A few decades ago, Christians were arguing over whether or not it was a sin to drink alcohol.
Those who supported prohibition were largely Protestant Christians, from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and the Women’s Christian Temperance Union which also helped to drive a grass-roots movement that eventually led to victory.
That victory led to a nationwide, constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.
We call it the Prohibition era.
Some debate whether or not Prohibition was a success. The answer to that question sort of depends on your definition of “success.” If your aim was to decrease the national consumption of alcohol by 50%, then, sure, go ahead and call it a victory. But if your aim was to decrease the growth of organized crime organizations and to increase revenues for the local community, it was a huge failure with a capital “F.”
But, what does any of this have to do with Marijuana or the Bible?
I’m glad you asked.
See, the Prohibition era was spearheaded by well-meaning Christians who did not actually understand how to read their Bibles. The mistakes they made with alcohol are now being made with marijuana or cannabis. So, until we understand what they did wrong when it comes to understanding what the Bible says about alcohol, we have no chance of understanding what it says about marijuana.
Make sense? Good!
So, what DID those Christians in 1920 do wrong? Well, what they did wrong was to selectively elevate a few scriptures that appeared to condemn alcohol while ignoring a lot of other scriptures that approved of it.
Today, Christians who are against marijuana and marijuana-derived medications, do the exact same thing: They quote a few verses that agree with their views while conveniently ignoring a lot more that challenge their views.
We call it human nature. You can call it “Confirmation Bias” – and many people do.
When those Anti-Alcohol Christians wanted to convince others that the Bible was against the “Devil’s Brew” they turned to verses like these:
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)
“Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.” (Proverbs 23:31)
“Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
(See also Romans 13:13; Galatians 5:19-21; and 1 Peter 4:3)
But, they also conveniently ignored other verses in the Bible like these:
“Stop drinking only water and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illness.” (1 Timothy 5:23)
“He makes grass to grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth; wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.” (Psalm 104:14-15)
They also weren’t too keen on those who tried to remind them that the very first miracle performed by Jesus Christ was to turn water into some pretty strong wine at a party where people were already pretty sloshed. (See John 2:3-11)
So, is the Bible against alcohol or for it? The answer is sort of in the middle between these two seemingly opposite set of scriptures. Taken as a whole, the Bible tells us that God intends that wine, beer and other alcoholic beverages be enjoyed, but used in moderation so we don’t end up addicted to the substance.
But, this example with alcohol points out a bigger problem. See, many Christians expect the Bible to act as a rule book for how they should live their life. They think they can treat the book like a pre-internet version of Google and just search up the easy answers.
But it doesn’t work that way. Why not? Because the Bible is not a univocal book. Instead, as noted French philosopher and theologian René Girard said: “The Bible is a text in travail.”
In other words: There are a variety of opinions on the Bible – on almost every subject.
Don’t believe me? Just look around all those thousands – yes, THOUSANDS – of Christian denominations around the world, all basing their doctrines on the very same Bible and claiming that they, and they alone, have the “Truth.” But, how would such a thing be possible if the Bible only had one single opinion about subjects like, marriage, worship, war, violence, baptism, slavery, leadership, the roles of women in worship, or the use of alcohol – or cannabis?
Answer: It wouldn’t.
So, it’s because the Bible is unclear on so many topics that we can very easily bring to the Bible our own views and biases and essentially make it say what we like. To do so, we have to cite certain passages as authoritative while downplaying other passages as vague or as exceptions to the rule.
The key is this: To look at the Bible as a conversation where a variety of different voices share their own unique perspectives about God, and violence, and marriage, and slavery, etc. Our job is to listen to those voices and use wisdom and discernment to make up our own minds.
Anyway, back to our original question: Does the Bible mention weed?
See, in the case of alcohol, we have a lot of examples to draw from, both pro and con. But when it comes to marijuana, we have a lot less to choose from.
Full disclosure: The Bible really doesn’t mention marijuana, or cannabis, by name. Not in so many words, at least.
Here’s what we do find:
“And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:12)
“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb and plant yielding seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
“Every moving thing that liveth shall be food for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Genesis 9:3)
That’s about the extent of it, honestly. Three verses from Genesis where God essentially says: “I created everything for your use and benefit, including these green herbs [which would include cannabis], and I pronounce it “good” for you.” [Paraphrase mine]
So, the Bible does not mention cannabis by name, specifically. Sorry about that. But what we CAN learn from the Bible is that God gave us many blessings, and created everything for our benefit and intended for us to use it wisely.
That is exactly what some people have started to do using cannabis oil, or CBD (cannabinoids), to create a variety of remedies that bring relief to people who are suffering.
Unlike the other marijuana-based compound THC which produces hallucinogenic effects, CBD is non-psychoactive, meaning it won’t get you high. Instead, CBD produces a variety of other positive medical benefits in the human body.
For example, CBD attaches itself to certain receptors in the body to stimulate the production of natural healing cannabinoids in the patient. Essentially, CBD is a natural way to reduce chronic pain and inflammation in the body.
Ironically, there are some studies that suggest that CBD treatments may help people to quit smoking, or to curb their addictions to opioids.
Other studies have found that CBD can be used to treat anxiety, eating disorders, insomnia, depression and even reduce the frequency or intensity of epileptic seizures.
Bottom line: CBD is an organic, plant-based natural remedy created by God to produce a variety of positive healing effects for people who are suffering and in need of relief.
Now, ask me if the Bible has anything to say about this. If you do, I’ll refer you back to Genesis where it says that God created every seed-bearing herb and placed it in the garden for our benefit, and then He said, “It is very good.”
To me, that’s really all there is to say about this question. Especially when it comes to the healing properties found in CBD. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how the Bible, or God, could possibly be against using these compounds to alleviate so much suffering in the world.
As Jesus said, “Whatever you have done for the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.” (See Matt. 25:40)
SOLA DEUS: What If God Is All Of Us? by Keith Giles releases Tuesday, June 6 on Amazon.
Keith Giles is the best-selling author of the Jesus Un series. He has appeared on CNN, USA Today, BuzzFeed, and John Fugelsang’s “Tell Me Everything.” His latest book, SOLA MYSTERIUM: Celebrating the Beautiful Uncertainty of Everything is available now on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.