Arguments that recreational marijuana is immoral:
1) The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.” (CCC #2291) While marijuana might not have the same damaging effects has hard drugs like meth, heroin, or cocaine, it does create a temporary damage–or impairment–of the mind. Being high or stoned cultivates “magical or random thinking” as one website puts it. It is more than just euphoria or calm (though it is not as bad as a hallucinogen like LSD), it temporarily eradicates man’s ability to truly function as a rational being and to have full control over his actions and judgment. Anything which recreationally hands over mental control–even drunkenness–is immoral.
2) “If you are doing it ‘right’, you are doing it wrong.” Recreational pot use is for the sake of getting high. It is true that you could ingest a microscopic amount of pot and not impair your reason, however, who does that? That isn’t the point of using pot. People don’t usually do marijuana and try to stop after the buzz but before the high. It might be possible, but when we speak of recreational use, that isn’t what we are really talking about. A high is very easy to get, and occurs very quickly. If you are trying to use marijuana in a way that doesn’t give you a high, you are “doing it wrong”–and a high results in impairment of the mind.
3) Man was created to know, love, and serve God. Even when we are taking our leisure or recreation, we should still be acting in such a way that gives glory to God. When we knowingly, and without cause, hinder our ability for rational thought, we act in a such as way that opposes our very nature and reason for being on this earth. How can we know God better without full use of our reason? How can we love Him while under the effects of the drug? How can a pothead be of service to anyone?
4) Although drugs and marijuana are not explicitly mentioned in Sacred Scripture, we have Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Aside from drunkenness being listed which we know is wrong because it robs man of his rationality, if we look closely that the word being translated as “sorcery” [This is the RSV translation] we find that it is the Greek pharmakeia which can also actually mean the use of drugs. Interestingly enough, in the old world, drugs were usually associated with pagan religious practices. They were taken by mystics to reach altered states of mind where they claimed the gods spoke to them. Regardless, use marijuana clearly seems to be in the same vein as the “works of the flesh” presented which would bar one from the Kingdom of Heaven.
5) Even aside from the rationality argument, calmness and euphoria are generally agreed upon results from using pot. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that prolonged experience with the drug often leads to lack of ambition in life and a decline in interest of healthier hobbies. It is a form of escapism–a kind of “checking out”, not just for the few hours one is high, but it has lasting and damaging effects on one’s life. There is more to life than being successful of course, but as humans we are meant to strive for goodness, to strive for knowledge, to strive for perfection. Pot doesn’t aid us in our quest, in fact, it seeks to distract us and hinder us from living life to the fullest.
Arguments that recreational marijuana is not immoral:
1) The Catechism condemns drugs for inflicting grave damage on health and life. Caffeine is a drug, yet we are still allowed to drink Pepsi. Surely, the Catechism intended its comments, not necessarily to include everything that could in anyway be called a drug, but those hard drugs that we think of that really do damage–in other words–not marijuana, which if consumed in some way other than smoking, has no real health risks.
2) There are three stages of marijuana effects. There is the buzz stage, the high stage, and the stoned stage. Even assuming that the argument that losing one’s rationality is immoral, that does not occur at the buzz stage. Alcohol works much the same way. There is a buzz stage and a drunk stage. Getting drunk might be immoral, but getting buzzed is not. Likewise with marijuana, if it is used in moderation, not for the sake of chasing a high, but for the calm and relaxation that comes with the buzz, it would be moral to use.
3) Modern marijuana is designed to have high concentrations of THC, which make the affects more potent. If your only experience with alcohol was with Smirnoff No. 57 Blue Label 100 Proof Vodka, you might make the claim that it was impossible to use alcohol in moderation. If your experience was mostly with 28 proof Cabernet Sauvignon, you will likely have a greater appreciation for moderate consumption. Marijuana, with less concentrated THC could absolutely be used morally and in moderation.
4) Marijuana addiction is less likely than alcohol addiction, and the effects of marijuana addiction are much milder than those of hard drugs. It would be inconsistent to say using marijuana is immoral because it can possibly lead to addiction, if at the same time you hold that drinking alcohol is perfectly OK.
5) Marijuana has been an illegal drug for about 100 years. Almost all of our knowledge of it and its affects, and how it is used come from an illegal subculture. Pretend for a minute that it had always been legal, and that the marijuana industry was run by responsible upstanding and law-abiding citizens. Would our experience and cultural perception of marijuana be significantly different? Yes! It might be correct that in its current context, marijuana use is for the sake of getting high, but does it have to be that way? If up-standing citizenry were using it, would it not be designed for moderate use? Would there not be more strains with lower THC concentration? If marijuana was used in moderation, it would be moral, and if it were legal, it would more likely be used in moderation.
What is your conclusion? I don’t presume that these are the only arguments, or even the best arguments. If you have an argument you would like to add, share it in the comments, and if I like it, I may add it to the official list.
Photo CC m00by – Special Thanks to the Chester-Belloc Debate Society of Christendom College
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