On October 17th 2018 it became legal to smoke pot across all 10 provinces and 3 territories in Canada.
Some slight variations remain with respect to age limits and retail options, but in general it is now legal to smoke marijuana wherever it is legal to smoke tobacco and the purchasing age mirrors the legal age for purchasing alcohol.
That means that in Ontario a 19 year old can purchase marijuana, can carry up to 30 grams in public and can own up to four plants for the purposes of cultivation and home production.
You can do all of that at the age of 18 in the Province of Quebec.
When marijuana was illegal Christians did not have to think very deeply about whether or not it was moral – it was immoral because it was illegal. Romans 13:1-5 states clearly:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 4 for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. (Romans 13:1–5 ESV)
According to that passage, a Christian is obligated to submit to the authority and strictures of the government as unto God. Acts 4:19-20 would seem to recognize an exception in any case where the government commanded you to do something contrary to the commands of Christ. In that case the Christian is to obey Christ and submit to whatever sanctions the government deems fit. However, as a general rule, if something is illegal, then it is de facto immoral on the basis of Romans 13.
Until it wasn’t.
Now that marijuana has been legalized in Canada the question has to be asked and answered anew:
Is it a sin for a person to smoke pot in this country?
To answer this question we must first acknowledge that just because something is legal doesn’t necessarily mean that it is moral; adultery is legal in this country, but that doesn’t make it moral.
Whether something is moral or not depends upon whether that something is pleasing to God and accords with his character and declared will for our lives. There are several Scriptures that would strongly incline us to understand the recreational use of marijuana to be a sin; that is to be contrary to God’s character and stated desire for our lives. Chief among those passages would be 1 Thessalonians 5:6 which says:
So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:6 ESV)
Smoking pot changes the way you think; it alters perception and affects information processing. There is therefore no way for a Christian to justify smoking pot. The point of smoking pot is to get high. You don’t need to smoke pot in order to access the medical benefits – the smoking part is specifically to get high. This is clearly contrary to God’s call and expectation upon us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 the Apostle Paul says:
since we belong to the day, let us be sober. (1 Thessalonians 5:8 ESV)
The Apostle Peter gives a similar charge saying:
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8 ESV)
Christians are commanded to be clear thinking and SOBER-minded in several passages of Scripture – therefore anything that affects how we think or that alters our perception of reality is obviously, by definition, immoral and out of bounds.
The same principle would apply to the use of alcohol.
Any quantity of alcohol that affects perception and sobriety would be a sin; this is why the Bible condemns drunkenness as for example in Galatians 5:19-21:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19–21 ESV)
Drunkenness is a work of the flesh and it is contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit – a comparison the Apostle Paul uses again in Ephesians 5:
do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18 ESV)
Both wine and the Holy Spirit are acknowledged as exercising influence over the thinking and perception of the individual – one negatively and one positively. Given the obligation upon Christians to maintain mental sobriety and moral discernment at all times, drunkenness is to be shunned while the influence of the Holy Spirit is to be pursued.
The testimony of the Scriptures on this matter is entirely consistent.
While there are limited medicinal applications for marijuana in terms of treating chronic pain, multiple sclerosis and nausea as a result of chemotherapy, the recreational use of pot cannot be justified by any Bible believing Christian.
Of course, it should be said, that if you developed a chemical dependence upon marijuana before becoming a follower of Jesus a certain amount of grace and mercy will need to be extended. Even though Christians have a new heart and are filled with the Holy Spirit – change generally comes gradually as a matter of degrees over indeterminate lengths of time. The Apostle Paul said:
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 ESV)
Real Christians change – slowly but surely – by one degree of glory to the next into the same image as Jesus Christ; this is the work of the Spirit in them.
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Paul Carter
To listen to Pastor Paul’s Into The Word devotional podcast on the TGC Canada website see here. You can also find it on iTunes.
To listen to an FAQ podcast episode that Pastor Paul released on the topic of legalized marijuana see here.
To listen to a sneak preview of an upcoming podcast series on the Book of Job see here.