Question:

Hello Jeff,

I just wanted to follow up with you on the conversation I had with my friend tonight.

First, there's someone he wants input on helping. He has a friend -- let's call this friend Bob -- who owes him money (possibly from past drug deals, but I'm not sure). My friend has been turning his life toward God, so he does not want to do anything malicious to Bob. (Maybe my friend should not collect any more money owed from past drug deals? Feel free to offer your input on this, but I'll continue with the main question.) My friend acknowledged that Bob will probably not live more than five years on the course he's taking. If Bob keeps living irresponsibly and he racks up debts with drug dealers, it only would take one drug dealer losing his patience, and Bob could get seriously hurt or worse. My friend sees it coming for Bob, so he wants to help him -- or at least the people around him who might get hurt in the crossfire. He acknowledged that Bob might be a lost cause. What would you recommend to my friend in this situation? He wants to take Bob out to eat and lay out some pertinent verses for Bob to think about (which he asked for me to help prepare). What a mess. Bob has wasted his life.

Now about my friend: I offered several concerns to my friend about his current line of business. Even though he's backed out of the illegal dealing he was doing, he is still part of a partnership that runs a smoke shop. It sounds like most of their profit comes from marijuana and paraphernalia sales. He listened to my concerns, but he also offered a number of things that have been pulling him the other direction.

He hears first-hand accounts of people who are using cannabis to cope with difficult physical infirmities. He believes it is something many people are using to self-medicate themselves. He said that many pharmaceutical drugs have worse side effects than cannabis, which is natural and cheaper than many pharmaceuticals.

The pharmaceutical industry definitely has its own issues. He mentioned that DEA was about to ban Kratom (another herbal drug) last year when several pharmaceuticals were being developed based on it. So it was like they were trying to ban the natural drug and force people to buy the expensive processed drug.

My friend said he said he views himself like a pharmacist. He believes his product is helping many people, even if some are misusing it.

He said that he used to think more like me, but since he's gotten into the sub-culture, his views of marijuana have changed.

He mentioned that they are breeding strains of cannabis with higher percentages of CBD (the component that is allegedly medically helpful) and lower percentages of THC (the high-inducing component).

I felt like the things he said weakened my case against his continuing to run the business. He's probably going to need some pretty strong biblical evidence to convince him to step away from the business. He has wrestled with the issue, but he seems to genuinely believe he's helping people. I don't know where to go with him from here.

He referenced Genesis 1 and how God made the plants for man. Perhaps cannabis can indeed be used to help people. But if you're running a business, you can't judge each customer individually to determine whether he or she is going to use it legitimately.

I know you shared some things in the last email, but if you have more to offer on this, I'm interested.


Answer:

I'm actually wondering how to word this because the holes in your friend's arguments are huge.

Let's start with the statement that there is a breeding program that increases CBD while decreasing THC. Whether he likes it or not, this is admission that there is a problem with THC -- if there wasn't, there would be no need to try and reduce the THC. The problem with marijuana is that it affects the mind. Those who use it are not sober. "But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:4-9). While this passage is primarily focused on alcohol, marijuana and many other drugs share the same problem of making the user less capable of making sound judgments and resisting sin.

Alcohol does have a medicinal use. "No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments" (I Timothy 5:23). However, this medicinal use does not translate into permission to use it for recreational purposes. "For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries" (I Peter 4:3). Replace alcohol with marijuana and the reasoning remains the same -- other than that it takes about a month to recover from the effects of alcohol on the body while it takes 6 to 9 months to recover from the effects of marijuana.

While he views himself as a pharamist, he is not one. He does not have the education or training. Thus, he is deceiving himself. "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13). When a person has to pretend, it is not because of truth and righteous living.

Your friend is quoting conspiracy theorists concerning the DEA. I looked up an article on kratom and found out that this drug has been on their list of drugs of concern for quite a while, but recently usage has been rising and with it has come a rise in deaths. Since there is currently no known medical use for the drug and it has already been banned in several countries because of its addictive qualities, it was proposed to classify it with other similar drugs, including marijuana, herion, LSD, ectasy, etc. That proposal was delayed while comments are being solicited and considered. This doesn't change the concerns.

Given his sources, this is yet another form of self-deception: only looking at information that supports his pre-conceived beliefs.

It is not unusual for a plant known to have a particular effect to be analyzed and the chemical that causes the effect to be isolated and reproduced so that side-effects of other chemicals in the plant do not complicate treatment. I don't think anyone is opposed to that being done with marijuana or other plants, but that is not what is happening. The push is allow people to use the drug as they see fit. When a person uses alcohol to self-medicate a problem, we all know that he now has two problems. When a drug affects judgment, self-mediation is dangerous. There is no difference with marijuana and the societal problems are rapidly increasing as people become stoned. That there are other drugs with worse side-effects doesn't change the effects of marijuana.

"Natural" is not the same as good. There are mushrooms that I would not recommend eating, though I love mushrooms. A salad of poison ivy leaves is sure to ruin your day. Yes, God gave plants for eating, but not all plants are edible and that is the mistake your friend is making.

"Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless. "Who among us can live with the consuming fire? Who among us can live with continual burning?" He who walks righteously and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust gain and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking upon evil; he will dwell on the heights, his refuge will be the impregnable rock; his bread will be given him, his water will be sure. Your eyes will see the King in His beauty; they will behold a far-distant land" (Isaiah 33:14-17).

Your friend, in his past life, made his money through promoting sin. As difficult as it seems, the best thing is to do is cleanly and fully break from his sinful past. Rather than pulling away from sin (I Thessalonians 5:22), your friend is searching for boundaries. He wants to know how of the world he can keep in his life and still make it to heaven. Sadly, I don't know anyone who was able to successfully do this; sin always snares them eventually.

Each person has to make up his own mind whether the world or the Lord is more important to him. Bob has to make his choice and it is sad to see anyone destroy his life. All you can do is offer help when he leaves his sin. There is good reason to show Bob that he could have a life free of drugs and sin. I would stick to just one or two verses that you think might make the biggest impact on his thinking. But ultimately Bob is going to have to make up his mind and pray that he decides for the Lord before it is too late.