This week Colorado became the first state to open legal dispensaries for the recreational use of marijuana. Later this year, Washington state will follow suit. Echoes of parochial drug abuse programs mixes with the sound of advancing research in medicinal cannabis. Oh, what is a Catholic Christian to do? Can Catholics smoke marijuana?
One of the most oft used cited reasons for Catholics to oppose marijuana’s use is found in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
“Do you not know that your body is a temple 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 body.” (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
The body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. It’s not that I disagree with this assertion, it’s that I believe to single out marijuana as an agent unworthy of the temple seems exclusionary, conveniently ignoring other (legal) substances that we put in our bodies. We all know that too much sugar can lead to diabetes, and that eating a meat-based diet, absent of fruits and vegetables, can lead to cancer. I’ve questioned whether my caffeine consumption is fitting for the temple.
Increasing numbers of studies point to marijuana’s medical benefits, and I hesitate to believe a medical benefit would destroy the integrity of the temple. I struggled to find similar studies expounding the health benefits of high fructose corn syrup, a substance found readily in, well, almost everything. To claim marijuana unfit for consumption within the temple places all of us in a strange space where we decide for others that which is fit for the Temple of the Holy Spirit. I would not support someone forcing milk upon my lactose intolerability any more than I would tell a returning vet that he can’t use marijuana; never mind that it helps his/her anxiety, flashbacks, and nightmares more effectively than any other pharmaceutical remedy.
Another scriptural reference used to keep Christians in recreational smoking check is Paul letter to the Galatians:
Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
In his litany of carnal infractions, Paul’s letter to the Galatians mentions drunkenness, to which cannabis use is an assumed portion of Paul’s unlisted et cetera. Last time I checked, Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine, so the Bible most evidently does not prohibit alcohol or partying. To confuse the issue, let’s consider Proverbs 31:6-7, which seems not only to allow but encourage:
“Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.”
The fact that the Bible has two apparently contradictory statements regarding alcohol seems to leave it up to the consumer and his/her ability to moderate his/her usage. To be sure, I am not advocating reckless drinking. I’ve met enough alcoholics to know that the same drink used to celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass can destroy a family.
So then, are we to have no opinion of legal marijuana? In Romans 14:1-23, we’re given some strong scriptural language advocating for a live and let live mentality when it comes to the purity code:
“Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.”
Basically, let the meat eaters and vegetarians get along. I think if a certain Pontiff was stuck on a plane with reporters asking about the use of marijuana, he might simply respond, “Who am I to judge?” In Christianity, we’re not in the judgement passing business. We’re just not.
To me, Christianity should concern itself with what Christ actually took time to talk about, say in Matthew 25, namely: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and welcoming the stranger. If we spent the time and energy we use to debate the hypothetical potential of our weed-smoking neighbor moving on to crack cocaine next week as we did satiating the hunger of the hungry or comforting the lonely, we might find ourselves comfortable with the complete irrelevance of the question and stop worrying about it. Which is, after all, sort of what Jesus DID say.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matthew 6:25)
So can Catholics Christians smoke marijuana? Simply concluded, that’s between you and God. Rest assured, God knows the hearts of us all. Can someone smoking marijuana, medicinal or otherwise, still have a heart that is kind, loving, and forgiving? I sure would like to think so.