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Why Not Pot?

Now that recreational pot smoking is legal in seven states and the District of Columbia (and for medical and pseudo-medical reasons in twenty more), many good people are wondering, why not pot?  Why not bring the industry under consumer safety laws?  Regulate sales and distribution like alcohol.  The drug wars have been ineffective and the possible economic benefits are enormous.  For example, legal [1] (“medical”) pot sales in California in 2016 totaled $2 billion, while the illegal market grossed $5.7 billion!

You’ve heard of banks ‘too big to fail?’  Pot is apparently too lucrative to criminalize.  CBS News recently reported [2] that pot sales could bring to the country $100 billion in annual revenue and $28 billion in taxes for the states (although the Heritage Institute says [3] numbers like these are generated by bogus economics).  And then there’s the thriving edibles market [4]; and the employment opportunities [5] at marijuana nurseries and dispensaries; and the exotic cannabis vacations [6] where they pick you up [7] at the airport, drive you to the ‘drug store,’ and drop you off at your pot-friendly hotel.  You can vape [8] it, mook [9] it, dab [9] it, tinc [10] it, rub [11] it in your skin.  There’s a thousand ways to use it.  And everyone is doing it.

Moreover, criminalization has filled our federal prisons [12] with non-violent offenders, perpetuating the youth-corrupting cycle at which prisons are so good and tying up our limited law enforcement resources; and still it fails to get pot off the streets.

Finally, opposing legalization is like distributing buckets on the deck of the Titanic and shouting, “Bail!”  Like gay marriage, legalization is going to happen whether we like it or not.  Why not get out of the way and turn our energies to more important matters?

Compelling Reasons To Oppose Legalization

I am strongly against legalization measures for recreational use.  My argument is simple. Whatever other reasons there are to smoke pot recreationally, everyone also smokes it to get high.  Those who say they are not interested in getting high, but merely want to “relax [13],” or “stir creativity [14],” or “awaken their libido [15]” see getting high as a means to those ends.  Since increasing the number of people who smoke pot to get high is bad for individuals and bad for the community, we shouldn’t be making it easier for people to do it.  In this sense, pot smoking is different from alcohol, which most people enjoy without ever aiming to get drunk as an end or means.

Spiritual Reasons

Why is inducing in one’s brain a state of inebriation bad for individuals and the community?  Scripture has little to say about marijuana, but lots to say about drunkenness, all of which is applicable to getting stoned.  It weighs down the spirit making us unprepared for the day of the Lord (Lk 21:34).  It leads to excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures (Eph. 5:18).  It’s the kind of behavior that people do in the darkness (1 Thessalonians 5:7; Rom. 13:13).  It makes us more susceptible to sexual immorality, discord, and selfishness (Gal. 5:19-20).  It stirs lust and idolatry (1 Pet. 4:3) and makes us pugnacious (1 Tim. 3:3).  It causes confusion and muddles our judgment (Isaiah 28:7) and leads to unjust behavior (Prov. 31:4-5).  It makes modesty more difficult (Gen. 9:21).  People who do it won’t inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:21; 1 Cor. 6:10).

Conscientious Christians know that protecting their purity, remaining faithful to daily prayer, forgiving their enemies, keeping custody of their thoughts, guarding their tongues, and acting with kindness, moderation and respect for the dignity of every human person is difficult enough when we’re at the top of our game.  When we’re inebriated it’s all much harder.  Although not everyone who smokes pot is a libertine, anyone who’s lived in the pot culture knows it’s a promiscuous and unprincipled culture.  The most vociferous defenders of legalization are invariably enemies of traditional morality.  In a country divided by red-state blue-state social mentalities, these initiatives are presently an exclusively blue-state phenomenon [16].

Other Health Reasons

As for the wider effects of pot smoking on health, I direct readers to a comprehensive 2017 Report [17] by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine entitled “The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research.”  In short, the report finds evidence for the following effects of cannabis use:

Yes, it also has modest therapeutic benefits.  But that’s not what this essay is addressing.  It’s addressing legalization initiatives for recreational use.  The scientific research clearly shows that pot smoking significantly impairs bodily, mental and social functioning.  We should fight these initiatives at every turn.

[Further reading: the (somewhat dated but still) excellent report [3] prepared by The Heritage Foundation, “Legalizing Marijuana: Why Citizens Should Just Say No”.]