There are many ways to worship God. All forms of religion have a deity (or deities) and guidelines or commandments on proper behavior. In the case of Christianity, this behavior system is written into the form of The Ten Commandments. Our Lord’s commandments write out unacceptable behaviors in the sight of God. These commandments prohibit certain behaviors such as murder, lying, and envy. What you will not find in these commandments is direction on the appropriate use of plants, specifically cannabis.
To find answers we must look at the scriptures within the Bible itself. According to many leading experts, this search will not yield any results as far as specific references to cannabis. Other Bible scholars argue that excerpts about cannabis can be found in the Bible but were incorrectly translated into “sweet calamus” or “sweet cane” by third century Greeks. If we accept this as truth, this means that cannabis is mentioned in the Bible a total of five times. Holy scripture mentions that all plants on Earth were created for our use. There are no passages that specifically describe the use of cannabis as sinful. The Bible does have plenty to say on the overuse of alcohol though. So why is using cannabis considered such a taboo behavior? For those churches that prohibit and frown on cannabis use in parishioners, what is the reasoning behind this view?
Cannabis leads to intoxication
The Bible prohibits drunkenness and debauchery. It specifically notes that intoxication can lead to sin and sexual immorality. Scripture has plenty to say about intoxication from consuming too much wine. Our spiritual leaders guide us to extrapolate this into avoidance of all forms of intoxication. The key here is responsible use of intoxicants for medicinal and spiritual needs, as taught and demonstrated by Christ. Responsible use of cannabis to aid in mental health treatment, stress relief, and spiritual worship should be included in the definition of acceptable use. Spirituality and mental health are intrinsically intertwined. The Bible specifically teaches responsibility when using intoxicants.
We must also acknowledge the institutional hypocrisy of not asking if opiates (which are derived from the illegal opium poppy plant), benzodiazepines, or other potential intoxicants are religiously acceptable. We must then further acknowledge the hypocrisy of allowing legalization and use of alcohol (also using in some spiritual rituals such as in Catholic communion) but prohibiting similar use of cannabis. Recent archeological excavations have revealed THC residue in burn pyres of ancient Christian ritual sites. This finding indicates that cannabis was burned and used ritualistically in worship in early Judaism. Since burning cannabis results in production and exposure to psychoactive THC, this indicates that services were quite possibly influenced by cannabis psychoactivity.
Cannabis has no value, medical or otherwise
This belief is not based on religious belief at all, but rather a misrepresentation by government and those in power. Prior to cannabis prohibition, hemp crop cultivation in America was a main crop staple of many farmers with a multitude of possible uses. These ranged from making easily renewable textiles (like this line of jeans being manufactured by Levi Strauss) to the invention of a car totally made from and fueled by hemp. After the end of World War II, the oil and steel industries faced potential shutdowns as the war machine was no longer needed. These industry leaders won the fight for economic control of our country and way of life. We now have cars manufactured with steel and powered by fossil fuel products.
The belief that cannabis holds no medicinal value stems from the politicized War on Drugs which happened when alcohol prohibition ended. The Director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, Harry Anslinger, and his agency faced a certain demise when Americans rebelled against the prohibition of alcohol. As a result of political and economic maneuvering, a new Agency called the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was formed with Anslinger installed as director. The government’s calculated, racially and economically inspired attacks then began on people of color and the most popular form of medication in history. After a massive taxation campaign raised the cost of cannabis medication, the discovery of other potential drugs by the pharmaceutical industry marked the beginning of the end for cannabis. It also marked the beginning of federal cannabis prohibition, the War on Drugs campaign, targeted racism, and untold misery for thousands of cannabis users and their families.
Prohibition of cannabis continues today, although most states in the US have aligned themselves with science and facts rather than the smokescreens blown by government agencies and prominent medical groups. Cannabis research has continued despite the best efforts of government and economic leaders. These studies and facts expose the falsehoods for exactly what they are- misdirection perpetuated on the people by those in power.
Cannabis is a gateway drug and leads to bad behavior
Again, this is a belief grounded in misdirection by those who can benefit from continued cannabis prohibition. Research studies have shown that other factors, especially tobacco use, are the larger “gateways” to hardcore drug abuse. The active ingredient in cigarettes, nicotine, has been shown to increase the likelihood of addiction to cocaine. One particular study showed that 90% of cocaine users smoked cigarettes prior to using cocaine. Drug treatment centers show that the most used substance serving as a “gateway” to other illicit drugs is alcohol (as reported by 66% of their study respondents).
Detractors of cannabis legalization have long feared an increase in teen cannabis abuse, criminal activity, and a decline in property values for neighborhoods hosting cannabis businesses. This development has been proven to be a false belief as cannabis legal states report the exact opposite results from instituting legalization.
Abuse of cannabis is possible, as is abuse of any drug (whether prescribed or not). Again, the key is responsible use rather than the complete ban of a plant with value and healing potential. Research indicates that responsible use of cannabis for both medicinal benefit and spiritual rejuvenation has long been a staple of Christian worship. Society and religious organizations have just forgotten this fact.