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The Hmong Marijuana Movement

Money or Misery in the Making

A new era has emerged. Just as thousands once rushed to untamed lands, risking everything for a chance at striking it rich, thousands now flock to states to grow, sell, and use marijuana, risking everything for a chance at striking it high.


Enter the era of green gold—the era of legalized marijuana.


Amidst the green rush sweeping across the land, a resilient community has carved out its place in the unfolding narrative. Many Hmong people, drawing upon their agricultural expertise, have embraced the business opportunity to cultivate cannabis. And it comes as no surprise. This stands as a testament to their ability to adapt and thrive in changing circumstances.


And many churches are left dumbfounded, not knowing how to respond to such migration. Perhaps your parents are already involved. Perhaps your cousins eagerly await your arrival, with an extra bedroom and trimming scissors with your name on it. And perhaps you’ve teased the idea of jumping on the smokey bandwagon.


My intention here is to set out four theses on why Christians should not partake in growing, selling, and using recreational marijuana. Before I do, two things should be noted. First, I will be primarily addressing “recreational marijuana” because “medical marijuana” is a different issue altogether. Second, these four theses need to be woven together. They are not offered as stand-alone proofs. Think of these statements as four pieces of a puzzle. You won’t fully grasp the picture until they are all together.


Theses 1: Intoxication Is a Sin


The Bible clearly prohibits becoming intoxicated. Consider the apostle Paul’s statement in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.”


Some might object by saying, “Well, Paul forbids getting drunk on wine. He didn’t say anything about getting drunk on margarita or beer. I’m sticking to the text.” But focus on the logic of Paul’s statement. “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery.” The word for indicates the ground on which the command is issued. And drunkenness is debauchery and corruption, whether it is caused by wine or margarita or beer.


When Paul explicitly mentions wine, he is using wine as an example of intoxicating beverages. Wine is a type of intoxicating beverage that represents the entire class. Implicit within Paul’s statement is an etcetera; we can reproduce his full meaning as, “Do not get drunk with wine (and things of that sort), for that is debauchery.”


Why is it debauchery? What’s the reason behind the rule? Drunkenness impairs our physical ability, mental judgment, self-control, and moral decision-making, leading to greater debauchery (Proverbs 23:29–35). In other words, drunkenness lowers our inhibitions and makes it more likely that we will give in to certain temptations to sin. As one pastor puts it, “Sins are like grapes; they come in bunches.” It impairs our ability to work for the glory of God and the good of others.


In every place across the canon, drunkenness is, by and large, condemned (Proverbs 20:1; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21; Romans 13:13–14).


Theses 2: Smoking Marijuana Necessitates Intoxication


What about marijuana? The active ingredient in marijuana is THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) which impairs short-term memory, concentration, and motor skills. It leads to addiction and can cause or exacerbate violent psychotic episodes. In short, marijuana is a mind-altering drug; it fogs perception and one’s ability to think.

Based on testimonies of other scientific research, marijuana guarantees intoxication, usually immediately, and thus always falls under the ban of Ephesians 5:18. However, since smoking marijuana necessitates intoxication, it belongs to a different category than those substances like wine, which can be enjoyed in moderation (Proverbs 104:14–15; 1 Timothy 5:23). There’s no such thing as moderation when it comes to marijuana. According to other research, it takes 1 to 3 hits to produce the desired effects. In other words, it is very unlikely that a person will smoke marijuana without getting “high.”[1]


Marijuana gets into your system and affects you more deeply, quickly, and lastingly. For example, the half-life of marijuana in your system is 5 to 13 days.[2] On the other hand, alcohol has a relatively short-half life in the body’s system. A pint of beer takes about 1 to 2 hours to metabolize. But marijuana hangs with you, affecting you far longer than alcoholic beverages.


It seems, then, that consuming marijuana for the “high”—which is why people consume it recreationally—is, in itself, sinful. It’s akin to drinking alcohol in order to get drunk. Therefore, all recreational use should be avoided. (And I say recreational uses because I do think it’s permissible to have narcotics be used for medicinal purposes. Whether marijuana is one of those things, I’m not sure that the wisdom of it. I’m of the opinion that the proposed medical value of marijuana is being greatly overrated. There are other things that are more effective at pain management than marijuana.)


Consider these scenarios: If you’re on a flight from Minnesota to California, would you feel safe if your pilot is “high” in two ways? Or what if you’re walking by a construction site in Oklahoma and you see a crane operator smoking a joint? Does the condition of being stoned impair judgment and affect reflexes? If it does impair in this way, then why on earth should we want people in this condition driving out on the freeway?


Not only does marijuana violate the requirement that God has for us to be sober-minded, but it also brings the body (one that is already struggling) under the influence of an additional substance. What sinner needs that?


Theses 3: Encouraging Others to Sin Is a Sin


But what about growing and selling marijuana? I would say that growing and selling marijuana should be considered on the same moral level as owning a casino—which, to state the obvious, is not good.


Ethics professor Andrew Walker provides a useful framework for evaluating ethical dilemmas called the “ethical triage.”[3] It categorizes actions into three groups: (1) must = obligatory; (2) should = advisable; and (3) may = permissible. A Christian “may” celebrate Halloween. Christian parents (in light of the current cultural climate) “should” homeschool their children or partner with and enroll them in a Christian school. A Christian “must” not support abortion.


Based upon the reasons why people consume recreational marijuana and the effects of recreational marijuana, I would probably put “growing and selling marijuana” under (1) must. Christians must not grow, sell, and use marijuana recreationally. Why? It is possible to drink alcohol without getting drunk; and many people who consume alcohol do not consume it with the purpose of getting drunk. However, getting drunk, and becoming addicted to alcohol (becoming an alcoholic) are both sins. Now, based upon current research, most people who consume recreational marijuana consume it for the “high”, and it is highly addictive. Therefore, by growing and selling marijuana, it seems that I would be making money by encouraging my clients to sin (Matthew 18:6; 1 Corinthians 6:12).


Theses 4: Legality Does Not Determine Morality


If growing, selling, and using marijuana is a sin, then it warrants church discipline—even if society legalizes the immoral activity. Legality does not determine morality. Just because something is legal does not make it moral. Morality is defined by Scripture and not by our legal codes. Therefore, the family and the church can (and should) discipline noncriminal sinful behavior.


Churches need to carefully consider ethical issues and discipline their members when necessary, but they also need to focus on the most important ethical issues rather than getting too caught up in minor things. If a church fails to take ethical offenses seriously, it can compromise its identity and mission and even risk falling into doctrinal error. Here is an example of ethical triage for church discipline:

Figure 1. Ethical Triage for Church Discipline

Breath of Fresh Air


Let this short article serve as a breath of fresh air from the smog. You can love and disagree with those who partake in growing, selling, and using recreational marijuana because love aims at truth (1 Corinthians 13:6). You don’t have to join the smokey bandwagon. You don’t have to partake in the family business. Green gold is fool’s gold. No amount of money is worth a one-way ticket to misery. The smoke of recreational marijuana users propels the smoke of their torment (Revelation 14:11).


Resist the spirit of the age. God has something better prepared for us—the filling of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

 

***footnotes***

[1] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “Cannabis/Marijuana,” 2014, http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/job185drugs/cannabis.htm. [2] Sirichai Chayasirisobhon, “Mechanisms of Action and Pharmacokinetics of Cannabis,” The Permanente Journal 25.1 (2021): 1–3, https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/19.200.

[3] Andrew T. Walker, “‘Is This a Sin?’: Ethical Triage and Church Discipline,” 9Marks, 2 October 2019, https://www.9marks.org/article/is-this-a-sin-ethical-triage-and-church-discipline/.

 

Tuezong Xiong (Mdiv, Bethlehem Baptist College & Seminary) received his Masters of Divinity from Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, MN and is a general editor at Desiring God. He is the husband of Pa Kou and a father to Piper. He also blogs at www.tuezongxiong.wordpress.com.


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