Let’s be honest about marijuana

Dear Editor,

Nowadays, almost daily, the marijuana debate is in the news, and quite often it makes headline news. For various reasons, especially perceived economic benefit, some are arguing for marijuana to be legalized. But, in my opinion, what is missing from much of the debate is honesty about marijuana and its effects on those who use it and our society.

For example, one of the arguments that caught my attention is the view that marijuana is a Rastafarian sacrament and is akin to wine used in the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper; therefore, marijuana should be legalized for Rastafarians. This position as reported in the press reflects a lack of appreciation for the significance of the Christian sacrament and the fundamental distinction between partaking of the sacrament as compared to the use of psychoactive substances in other religions.

Christians are called to be sober-minded, dignified and self-controlled (see Titus 2:1-8); therefore, it logically follows that using wine to intoxicate those who participate in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper is contrary to scripture, and it does not happen in faithful churches. And the alcohol content and quantity of the wine given to parishioners makes intoxication virtually impossible. Further, Christians do not take the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper by themselves, whenever and wherever they want to. Instead, they partake of the Lord’s Supper when the church is gathered for that purpose, typically on a weekly or a monthly basis.

On the other hand, can the “marijuana is akin to wine” advocates honestly say that avoiding intoxication is a goal of those who claim marijuana as their sacrament? They cannot. And can they honestly say that those who claim marijuana as their sacrament partake of it in community under the supervision of their spiritual leaders at a scheduled time? They cannot. Why then are they making the false comparison between marijuana as it is used by Rastafarians in their religion (individually and whenever and wherever they want) and wine as it is used by Christians in the Lord’s Supper (corporately when the church is gathered)?

My own view is that the “legalize marijuana for religious purposes” argument, just like the “legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes” argument, is just more mud in debate waters to distract us from the most frequently espoused argument: legalize marijuana for the economic benefits. And I’m in sheer amazement at how the thinking of those who believe we should legalize marijuana in an attempt to reap economic benefits is really no different from drug traffickers who insisted and continue to insist on engaging in their trade because of the money to be earned, while being indifferent to the lives they were destroying and continue to destroy. Like the drug traffickers, those currently advocating for marijuana to be legalized for economic reasons don’t think it will destroy the lives of the people they love, and they don’t care about other people who will be negatively affected. This is beyond sad.

There is one group of people whose voice I’m particularly eager to hear in the marijuana debate, and it’s the psychiatrists who work at Sandilands Rehabilitation Centre. They have a front row seat observing and working with a high number of cannabis-induced psychosis patients, many of whom are young people. But they are civil servants, so they won’t speak out of turn. Therefore, I urge the Bahamas National Commission on Marijuana to invite those psychiatrists to a publicized town hall meeting and allow them to add their voices to the marijuana debate and to answer questions from the general public.

Finally, for those who may have missed it and are interested in reading some honest thoughts about the effect of marijuana on users and their communities, I commend an opinion piece published in The Guardian on January 15, 2018 under the title “A voice and the need for the weed”.

In addition to citing credible research on the health effects of marijuana, the writer makes a compelling case to show that legalizing marijuana would be bad for The Bahamas for several reasons.

The reasons given are so compelling that the writer confidently repeated this conviction throughout the article: “In The Bahamas the people in charge will listen to the voices, note the research and connect the dots.”

If the writer is correct, which I pray, the people in charge would note the research and connect the dots and arrive at the solution which is in the best interest of the broader community. If they are convinced that there is medicinal benefit to be gained by some through using marijuana, they should craft responsible legislation to allow that benefit to be gained by them.

Meanwhile, I urge those who are called by Christ’s name to pray for our leaders to do what is best for our country as they consider this far reaching issue of marijuana, an evaluation that cannot be properly made by allowing money to be the deciding factor. Let’s pray that they will be honest about it.

 – Pastor Cedric Moss

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