This is your Bible on drugs

The Bible doesn’t address marijuana use directly. But Christians engaging the issue are finding plenty of verses to support various positions on pot.

As a new era of legal marijuana emerges in the United States, some Christians are scrambling to figure out a biblical stance on using weed. Though cannabis is nowhere mentioned in the Old and New Testaments (unless you buy interpretations like this one), pastors and teachers have been pointing to a number of passages about sobriety, the body as a temple, and the goodness of all creation to support arguments for and against legal marijuana.

Pro-pot verses

In his ebook “Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?”, Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, says two of the verses he often hears quoted to support the use of marijuana come from Genesis and Luke. (For the record, Driscoll is very much against recreational pot smoking.)

Genesis 1:29, the most commonly cited pro-pot verse according to Driscoll, says, “Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.’”

Luke 6:37, a kind of catchall verse, says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

Are there other verses that might lend themselves in support of lighting up? Hint: Look for verses that mention plants or crops. Here are five:

Genesis 1:12 says, “The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 9:3 says, “Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

1 Timothy 4:1-3, which is about people who will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits, says, “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth.”

Revelation 22:1-2, which imagines the water of life flowing from the throne of God, says, “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

Matthew 15:11 says, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Anti-pot verses

John Piper, chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary, warned against the recreational use of marijuana by Christians in a post titled “Don’t Let Your Mind Go to Pot.” He bases his argument on what he calls “two biblical truths”: “the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” and “God gave us minds and hearts to know him and love him and discern his will.”

He cites the following verses:

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

1 Corinthians 6:13 says, “You say, ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.’ The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.”

Proverbs 23:32–33, which is about wine and drunkenness (and by extension, a marijuana high), says, “In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things.”

Piper also asks a larger question of Christians: “Can you commend Christ authentically to your friends during a marijuana high?”

In a similar vein, Christian author Brett McCracken quotes passages from the Bible to support his anti-marijuana interpretation based on the idea of “witness.” The verses:

Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Romans 13:13 says, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.”

Using the same principle of sobriety, Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, references 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8 as a call for Christians to maintain an alert and sober mind: “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

McCracken also points to 1 Corinthians 8-10 as it concerns food sacrificed to idols, and the Christian call to ensure that actions don’t cause others to stumble. In summary, 1 Corinthians 10:23-24 says, “’I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.”

With the possibility of continued marijuana legalization, Christians may no longer be able to fall back on Romans 13:1, which says, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”

One thing is certain: As laws and attitudes shift on the subject of marijuana, the Bible will be used to support the positions of teetotalers, potheads, and every stripe of Christian in between.


Image by  Adrianna Broussard.


Corrie Mitchell Corrie Mitchell is a journalism graduate student at New York University, currently interning at OnFaith.
  • Doug Wilkening

    The media seem to be full of articles like this lately, with some writer or another trying to get a rise out of religious believers over marijuana legalization. Unfortunately for the controversy baiters, most Christians (and probably most people of other faiths) correctly recognize that this is simply not a religious issue of any significance.

    Indeed, the only value I have gotten out of any of these articles so far is that I’ve finally learned how to spell marijuna — Oh, drat, got it wrong again. OK, I’ll keep reading them until I can spell it right.

  • Russ Dewey

    If really desperate we could fall back on objective measures like the dose-toxicity ratio: the ratio of how much it takes to feel an effect vs how much it takes to kill somebody. That produces a nice clear ranking of psychoactive substances including alcohol.

  • FA Miniter

    Why does the answer have to be biblical? I would think that modern medicine provides more reliable answers to the wisdom of consumption of pot or alcohol or tobacco. Oh, I forgot, this is addressed to Christians who don’t believe in science.

  • Mex Seiko

    Those “Christians” quoting Genesis 1:29 to justify smoking pot, should try smoking Atctaea Pachypoda.

    • Doug Wilkening

      Your comment reminded me of a glorious summer afternoon I spent at the state park in Mystic, CT several years ago. I’m an avid amateur photographer. That day I found a patch of White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda) and spent hours photographing it. I filled half a memory card, but in the end I didn’t come up with a shot that I thought good enough for my permanent portfolio. But no loss. The real reason I do photography is to get out into nature, not to get results for publication.

      These berries are stunningly beautiful, but you’re right, I wouldn’t recommend popping or smoking them. I count them as “good”, but not as good to eat. Big difference.

  • Wahkonga

    An underrated bible reference to medical cannabis is Matthew 12: 1-14. During his time Jesus did the illegal: Heal the sick on the Sabbath. By virtue of compassion and mercy he healed them, to the dismay of the Pharacies, modern day leaders. People healing each other illegally has been done since the days of Jesus.

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