How do Christians view medical marijuana?

In Feature Stories, Religion by Dave Gordon

What would Jesus do… if he had medical marijuana?

Jesus would have known about the passage in Exodus describing the ancient holy anointing oil that contained kaneh-bos. Many Biblical scholars – including Carl P. Ruck, professor of classical mythology at Boston University – believe this verse references cannabis. But would Jesus, or his disciples, have condoned its consumption?

One of the first caveats that Christian leaders point to in discussing marijuana is that it must be obtained legally. The New Testament maintains one must accept the law of the land:

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” (Romans 13:1-2)

Although there’s no direct mention of marijuana, the New Testament mentions its opposition to mind-altering drugs.

Galatians 5:19-21 describes immorality, idolatry, sorcery, and drunkenness as things that will remove one from heaven.

“Sorcery” in the passage has been translated from the Greek word pharmakeia, parallel to the English word “pharmacy.”

The Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada, an offshoot of Trinity Baptist Church, doesn’t mince words. “We conclude that it would be sinful for a Christian to sell or otherwise distribute marijuana to others,” its website declares.

Greg Stier, the founder and president of Dare 2 Share Ministries International, wrote a recent column opposing marijuana legalization on the basis of Christian theology, with no exceptions.

“Both as a dad and youth ministry leader I want to help teenagers (and other youth leaders) think Biblically about marijuana use and its impact on society,” Stier wrote.

Theologian John Piper, former pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says Christians should steer clear from marijuana, the “mood-altering, mind-altering” drug. On the blog Desiring God, he posted his essay “Don’t let your mind go to pot,” though he’s supportive of therapeutic cannabis.

“But having said that, I doubt that we should oppose a regulated medical use of marijuana, controlled by appropriate physician oversight and prescriptions. Many drugs are sold by prescription which, if they were abused, would be even more destructive than marijuana.”

Meanwhile, a number of other Christian leaders are supporting medical marijuana.

Charles Pendergast, a Bible teacher from Goose Creek, South Carolina, supports medical marijuana, with small caveats.

“I don’t see a problem with medical marijuana provided it is controlled and used for its intended purpose. We all give thanks for morphine, especially when it comes to surgery and pain management. Think back to the Civil War days when surgery was done with a stick in the mouth and five men holding you down,” he explained.

“Of course, as with any medication, abuse is a very real problem… I think it goes without saying that [taking marijuana] should not be done on the job, or behind the wheel of a car… If a person has a legitimate medical condition such as glaucoma, and cannabis can provide relief, then I’m all for it.”

One church leader is actively lobbying for a child to receive medical marijuana for a serious ailment.

Brett Hartman, senior pastor of New Covenant Fellowship Church in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, has been petitioning lawmakers to approve a non-psychoactive medical cannabis strain, Charlotte’s Web, for 11-year-old Anna Knecht.

Knecht has Dravet syndrome, a severe form of epilepsy, that has caused her to have up to 400 seizures a day – the longest being a day and a half, according to her mother Deb, quoted in media reports.

And a couple from Sacramento, California is bringing Christ into cannabis.

Bryan and Lanette Davies say they’ve found the perfect joint effort: running a medical marijuana dispensary while using it as an outreach centre for spreading the gospel.

Bryan Davies, devout Christian and medical marijuana supporter

Bryan Davies, devout Christian and medical marijuana supporter

Sufferers of AIDS, insomnia and arthritis frequent their store, where customers can buy marijuana-infused lollipops – and pick up a free copy of the Bible.

Prayer sessions take place each day at 6 p.m.

Asked whether his fellow religious neighbors frown upon his efforts, Bryan said: “At first they did. But I invited them to the shop. Everyone who has set foot in the shop has said, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing.’”

But some church leaders have kept their distance. “Several ministers wanted to come in, but they thought the temptations will go through the roof.”

For Bryan, it’s a frequent cross to bear. “People have threatened my life; they don’t want me selling pot. People have tried to pull me into witchcraft. I’ve been [set up] when pretty girls come in with ‘spiritual problems,’ and as soon as they get into an enclosed room, they offer themselves.”

Bryan grew up Methodist, attended a Baptist church, was married in a Nazarene church, and is now Protestant.

Denomination notwithstanding, he said it was the Almighty who instructed him to open the shop.

“What happened is, this came to me under prayer. God spoke to me 20 feet under water, with a 30-pound boulder under my chest. It wasn’t the first time my life was in danger. I asked the Lord what to do, and he said, ‘Open a pot shop,’” Bryan says.

“I thought: Why would God want me to be a narcotics trafficker? But what happens at the shop is that people are dying, and they’re mad at God. They’re screaming, and they’ve given up on God. They’re not cursing Him, but they’re pretty close.

“So what better way to talk about God, than here? This is the time to grab a hold of Him.”

Photo courtesy Bryan and Lanette Davies 

Flickr photo courtesy user clintjcl

For other reports on how various religious groups approach medical marijuana, see below:

The Jewish perspective

The Buddhist perspective