On October 17, 2018, the legalization of cannabis will take effect here in the province of Quebec. This reality will cause an enormous shift in the way we think, live, teach, and learn. This will create a real and lasting paradigm shift in our society, and one that I believe many do not want, and most will regret once it occurs.
What I want to in the post is two-fold. First, help us see the reality of the magnitude of change this shift will make in our lives. Second, try to clarify what the response should be in the evangelical church to this law change. Now, we must be honest. Many people use cannabis on a regular basis. It is debated on both sides of this issue whether or not on October 17 will result in an increase use of cannabis. So, I will try to avoid trying to respond to that, even though I do have a personal conviction on the answer.
When I was a kid, the message was clear: marijuana is a bad and dangerous drug that could have serious and long term affects upon those that use it. «Say no to drugs» was the slogan repeated over and over. This message was taught in schools by our teachers as well as guest speakers who worked in the medical and law enforcement fields. We were shown statistics on the health, social, and legal ramifications for those that consume drugs, specifically marijuana.
Now that cannabis will become legal in October, the question that I pose to myself is, was the information that we were told as kids in school wrong, exaggerated, or is there something else going on. After looking at several resources, even by those that are for the legalization of the drug, I truly think that the info we received as elementary, middle, and high school students was accurate. I believe there is something else motivating this change of policy, language, and mind-set. But we must admit something very real and powerful: students today are hearing and will hear a very different message than I did as a student. This truth will result in a real and definite shift in the worldview of the next and coming generations. And I will argue below that this shift is simply the result of another paradigm that has already taken place in our culture.
One fact that I think is worth highlighting is the financial reality that is often ignored. The profit that the government will get out of this law change will be in the billions. Before October 17, the government will not receive any tax money from the sale of cannabis. But on October 17, this all will change. Not only that, the approved stores that will sell cannabis are government run businesses. Here in Quebec, only stores opened by the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC) will be allowed to sell the product. So in the need to control the sell of cannabis, the government conveniently gets to receive profit from it. They will now get to tap into a financial resource that they did not have before. We have to be either blind or ignorant to think that the change in law had nothing to do with the financial benefit to the government. The sell of cannabis will be a huge money-maker for them.
Another shift that will occur is health-related. There will be an increase in health-related issues directly linked to the legalization of cannabis. Some would disagree with that statement. They say that the law change will not change this aspect of life. Some even claim that legalization will even reduce the problems associated to health when it comes to the affects of cannabis. The facts are in my favor. Here are just a few sources, some from those that are for legalization.
Cannabis involves significant risks for public health and safety, therefore the government of Québec must stringently regulate the substance in response to the federal government’s intent to legalize its production and sale.
The proposed regulation aims mainly to reduce the risks and harm to the health and safety of individuals. Emphasis is placed specifically on the following:
- protecting the health and safety of persons, in particular those of the most vulnerable groups, including young persons;
- preventing the initiation to cannabis use, particularly of teenagers, young adults and vulnerable groups of the population;
- promoting the integration of consumers into the legal market from the perspective that the regulated sale of quality-controlled products will reduce health risks; and ensuring road safety.
We can easily see that government itself sees the risks toward young people and potential auto accidents. Their answer to this problem is education. They believe that education will «reduce health risks; and ensuring road safety.» So, they would claim that legalization and control will be good for society. There are many problems with this kind of thinking, but one worth mentioning. Alcohol is legal, yet is directly the cause of a large percentage of deaths in road accidents. MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) would agree with this fact, for those organizations were created based solely on it. Can education help? Sure, that again is why MADD and SADD exist. But, let us be honest. Legalization, then education, will not contribute to «ensuring road safety».
Check out this from a news article:
“Anyone who wants to sell you, figuratively, not literally, cannabis as an innocuous substance or harmless substance is either a fool or an ideologist,” says Benedikt Fischer, a senior scientist at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
“In the past we’ve had alcohol and tobacco, these two substances alone are the worst … chemicals known to mankind,” says Khalsa, who worked in the NIH’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Now we human beings are crazy enough to add another toxic substance to make it a threesome.”
Between 10 to 25 per cent of regular cannabis users will become dependent on the substance
It’s estimated 25 to 30 per cent of users will encounter some kind of cannabis-related problem in their lives, whether it be dependence, impaired driving charges or accidents or the exacerbation of existing or latent mental health conditions.
“So what you’re going to do … in the near future (with legalization), you’re going to see increased health consequences of cannabis use,” Khalsa says. “Auto accidents, psychological problems, health care costs, those are going to increase.”
So what this source shows is that there will be an increase in health-related problems (physical and mental) which will result in elevated health care costs. It even states that legalization will increase auto accidents. I agree with this simply because education can let people know of the dangers, but it cannot make one not smoke a joint before driving. Knowledge is one thing. Wisdom is another. We see the dangers of texting while driving, but on the way to taking one of my daughters to gymnastics today, I saw two people texting while driving 90km per hour. But, let’s explore a bit of the physical and mental affects of cannabis. Here is what I found on the CDC website:
About 1 in 10 marijuana users will become addicted. For people who begin using before the age of 18, that number rises to 1 in 6.
Marijuana use directly affects the brain — specifically the parts of the brain responsible for memory, learning, attention, decision making, coordination, emotions, and reaction time.
What are the short-term effects of marijuana on the brain?
Heavy users of marijuana can have short-term problems with attention, memory, and learning, which can affect relationships and mood.
What are the long-term effects of marijuana on the brain?
Marijuana also affects brain development. When marijuana users begin using as teenagers, the drug may reduce attention, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions.
Marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent. This means that someone who uses marijuana may not do as well in school and may have trouble remembering things.
How marijuana affects lung health is determined by how it’s consumed. In many cases, marijuana is smoked in the form hand-rolled cigarettes (joints), in pipes or water pipes (bongs), in bowls, or in blunts—emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana. Smoked marijuana, in any form, can harm lung tissues and cause scarring and damage to small blood vessels. Smoke from marijuana contains many of the same toxins, irritants, and carcinogens as tobacco smoke. Smoking marijuana can also lead to a greater risk of bronchitis, cough, and phlegm production. These symptoms generally improve when marijuana smokers quit.
Marijuana use, especially frequent (daily or near daily) use and use in high doses, can cause disorientation, and sometimes cause unpleasant thoughts or feelings of anxiety and paranoia.
Marijuana users are significantly more likely than nonusers to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders, including schizophrenia (a type of mental illness where people might see or hear things that aren’t really there).
In other words, the effects of cannabis do not increase the quality of life but destroy it. While smacking a joint may makes us feel «happy», it decreases intellectual capacity, increases the risk of severe health problems, leads to addiction, and raises our chances of incurring mental health problems. While most experts have debunked the argument that cannabis is a gateway drug to other dangerous and more lethal drugs, those same experts confirm that it does lead to an increase in addiction, physical and mental problems, higher health costs, more dangerous roads, and a strain on family, employment, and society in general.
What is the response from the Société québécoise du cannabis (SQDC)? They will:
inform consumers about cannabis-related health risks, promote responsible consumption, raise awareness of the appropriate assistance resources and direct persons to those resources.
They are committed to help people with the problems that are associated with cannabis use. I see this like a doughnut shop offering people to walk on a treadmill while they feed them doughnuts.
But, I see something more going on than these interesting facts. There is a more foundational shift happening here than just a new law on cannabis by our Canadian government. This law is simply the result of a society and culture that is continually working to remove any Judeo-Christian foundation from its worldview. As our shifting culture seeks to rip out any remaining biblical roots from its soil, new beliefs and world views are blooming and bearing fruit. What will occur here in Quebec on October 17 is the directly correlated to the sowing of another belief system into the culture ground.
When it comes to making moral decisions, how we feel about an issue, rather than truth and facts more often than not determine where the majority will land. No longer does the majority ask questions of right or wrong based upon an absolute point of view, rather what is asked is, what will make me happy the most. This shift has been occurring ever since secularism has been the rule of the day. A secular society claims, «no God, no problem», but as we are seeing events unveil before our eyes, there are great sociological and moral problems when a society seeks to erase God from its existence. While all are seeking their own personal joy and happiness, more often than not, it comes at a great price. Broken families, abuse, addiction, physical and mental problems, and higher health-related expenses are just to name a few of the high-ticket items that this new worldview must deal with and answer. But, most of the time, the general population has a blind eye to these challenges because it interferes with their own personal happiness. They do not want to consider these «negative» effects of their worldview due to their wanting to «stay positive». Those that are willing to consider these moral problems are not looking to God as the solution, so those struggling in life are left with little or only temporary help.
The legalization of cannabis is due to this worldview shift. Rather than asking the question, is cannabis good for society, or is it morally right to smoke a joint, the thought process is more along the lines of, «since so many currently smoke marijuana, we should legalize it.» That kind of logic makes no more sense than saying, «because so many people beat their wives, we should make it legal.» Or even more realistic, «because there are so many prostitutes, it should be legal.» This kind of legal processing will only lead to the demise of our society, for any absolute thinking has been eliminated. Eventual this unravelling of a culture will lead to its demise.
So, what should be the Christian stance on this new law beginning in less than a month? When looking at the biblical ethics and morals of the issue, I believe the stance should be no different than it is today. The only thing that will change is whether it is legal or not to smoke marijuana. But the moral and ethical implications behind remain the same. The Christian stance on this issue has never been built upon the fact that cannabis is illegal, rather on other more foundational truths. The use of cannabis opens wide the door to addiction, severe health concerns (noted above), abuse, accidents, loss of self-control (which affects job performance, family relationships, driving capacity, etc.), lower quality of life, and many other things. Therefore, as those who look to Christ as our source of joy and fulfillment, as those who seek to honor Him in our families, jobs, and health, and as those who seek to live under the control of the Holy Spirit and not be controlled by any substance, the logical ethical and biblical stance on this issue is to say that believers should not be a people who partake in the cannabis world. And if some are already using it or addicted to it, for the glory of God’s name in their life, and for their own greater joy, they should seek to do all they can to quit using a substance that will lead them down a path of rebellion against God. Some claim that they are strong enough to resist the dangers of addiction as well as other challenges mentioned above. But that is pride talking, not the Holy Spirit. Why give time and money to something that seeks to destroy rather than giving it to the purposes of the Lord. Too often we seek to get as close to the line of disobedience as passible without crossing over. But that attitude is the proof that we have already crossed the line.
My church has not yet written a policy of how we will handle this issue. But, I hope to make this policy soon. We as followers of Jesus must be clear on what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in our churches. We need to be clear biblically, and we need to be clear so that the name of God will not be despised, rather be honored as we seek to make Him known in all the nations.