Aaron Hostetter

Marijuana: Is It Okay to Light Up?

All you have to do is listen to a lot of popular music to hear about marijuana.

All you you have to do is watch TV or movies to see marijuana.

And just attend a concert if you want to stand around inhaling it secondhand.

It's everywhere.

Marijuana is even legal in a couple states and even where it's not – I know you still see it. It's a topic that always seems to spark a ton of debate. Is it a sin? Can it be used in moderation, etc?

I want to take a step back from the legality aspect of marijuana and focus more on the morality of it. What does God have to say about it?

I am going to assume that the overwhelming majority of you reading this do not have a medical need for marijuana, so I'm going to address this as if you are one of or know one of the 1 in 10 high school teens that smoke marijuana at least 20 times a month (5 times a week) for recreation (www.drugfree.org).

Where do we start?

With us.

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' Matthew 22:36-37

The most important thing that we were created for in this life is to love God with our entire self: body and soul. That means that our thoughts, prayers and actions should all point to the greater glory of God. What marijuana does to you physically matters, because your body and soul are linked together and are inseparable (CCC 365).

Created to be free

God created us to be fully alive in communion with Him, free of any bondage or sin that would hinder that relationship.

“God created man a rational being, conferring on him the dignity of a person who can initiate and control his own actions. “God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel,’ so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him. Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.” CCC 1730

Our ability for decision making and the use of our free will is the state we were created to live in. Well guess what marijuana does to your ability to make decisions and use your free will? . . .

What it does

The Limbic system of the brain is what's most affected by the use of marijuanna. The Limbic system deals with emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and sense of smell and time. When used, the drug causes both physical and psychological effects on the person, from high heart rates and slowed reaction time to short-term memory loss, anxiety and depression.

One of the first things I think of with marijuana is seeing someone slowed down and mellowed out, thinking slow, and laughing at anything. Looking at just what marijuana does to your brain, you can come to the conclusion that one of the things its use tends to cause is the deadly sin of sloth in people. But we were not made to be lazy sloths, we were 'made for greatness' (Pope Benedict XVI)!

In marijuana, you are deliberately inducing chemicals into your nervous system to alter your consciousness. It is ridiculous for someone to argue for the right to take a single puff of a marijuana cigarette, if that is the intended purpose. The goal is to achieve the psychotic effect on your brain, whether for some form of recreation or to escape the world and the demands of life in the real world.

There's a lot of research found today to show the physical, emotional and psychological damage marijuana can cause to your long term health, especially when used during your teenage years while you are growing and developing. Everything about it is bad news.

'We cannot speak of the ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏfreedom to take drugs' or the ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏright to drugs,' for the human being has no right to harm him/herself, nor the right to abdicate one’s personal dignity, which comes from God!'*

But it's not forbidden in the Bible

Neither is pornography, embryonic stem cell research, recycling, nor whether it's ok to wear socks with sandals (stop it!). There are a multitude of things that have been invented since the Bible was written, so don't think God has no objection to something merely because it isn't mentioned by name in the Bible.

The beauty of the Church is that we have Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition working together to arrive at the Truth of all things (Dei Verbum 9). There's a wellspring of information from the teaching office of the Church that speaks on the topic of drug use. And all those teaching say it's not okay.

But it's natural

Just because something is from nature doesn't mean that the way you use it is why it's here.

You can use poison ivy as toilet paper, but that doesn't mean you should. Hemlock is a 'natural' plant, but it's poisonous if consumed.

Our delight should be in the Lord

“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Our culture is all about running away from life and responsibility and focusing on feeling good. This is evident in contraceptives, abortion, getting wasted with alcohol, and absolutely with smoking marijuana. The YouCat 389 notes the pursuit of losing or forgetting yourself – this idea of 'escapism' – is precisely the problem. It's giving away your human reason and freedom deliberately.

You are weakening what makes you more fully human!

“Using drugs is a sin because it is an act of self-destruction and thus an offense against the life that God has given us out of love. Every form of a person’s dependence on legal substances (alcohol, medication, tobacco) and even more so on illegal drugs is an exchange of freedom for slavery; it damages the health and life of the person concerned and also does great harm to the people around him. Every time a person loses or forgets himself by becoming intoxicated, which can also include excessive eating and drinking, indulgence in sexual activity, or speeding with an automobile, he loses some of his human dignity and freedom and therefore sins against God. This should be distinguished from the reasonable, conscious, and moderate use of enjoyable things.” YouCat 389

We need to look to God first for our joy, because only He gives true joy.

We need to look to God first when we are suffering and lonely, because He gives us true strength and brings light into our darkness (John 1:5).

Our hearts desire eternal things: to find God, surge into the divine, the beauty of heaven, and the adventure of the spiritual life and journey. They have depths we can never conquer and grow bored of.

Marijuana and other drugs offer promises of happiness that they can't fulfill.

There's so much hope and so many amazing things that God has planned for us in this life to waste our time in the trivial pursuits of the instant gratifications found in drugs and drunkenness. Don't spend your life escaping, self-medicating, and sitting around. Step into the light and breathe in the goodness of life!

Check out this great, informative video about the effects of smoking marijuana.

* Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care. “Moral Judgement.” Church, Drugs and Drug Addiction: Pastoral Handbook. CittÌÄ®ÕÌâåÊ Del Vaticano: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2002. 20-21. Print.

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Aaron Hostetter

About the Author

I love writing Catholic hip hop music, Philly sports, swing dance, and general tomfoolery. I'm inspired the most from the life and writings of Blessed Pope John Paul II.