The Evil Weed

Yep, marijuana. A big issue right now is whether or not it should be legal. That’s a difficult topic in my opinion, but an easier one is whether smoking pot is inherently immoral. This document is subject to change as my brain changes. Also, note that I assume tobacco and alcohol are fine to consume in proportion.

Bad arguments against marijuana

Health. My first instinct was to declare grass to be “The Evil Weed” and move on. For one, it does in fact have a negative effect on health. The intensity of the political debate has led to an abundance of misinformation, even in the medical sciences. However, the (relatively small, but efficient) research I have done overwhelmingly states that real health risks do exist. WebMD gives a pretty standard list of symptoms. The notion of cannabis being a gateway drug is disputed, so I don’t consider it a valid argument. (But even if it was a gateway drug, I still wouldn’t consider that a sound argument for its inherent immorality.)

Analogy to hard drugs. Secondly, it is undeniably similar in appeal to other drugs that are certainly bad. I’m talking about Ecstasy, LSD, etc. They are not the same thing, but they are similar. Since I feel no hesitation in condemning them, I feel less hesitation in condemning Mary Jane.

Scripture. The Scriptures condemn drunkenness all over the place. One could make an analogy to Aunt Mary, thus condemning it as well. Both are intoxication, in a fairly similar sense.

Leaders. Finally, I cannot think of any great moral leaders I respect who support it. That is highly suspicious. George Washington grew hemp, but not the intoxicating kind.

Reply to health. Yes, it has some health problems. But tobacco is undeniably worse for you. The key is consumption in proper proportion.

Reply to analogy to hard drugs. False analogy. Other drugs are much more addictive and much harder to consume in proper proportion. In addition, their health effects are much worse. Finally, perhaps I ought to feel hesitation in condemning them.

Reply to Scripture. If you look closely at the passages that condemn drunkenness, you can notice that they all fit under the header of a larger, more general sin: debauchery. Debauchery can be described as a type of intoxication. It is being intoxicated by pleasure, in a sense. But it is not, strictly speaking, actual intoxication. To be sure, drunkenness is intoxication, but it seems like Scripture is using the image of a flaming drunk to illustrate what all debauchery is really like. Applied to tree, we could say that we should not become infatuated with it, but once again, in proper proportion, it is alright. Disclaimer, I am not totally convinced of this objection.

Reply to leaders. That does not necessarily imply anything. It has a history of use, but has never been as big in the Western world as it is now. Misinformation abounded in the early twentieth century when it rose to prominence. It is very possible that all other moral leaders had never heard of it or were misinformed. The words of C.S. Lewis and Tolkien in support of smoking tobacco seem like they could be applied to bud.

Common arguments for marijuana

History. Ganja has a long history of use. It has roots in China at least as far as 2000 BC(E). It came to Europe in 500 AD, and Muslims used it extensively for a while. It was brought to America in 1545. In Jamestown, it had a larger share of the cash crop market than tobacco. It became more common during the 1920s, probably because of prohibition. After a few years of fear mongering about Mexicans, Mormons, and misconceptions, it was essentially banned in 1937. So it is not some recent phenomenon, it is very old.

Nature. It is completely natural. Why did God create it if we were not supposed to use it?

Analogy to tobacco. It can be shown to be similar to other, perfectly legitimate drugs. Tobacco is at least as dangerous. With a vaporizer or edibles, it is not even necessary to inhale any smoke.

Analogy to alcohol. It is similar to alcohol. It is used to make a good time, and a drunkard is certainly more dangerous and violent than a stoner.

Analogy to caffeine. It is similar to caffeine. THC is a chemical that alters brain chemistry, just like caffeine. Both intoxicate in the sense that it alters the state of the mind.

Testimony. Finally, there is strong personal testimony that it is not a bad thing. The pothead is merely a stereotype, as many successful and reasonably moral people enjoy smoking a blunt every once in a while. The reason society has a negative reaction to it is its reputation. Drugs are an easy escape for a hard life, so people with hard lives become addicted to them. However, just like anything else, if herb is smoked responsibly and in proper proportion, there is nothing wrong with it.

Reply to history. This is interesting history, but I really don’t care. Murder has a long history as well. Plus Jamestown probably used it mostly for hemp like Washington did, to make clothing and rope. (I read that somewhere, but lost the reference.)

Reply to nature. The plant has many uses other than getting high, such as clothing. Plus, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was created. Does that imply that it was right to consume it? This argument assumes knowledge of God’s mind, which is an incredibly dangerous thing to assume.

Reply to analogy to tobacco. Tobacco does not necessarily get you intoxicated, and that is what I condemn.

Reply to analogy to alcohol. I condemn drunkenness in the same way as I describe below. However, drinking alcohol does not necessarily contain the desire for intoxication. When this desire is absent, I have no qualms. (Except legal stuff, duh.)

Reply to analogy to caffeine. To me, this is the closest analogy. I do not condemn coffee, so why condemn wacky tabacky? First, it is possible to enjoy caffeinated drinks because of their taste. That is almost always why I drink them. But secondly, can caffeine rightly be called intoxication in the same sense as broccoli? I don’t think so. It is a mild stimulate that does not take away your humanity in the least. It makes your mind slightly more alert, but that is all. An addiction is certainly not a good thing, but the type of mind-alteration achieved by caffeine cannot rightly be called intoxication.

Reply to testimony. Probably the strongest objection. In light of my main argument, it can be stated like this, “You are making something of nothing. It is just having a good time, there’s no love of intoxication or hatred of the human experience or whatever the crap you were talking about.” Well, I disagree. The fact is that smoking a Bob Marley is nothing less than choosing intoxication over non-intoxication. This is no small thing to my mind. I very well could be making all that up, as I have never been high off anything. But I don’t think so.

Good arguments against marijuana

Intoxication. This is my real argument. The nature of cheeba is intoxication. It is necessarily intoxicating. The only reason people smoke a joint is to get high. There are various levels of intoxication, but that is irrelevant. The morality of an act is decided by the desires behind it. In every case, the desire behind lighting a reefer is to become intoxicated.

A desire can be described as a valuing. By extension, desiring to be intoxicated can be described as valuing the intoxicated state above the sober state. It is deciding that it would be better to be intoxicated than not intoxicated. Well, not quite. At the very least, it is deciding that intoxication is of equal value to non-intoxication.

So the question is, is intoxication at least as valuable a state as non-intoxication? Proponents say yes, it is fun and the risks are too few to declare wrong. I disagree. When you are drunk or high, you are not truly yourself. Kant would say that you are more like an animal, because you have lost some part of the use of reason. Catholic anthropology consistently values the intellect as the highest of man’s gifts. When I think of the moral man, he is fully engaged with the world as it is. He is engaged with the romantic and pragmatic view of the world. He is engaged through both his passions and his reason. He is responsible and in full control of his faculties. He is filled with a calm joy that is valuable because it emanates only from his character. So much of this is lost through intoxication. We become a thing that is not fully, beautifully human. We lose the complete human experience. Thus, valuing intoxication as equal to non-intoxication is devaluing the human experience.

You could perhaps argue in this fashion as well. We were made in God’s image. The human experience is beautiful because it is a reflection of the divine. Therefore a rejection of the full embrace of what it means to be human is a rejection of God’s image, a rejection of God himself. Not good.

Doubt of intoxication. An objection could be made that Purple Haze actually enhances the human experience, or is at least a valid part of it. It makes tastes tastier, sights sightlier, and feelings…feelier. It gives us a sense of the subconscious and the divine. I interpret those things differently. They may indeed lead to true inspiration and love of beauty. But being high distorts the world, thus the experiences gained while being high are of a false world. I love the true world. The human experience is about the true world, not an imagined one. God created this world, and though fallen, it is beautiful. I want to see the beauty that God made, not the beauty that blazing makes. Yet, this doubt still holds weight with me. It might be because I have never tried it. Anyways. Merely a doubt.

Another doubt. It is highly suspicious that I could only find a single argument against it, especially since this argument is quite philosophical. This seems like meager evidence.

Another. The proposition that the only reason someone lights up is because they want to be intoxicated would be easy to decry. I do not have actual experience with it, so I could be wrong, but rejection of it requires real, honest introspection.

Pastoral discussion

While I believe consuming doja is probably inherently wrong, it is good to consider the motives of people who disagree. This way forgiveness and charity can be more easily given.

First of all, people might simply disagree. They may have weighed the arguments and concluded that there is nothing wrong with sticky icky, so they smoke it and enjoy it. If that is truly the reason, then while we differ, I can show love by respecting the intellect of the other. Humility, in fact, would demand it.

Others may use it to self-medicate. Here compassion prevails. Life is indeed hard, and loud makes it easier. I totally get that. The world is messed up. The thing is, the joy it gives is artificial. The pain of living is only solvable through the peace, joy, and assured hope found in Christ.

Some use it because it is an exciting, new experience. I totally get that as well. I yearn for adventure wherever I go, and rebellion is adventurous. But as Derek Webb puts it, “I am so easily satisfied / By the call of lovers so less wild.” Or C.S. Lewis, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.” The point is, Christ is the ultimate adventure. No other adventure is as radical.

Others might be simply succumbing to peer pressure, or don’t even think about it. This too is understandable. I know that I speak to your speck with a plank in my eye, but Socrates wisely said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” While peer pressure in general is certainly a good thing and not feeling its pull would be unhealthy, it is not always good in specific situations. Plus, this topic is unavoidable today. As responsible citizens, we should have some type of answer ready. And again, I speak to your speck with a plank in my own eye.

Still others may seek the access to the subconscious that kush provides. Many artists use it for inspiration, and my music library owes a great debt to it. This too is understandable. But I fear that the art that is produced by hay is not actually as good as other art. Its form may be profound and revolutionary, but its content is usually meaningless. Kant would say that this is perfectly fine, but I disagree. To me, the most beautiful art understands and engages the world as it actually is. The art of chronic cannot be as good, because it creates a distorted view of the human experience. Plus, it is possible to get this type of profound inspiration without it.

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