FIRST-PERSON: Church must respond to marijuana's destructive march
WASHINGTON (BP) -- Marijuana supporters continue to succeed with their plan to legalize this dangerous drug across the country. Their strategy is now quite obvious. They begin by playing on the public's compassion with medical marijuana, and then follow up with their true agenda: the widespread legalization of recreational marijuana.
A quick look at the 2014 vote results reveals this strategy very clearly. Oregon and Alaska, which both legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, have had legal medical marijuana since 1998. The medical marijuana efforts passed in those states because voters were told it would help relieve people's suffering. Fast forward to 2014, and they now have legal recreational marijuana.
Once a state legalizes medical marijuana, proponents know it's just a matter of time until they can advance their real agenda. Apparently, it takes about 10 to 15 years to desensitize the public enough to the dangers of marijuana to achieve the next step toward full legalization. The other two states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana followed the same trajectory as Oregon and Alaska. Colorado legalized medical marijuana in 1998 and Washington State did so in 2000. Then, in 2012, the two states legalized marijuana for recreational use.
The town of South Portland in Maine followed this path on Tuesday as well, voting to legalize recreational use of the drug. Maine legalized the medical use of marijuana in 1999. The District of Columbia, which also legalized recreational marijuana on Tuesday, is the outlier. The District legalized medical marijuana in 2010, but given the extreme liberal disposition of the majority of the District's voters, the more rapid fall isn't really surprising.
Tuesday's marijuana votes proved medical marijuana's status as the Trojan Horse of the marijuana legalization movement. No state has legalized recreational marijuana without first legalizing medical marijuana. The lesson for all the states is clear: once you legalize medical marijuana, it's just a short matter of time before you will be contending with the pressure to legalize recreational marijuana as well.
Florida's voters saved themselves from this fate on Tuesday when they rejected an effort to legalize medical marijuana. Given the clear connection between legalization of medical and recreational marijuana, it's safe to say that Florida has bought itself more time before it must deal with the question of legalized recreational marijuana.
With so much at stake, the church must respond.
First, Christians must make sure they balance their compassion with discernment. While we want to do all we can to help people, we must see through what has become the obvious true goal of legalizers. Christians must not allow themselves to be used for an agenda that will result in thousands of destroyed lives. Marijuana is an addictive, mind-altering substance that is nearly impossible to use in moderate doses. It has been a gateway drug for millions of users. Making it more accessible will lead to more drug addiction and all the social costs associated with drug abuse.
Second, Christians must not allow themselves to be persuaded that smoking marijuana is an acceptable medical remedy. Using marijuana exposes a person to multiple toxic compounds and serious personal negative repercussions. Marijuana puts the user at higher risk for cancer, psychosis, strokes, respiratory damage, and heart attacks. It interferes with work and relationships.
Third, Christians must stay engaged in local debates and politics to help keep their communities as drug-free as possible. The path from medical marijuana to recreational marijuana does not have to be inevitable.
California, which was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996, rejected the effort to legalize its recreational use in 2010. The Maine town of Lewiston also rejected an effort to legalize the recreational use of marijuana on Tuesday. Neighbor love requires that we look out for our fellow citizens. We can help by resisting the deceptive messages of the marijuana purveyors and show up at the polls every time our state is asked to take the next step toward marijuana's legalization.
Finally, churches must engage their communities. Churches must continue to promote healthy lifestyles as a key to human flourishing for their own members as well as for the public in general. Drug abuse is not compatible with human flourishing. Christians can emphasize this by maintaining drug-free lifestyles themselves and helping their communities understand the connection between drug-free lifestyles and personal potential. In addition, churches should provide services that can help people in their communities overcome drug addiction and reclaim their lives. Jesus not only saves the soul; He also restores broken lives. Churches must offer this message of hope and opportunity to their communities.
While many states are falling for the lie of marijuana's harmlessness, the church does not have to be taken in. The Bible's call to personal purity and sobriety has not changed. We must remain faithful to its call and not be deceived by the culture's call to personal indulgence. As a world steeped in confusion follows a path to destruction, God's people should be like Daniel and his friends who chose a healthy lifestyle over the excesses of the king's table. A watching world will take notice that our lives are healthier and more fulfilling lived in obedience to the Lord. We can make a difference. For the sake of millions of people around us and the glory of God we must.