Ohio is poised to vote on an important state constitutional amendment that among other things would legalize marijuana for individuals and setup a monopoly for a single company to produce the drug in ten Ohio counties. You can read the proposed amendment here:
It will come as no surprise to you that I am opposed to the amendment. As a Christian, I seek to be controlled by God’s Holy Spirit instead of intoxicating substances like marijuana. However, curiosity about the subject led me to a recent forum facilitated by the Ashtabula County Conservative Club on October 27, 2015. During the forum, approximately ten individuals gave credible reasons for their united opposition to Issue 3. I found their opinions to be helpful in confirming my opinion of the issue.
But there are a large number of people who are in favor of the constitutional amendment. They believe that making marijuana illegal is the cause of many crimes. They also say that marijuana isn’t any worse than alcohol. Still others think that legalizing marijuana in Ohio will create jobs and increase revenues. While some of these arguments may have some merit, I am still convinced that marijuana is not good for Ohio. Here are a few of my thoughts about the subject.
1. Is marijuana really a problem?
a. Not according to one user.
“The effects of pot generally make people more reserved, calm, quiet and less likely to take risks which is the opposite effect that alcohol has. If I were to take 3 hits of weed I would be just a little buzzed like 3 beers would maybe have you a little buzzed. However booze is much harder to control because it weakens your judgment causing people like me to push way beyond what’s responsible. I've seen many people ruin their lives with booze and I've done my share of really dumb things drunk also. Not to mention all the people who I've seen die from alcohol related diseases. People can function well on weed because it has nowhere near the intensity of alcohol and as I've said it's not possible to reach beyond the basic state of being stoned. It only has so much of an effect.”1
And yet another former user told me the exact opposite view about marijuana. So, who is right? Let's consider what others have said about the effect of marijuana on people.
b. It is a federal problem.
“The Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, defined as the most dangerous of all drug schedules, with "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."2
c. It is bad for children.
“Imaging studies in human adolescents show that regular marijuana users display impaired neural connectivity in specific brain regions involved in a broad range of executive functions like memory, learning, and impulse control compared to non-users.”3
d. It may cause mental problems.
"Research shows a link between marijuana use and mental health problems like depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, short-term psychosis, and schizophrenia. While it’s not clear if marijuana causes these conditions, it can make them worse."4
e. It impairs users.
“Essentially, cannabinoids' effect on our brains is to keep our neurons firing, magnifying our thoughts and perception and keeping us fixed on them (until another thought takes us on a different tangent). That's why when you're high, it's really not a good time to drive, study for a test, or play sports that require coordination, like tennis or baseball.”5 It can result in "slowed reaction time (If you drive after using marijuana, your risk of being in a car accident more than doubles.)"6
f. It affects families.
One of the child care professionals in Ashtabula County, Ohio testified at the forum that marijuana has had a negative effect on the families she works with. She cited one family in particular where the father refused to give up marijuana, lived in a filthy house, and was irresponsible with his children.
I also found it interesting that Bill Denihan, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County is opposed to Issue 3.7 His experience with addicts has probably flavored his opinion of the issue.
g. It can cause scary results.
“At high doses—and if you don't follow the 10 commandments of marijuana edible safety—marijuana can produce scary curled-up-on-the-couch-for-hours hallucinatory states.”8
h. It can cause heart attacks.
"Smoking pot can increase your heart rate by as much as two times for up to 3 hours. That’s why some people have a heart attack right after they use marijuana. It can increase bleeding, lower blood pressure, and affect your blood sugar, too."9
i. It can be addictive.
“While marijuana addiction is real, it is a rarer addiction than other (legal or illegal) substances. Statistics say that 9 percent of people (roughly one out of 10) who use marijuana become dependent on it, compared to 32 percent of tobacco users, 20 percent of cocaine users, and 15 percent of alcohol drinkers.”10
j. It is difficult to know much about an illegal substance.
"Longer-term effects may depend on how you take it, how much you take, and how often you use it. Since its use has long been illegal in the United States, large-scale studies have been difficult to manage."11
As you can see, there are various negative aspects that come with the use of marijuana. While they may vary according to the individual, its negative effects on people cannot be denied.
2. Is there a real association between marijuana and crime?
At the forum I attended, several judges and an attorney agreed that marijuana was almost always found at the scene of the crime. While clothing, cars, and toothbrushes may also have been present, the fact that marijuana is a mind-altering substance makes that connection different than the other items.
"Gil Kerlikowske, the White House director of national drug-control policy, said a study by his office showed a strong link between drug use and crime. Eighty percent of the adult males arrested for crimes in Sacramento, Calif., last year tested positive for at least one illegal drug. Marijuana was the most commonly detected drug, found in 54 percent of those arrested."
Also, the Ohio State Board of Education has voiced its opposition fueled by a recent report about the effect of legalizing marijuana in the state of Colorado.12
“Among the report's findings:
• The average number of marijuana-related traffic deaths increased 41 percent in 2013-14 compared to the three years when medical marijuana was commercialized (2009-12).
• The Denver Police Department reported twice as many DUIs involving marijuana -- from 33 in 2013 to 66 in 2014.
• Drug-related school suspensions and expulsions increased 40 percent from the 2008-09 school year to the 2013-14 school year.
• Colorado hospitals reported a 38 percent increase in the number of marijuana-related hospitalizations in 2014 compared to 2013 -- from 8,272 to 11,439. This number reflects lab tests, self-admitted marijuana use or some other form of validation by a physician but does not necessarily mean marijuana was the cause of the emergency admission or hospitalization.”13
3. Is marijuana a gateway drug?
According to www.drugabuse.gov, the jury is still out on this question. But they did note “THC’s ability to "prime" the brain for enhanced responses to other drugs.”14 They also noted that alcohol and nicotine also do the same thing.
“The ability to draw definitive conclusions about marijuana’s long-term impact on the human brain from past studies is often limited by the fact that study participants use multiple substances, and there is often limited data about the participants’ health or mental functioning prior to the study.”15
4. Should marijuana be legalized in Ohio?
Because of the negative effects of marijuana use both to the user, his family, and community, I do not think the drug should be legalized. The health risks for the individual are negative and especially so for children. When a parent spends too much time in an altered mindset, his level of responsibility drops accordingly leaving his or her family in a difficult situation. The community is also affected by those who choose to drive or make important decisions under the influence of the drug. For these reasons, I do not see the advantages of legalizing marijuana.
5. What should be a Christian’s response to the issue?
a. Recognize the depravity of man.
Think back to what the Bible says about the human heart. It is “more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:9). And from God’s perspective, nobody is righteous, or seeks after God (Rom. 3:10-18) without regeneration. Because of this, people who are not influenced by God may make bad decisions that affect the rest of us (see Rom. 1:17-32). Realizing this will give us discernment about the issue.
b. Recognize God’s plan for human government.
In the United States we have a unique government that allows us to have an input into the way our government works. By voting, we can have an influence on what is allowed by law. Seeing that God’s design for government (Rom. 13:1-7) is the protection of law abiding citizens and the punishment of evil doers, it is wise for us to vote for a government and laws that accomplish this part of God’s plan. In my opinion, voting against Issue 3 will help to do this.
c. Recognize the ultimate solution.
We can talk for the next twenty year about possible solutions to the problem. But unless people recognize their sinfulness in God’s eyes, repent of their sin, and put their faith in Jesus, we are only putting a Band-Aid on the situation. Sinful people need to be regenerated before they will have a genuine desire to do what pleases God. Without Him, they will continue doing what is best in their own eyes. And that doesn’t always match up with what is best.
Whether Issue Three passes or not, people will continue seeking for something to satisfy their longings. Some choose marijuana to get them through difficult times or just to make their life momentarily more enjoyable. We who know Jesus know that these things don't bring complete satisfaction. Only He offers what truly satisfies. That's pretty much what Jesus told the woman at the well (see John 4). So, let's remember to take the Good News to those we meet every day whether they agree with our political views or not. Perhaps God will use even this contentious issue to draw people to himself.