I was recently asked a question about the use of medical marijuana from a Christian perspective.
–“I’ve been advised by my doctor to smoke marijuana for my health issues. He mentioned that it would help me significantly compared to my medication which has higher side effects. As a Christian, my understanding about the matter is to stay far away from drugs. What should I do? What does the Bible say about something like this?”—
About 4 and a half years ago, my mother passed away from Colon Cancer. During her last couple of years, she had a lot of struggles and one of the medications that proved to be most helpful for her was Marinol. Marinol is a pill that uses a synthetic version of cannabis (found in marijuana) to help patients improve their appetite and manage pain. That being said, I have spent a significant amount of time thinking through how Christians should deal with medication and natural remedies for managing pain.
Most Christians do not think anything of using a Hydrocodone or OxyContin pill if prescribed by a doctor. These pain relievers are actually stronger opioids than Morphine (1). In reality, even prescription medications can become very addictive if not used properly. In fact, addiction to pharmaceutical drugs is often found to be more rampant than addiction to things like cocaine or heroin. However, more people struggle with substance abuse addiction related to marijuana than other illicit drugs (2).
I think there are two factors we should keep in mind when determining what kinds of substances to put into our bodies.
First, genetics, mental health disorders, and environmental conditions (peer influence, abuse at home, poor academics, etc.) typically determine the likelihood that someone would develop a substance abuse disorder (3). If these issues would likely have an impact on you, then staying away from powerful drugs – even for medical purposes may be a good choice.
Second, as Christians we need to realize that God created plants and gave us skills in learning how to use them for our own benefit. He also people with minds that he expects us to use to help humanity. Some great minds have utilized chemistry to find ways to help people medically. God allows people to create medicines to aid people in their struggles, and he gives us wisdom in how to use natural plants and other things in our world to create remedies as well. It should be noted that many things in this world are no longer used properly because of the fall. Everything is corrupted and things that are meant to help can now also be used to harm.
The Scriptures never condemn the use of marijuana or any other medications specifically, but they do discuss using some natural medicines such leaves for healing (Ezekiel 47:12), using medicine made from fig fruits (Isaiah 38:21), and using oils for medicinal purposes (James 5:14).
I believe that God expects us to use natural remedies and lab created medicines for healing. As one of my former professors said, “Even an Aspirin should be seen as a gift from God for our benefit.” Our God is the Great Physician, and he allows medicines to help ease our pain. Along with using medicines, we must be responsible.
We should not use medicines when they are not needed, and we should not overindulge in medicines to the point where there healing effects become more harmful than helpful.
If your doctor believes that smoking medical marijuana would be beneficial to you (and perhaps more beneficial than other prescribed medications), I believe that is an acceptable use. If your conscience will not allow you to move to that point, I recommend asking if you could try another form of medication first to see if it provides the needed relief. Using it for its intended purpose to heal is not wrong, especially if done in accordance with medical professionals.
Using any drug natural or lab created beyond its intended use can be detrimental to our well-being. We see this time and time again when people overdose. We see this when people become addicted to forms of substance abuse. In a very real sense, when we use medicines incorrectly, they become poisons to our system. When used correctly they can aid in healing, prolong life, improve quality of life, and bring some normalcy to our situation.
Doctors have a responsibility to help patients, it is ok to utilize options they provide for relief as they should have in-depth knowledge with regard to specific struggles and illnesses. It is also important to use medicines of any kind as recommended and not simply as we see fit to use them.
On a final note, some have argued that using pharmaceutical medicines in general is condemned in Galatians 5:19, however the Greek word in question here is used contextually to refer to a person who uses spell-casting and is not the same as how pharmaceuticals are used today (4).