With the roll-out of new legislation in Colorado, the doors have been blown off a giant bomb shelter. Cowering within were many Christians now ethically exposed, myself being one of them. You see, up until the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado (and now Washington state), I would dare say most of us Christians were clinging to one primary argument against the distribution of marijuana: “It’s against the law.”
Well, if you are a citizen of the great state of Colorado, it’s no longer against the law. So, my question to you is this: what ethical grounds do you have to tell me I cannot own a Christian marijuana emporium? You can no longer accuse me of breaking the law. My business is not performed on street corners through back-alley handshakes. I’ve got a storefront, my business is registered with the government, and I’m paying taxes on the goods I distribute. So, I ask you again, why do you insist it is unbiblical for me to sell marijuana in Colorado?
Come, let’s put on our ethical thinking caps, stretch our sagging synapses, and really think hard about this moral issue.
Argument #1: It’s an addictive drug.
Very good. I knew you would think of that one. Marijuana is addictive. It chemically alters the state of the person who smokes (or eats) it, rendering them illogical, slow, and at risk to make poor and immoral decisions. A person who is high as a kite is disobeying a clear command of God not to be intoxicated but to be filled with the Spirit (Eph. 5:17-21). In addition, marijuana’s addictive power makes it an ideal idol. People become enslaved to it, seeking contentment and peace in a leaf rather than in God.
However, there are a whole host of other chemical-altering items already in the marketplace. The entire pharmaceuticals market is full of drugs intended to alter the chemical balance of your body and brain. What makes marijuana special? Shouldn’t all chemically altering drugs then be immoral?
And what about other addictive products in the marketplace? A study last year discovered that lab rats find Oreos as addictive as cocaine. People lose restraint at Golden Corral and keep returning to that buffet for more food. My wife finds HGTV addictive (sorry, honey). Doritos, Twizzlers, and M&Ms all involve repetitive hand-to-mouth motion, they taste good, and they release endorphins in our brains that make us feel good. How is that not addictive?
The point is that “It’s wrong because it’s an addictive drug” is not a hard and fast rule. At best it is a sliding scale upon which many items and products fall. From this point you would have to argue that marijuana is “too addictive” and “too much of a drug.”
Even if this was a water tight objection, it only proves that the use of marijuana is immoral. How does it correlate that selling someone marijuana is somehow wrong? We need to dig deeper. This calls for argument #2…
Argument #2: A business is culpable for what customers do with its product.
Okay, so you are catching on. You want to argue that the person selling marijuana is responsible for what the product will do to the consumer. Basically, by selling marijuana, a person is enabling sin. When someone distributes marijuana, he is causing others to fall into disobedience to God’s Word. A business owner is morally responsible for how his product affects the consumer.
Hmm. What about Ronsinol? If a customer buys their lighter fluid and uses it to burn down a church, is the company responsible? What if I owned a Golden Corral? Would God hold me accountable for enabling gluttony? What if I worked for a pharmaceuticals company that manufactured medication that was often abused by minors? Would I be responsible?
I saw an article on Yahoo News today where the inventor of the AK-47 expressed deep remorse for all of the lives his gun has destroyed. Is this man guilty before God of all the blood his product has spilled? Is he personally responsible for what others have done with his product?
Again, where we once thought we had a solid black line, we now have a sort of grayish area. A business cannot foresee all of the uses and abuses of the products he sells. We cannot lay this kind of ethical burden upon every store owner, that he must feel responsible for every possible action a customer may commit while using his product.
So how responsible is the business owner? If you know that 5% of your customers will use your product to sin, are you responsible? What about 15%? If you knew 15% of your customers would use your product to feed sinful appetites, would you be guilty before God? What about 50%? What about 90%. What if you knew that 99% of those purchasing your product where using it to sin against your God? Would God hold you personally responsible for providing that product?
Argument #3: A customer cannot use your product properly without sinning.
Ah. You’ve done it. You’ve found the heart of the matter. You see, there is a difference between use and abuse. While a business owner cannot predict or be held responsible for every abuse of his product, he can and should be held accountable for the proper use. This is the reason that pharmacies must only issue drugs to those with a prescription. This is the reason that bartenders can be held criminally liable for serving alcohol to a publicly intoxicated individual. Prescription drugs can be properly used by those with a prescription. Alcohol can be responsibly consumed by a sober individual. However, an abuse of prescription meds and an abuse of alcohol can be sinful and addictive.
This is the sticking point on marijuana. The proper use of marijuana brings about a state of intoxication every time (according to this article, only 4 puffs are required for a chemical high). That is how it works by design. A business owner may not be responsible for abuses of his product, but a Christian cannot with a clear conscience sell a product whose proper use brings about sin every time.
A good analogy would be the porn industry. A porn distributor is morally responsible for his product because there is no sinless way to consume his products. The purchase and proper use of pornography leads to sin.
The marketplace is not merely an exchange of goods. Morality is involved at every street corner, and we as Christians have the personal responsibility to think through these difficult issues. Most of us are involved in the production or sales of goods and services, and we ought to consider the moral ramifications of the things we peddle in today’s economy. Wrestle, think, challenge yourself, and seek the glory of God.
Editorial Addition (4/20/15): This article is not meant to address the sales of medicinal marijuana. It is merely tackling the ethical nature of selling recreational pot.