By now you’ve probably heard that Colorado is the first state to legalize marijuana. If you watch late night television at all, chances are good that you’ve heard a number of jokes about it.
Here’s a thumbnail history of how we got here:
A couple years ago a majority of voters in Colorado backed an amendment to the state constitution making it legal for individuals age 21 and over to possess and use a small amount of the drug for recreational purposes. That law took effect on January 1 of this year. This followed years of lobbying and campaigning by a group of committed activists who compare marijuana to alcohol. By making marijuana legal, like alcohol, they say, the state could regulate its manufacture and distribution, and generate revenue by taxing it.
I live in Colorado and I’ve heard the arguments for years. I understand them, but I still have serious concerns.
First, making marijuana legal at the state level doesn’t change the fact that it’s still a banned substance according to federal law. While the federal government has taken a hands-off approach so far, the discrepancy between state and federal law has a lot of people wondering what will happen in the future. In any event, marijuana remains illegal to grow, possess or use according to the law of the land.
My concerns aren’t mainly legal ones, though. Does simply legalizing something make it a good option? My friends on the Physicians Resource Council of Focus on the Family have drawn attention to many of the downsides of marijuana: diminished cognitive function (including concentration, memory, learning and judgment), impaired motor skills, and decrease in motivation, not to mention health problems that may result from the irritating and toxic mix of chemicals that are inhaled when pot is smoked.
Add to all this the fact that marijuana keeps bad company. Marijuana is often referred to as a “gateway drug.” Now of course that doesn’t mean that anyone who tries marijuana is fated to a life of drug use, but research shows that marijuana use in many young people leads to the abuse of alcohol or use of illicit drugs (or the abuse of legal prescription medications).
Of all the problems associated with marijuana, however, the moral concerns might be the strongest. The Bible is very clear in warning against drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18). Granted, a person might drink a glass of wine at dinner and not become intoxicated, but what about marijuana? Isn’t “intoxication” the main point of using marijuana for recreational purposes?
As a father of two boys who’ll have the legal right to try marijuana when they turn 21 here in the state of Colorado, all these things make me uneasy, but they don’t make me disheartened. My responsibilities as a dad don’t hinge on whether a particular drug is legal or illegal. My job remains the same: to raise young men who know and love God, to teach them to lean completely on Him, and to give them the tools to make wise decisions for life.
While Colorado is the first state to legalize recreational marijuana, voters in the state of Washington have also opted to allow its recreational use, and sales of marijuana in that state will be allowed later this year. Depending on how the experiment goes in these two states, marijuana will likely be legalized in other states in the years to come. Even if you don’t live in Colorado or Washington, now is the time to get informed about marijuana and, if you have kids, start a discussion with them. Pastor John Piper has a good article on the topic from a theological perspective you might want to read.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue.