in the state for everyone aged 21 and over. Since then, most states and Washington DC have moved towards legalizing marijuana by decriminalizing it or allowing recreational or medicinal use.
In recent years, Americans have begun to examine questions regarding marijuana use and what role, if any, it should have in their lives. When weed was strictly illegal, most Christians believed that using the substance was clearly wrong because the Bible advises readers to obey the government. Now that using CBD oil has become more popular and marijuana even recreationally is no longer illegal in several states, the morality of it seems a little murky to some.
Cannabis in the Bible
People have been using marijuana for medicinal and recreational purposes for thousands of years. The cannabis plant is one of the oldest crops. Archaeologists have found marijuana paraphernalia as far back as 2,500 years ago in China, India, Africa and Assyria. In fact, there’s even some evidence that marijuana was used for its hallucinogenic effects in ancient Israel.
Marijuana use was likely a contemporary issue when the books of the Bible were written, yet the Scriptures are silent on the topic.
Does this mean that using marijuana recreationally is a theologically sound practice? Probably not. The Bible may not say anything about getting high, but it has plenty to say about similar vices such as alcohol. These cautions against getting drunk and losing the ability to make sound judgments would probably apply activities like smoking marijuana as well.
Marijuana Can Be a Powerful Vice
At first glance, the increasing popularity of weed suggests that it is addictive. However, the truth is that about nine out of 10 people who use marijuana don’t develop an addiction to it. Particularly among those who didn’t begin using weed until adulthood, quitting marijuana is easy compared to quitting harder drugs such as cocaine or heroin.
Addiction to medical marijuana may be rare, but about 30 percent of those who use weed have some degree of marijuana use disorder. This is similar to dependence, which is when an individual experiences withdrawal symptoms when they’re not using a drug.
Those who use marijuana regularly report symptoms and health issues such as:
- Sleep disruptions
- Difficulty regulating mood
- Decreased appetite
- Food cravings
- Depressed mood
- Restlessness and physical discomfort
- Digestive issues
These symptoms can last up to two weeks after quitting weed, making it very difficult to abstain. Particularly as marijuana becomes more concentrated, marijuana use disorders may become more prevalent.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12, Paul says, “‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything.” The Bible doesn’t specifically mention addiction or marijuana use disorder. However, this verse can apply to recreational weed and the hold that it can have over someone. While recreational weed may technically be permissible according to the New Testament’s law of grace, its benefits may be questionable, depending on the situation.
Marijuana vs. Alcohol
As is the case with many modern controversies, the Bible doesn’t list marijuana among vices to avoid. For that reason, Christians must use analogical reasoning to draw conclusions regarding whether smoking weed is a sin. In other words, it’s necessary to draw principles from Scripture and consider how they apply to marijuana use.
While the Bible doesn’t say anything about recreational use of marijuana, it gives warning after warning about the dangers of drunkenness. Ephesians 5:18 cautions that drunkenness leads to overindulging, and Proverbs 23:20 advises against surrounding oneself with those who are drunk.
Weed can bring on a mind altering high that’s similar to drunkenness. Both can cause impaired judgment and cognitive functioning, restlessness and coordination and reflex issues. Based on that, it’s feasible that the Bible’s warnings against drunkenness can also apply to marijuana intoxication.
The Danger Is in the Dose
Obviously, there isn’t a direct connection between alcohol and marijuana. An individual can drink a small amount of alcohol without becoming drunk. In a two-hour period, the average woman can have four alcoholic drinks and the average man can have five before their blood alcohol level reaches 0.08. In most states, an individual is legally intoxicated at this blood alcohol level.
The Bible doesn’t forbid drinking – only drunkenness. Many Christians abstain from alcohol to avoid the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). However, some drink with self-control and moderation. Those who only have a couple of drinks may be able to do so with a clear conscience if drinking doesn’t lead to drunkenness.
For marijuana, a much lower dosage creates a state of intoxication. In fact, it takes just 7 milligrams of THC to make the individual high. Depending on their weight and other personal factors, this is between four and eight puffs of a marijuana cigarette.
In theory, an individual could ingest a small dose of THC that wouldn’t result in intoxication. However, in most cases, the purpose of smoking pot is to get high. Based on that, many Christians conclude that smoking even a small amount of weed is a sin.
Marijuana Use Can Lead to Impaired Decision Making
While marijuana has largely been believed to be relatively harmless, an increasing body of research points to impaired decision-making. One study notes that chronic weed use disrupts normal decision-making processes. It influences the individual’s impulsivity, their ability to switch between cognitive tasks, and their working memory. Like alcohol, marijuana can impact the individual’s cognitive function and affect their ability to complete necessary tasks.
Deciding Whether Using Weed Is a Sin
Clearly, the Bible has plenty to say about not drinking enough alcohol to become drunk. It also offers insight into the dangers of being “mastered” by a vice. However, any verses that are applied to marijuana use, or using any other drug, are inference.
So… is it a sin to smoke weed? Looking at the whole picture and considering how marijuana use can impact one’s life can bring clarity to the issue.
What Does Marijuana Use Say About the Individual’s Values?
Christians have the responsibility to regulate their behavior in every area of their life according to Scripture. When deciding whether using marijuana recreationally is a sin, there’s one more important consideration: the effects of marijuana usage on others around you.
Romans 14:20 states, “Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a man to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble.” The issue in the verse had to do with whether or not to eat something previously deemed “unclean.” However, the principle may apply to marijuana use.
The individual may be able to justify using weed if it doesn’t cause lapses in judgment or lead to addiction. However, their use may reflect poorly on their values and cause someone else to justify their own substance abuse. If their recreational substance use is instrumental in another’s addiction or relapse, then it would be better for them to abstain.
The Bible on Obeying the Laws of the Land
In some cases, whether a Christian is free to use marijuana for medicinal or recreational purposes also depends on where they live. In some states, marijuana use is legal for all adults regardless of why or how they’re using the substance. In other states, medicinal use is permitted under certain circumstances, and in a handful of states, use for any reason is illegal and those who are found with marijuana may be subject to criminal charges.
The Bible talks extensively about obeying respecting authority figures and following the laws of the land. In Romans 13:1-2, believers are told to subject themselves to government leaders because their authority comes from God. Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 2:13 echo this command, telling readers that they’ll be subject to punishment if they don’t follow local laws. These laws are put in place to promote a safe, peaceful environment, and Scripture makes it evident that God expects the believer to comply.
Once again, these verses don’t pertain specifically to marijuana use, but the principle still applies. If someone is living in a state in which marijuana use is completely legal for any purpose, they have the freedom to determine whether medicinal or recreational use has a place in their lives. However, for a Christian living in a state in which use is illegal or only permitted under certain conditions, that decision is made for them.
As of June 2023, marijuana use is fully legal in 20 states, though there may be varying age requirements for medicinal versus recreational use. In some states, the substance is simply decriminalized, meaning that it’s illegal to use, but those who use it may be subject to civil but not criminal penalties. A handful of states, including Florida, allow for medicinal use but still criminalize recreational use. Other states only allow medicinal use in the form of CBD oil that includes THC, and in four states, using marijuana in any form for any purpose is illegal. To make matters even more complicated, state laws are constantly evolving. If someone lives in a state where use is legalized, they may want to verify local laws if they move to a different state.
Depending on why someone is using marijuana or how much they’re using, they may be able to do so with a clear conscience and without violating biblical mandates. However, if they live in a state where marijuana is fully illegal or only CBD oil with THC is permitted for medicinal use, using the drug to manage certain diseases or conditions may not be an option.
More Bible Verses To Help Determine If Smoking Weed Is A Sin
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
1 Corinthians 6:19
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
1 Peter 5:8
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
Before considering whether or not using marijuana is permissible, young people (and individuals of all ages) should consider how it could affect their mental health, reputation and life’s focus. Talking to a respected friend or leader can bring clarity to an otherwise confusing topic. Ultimately, it’s important for the Christian to remember to care for the body God has given them and live free from vices.