Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?

Mark Driscoll on Washington State's move to legalize marijuana and what it means for Christians.

Today, my home state of Washington legalizes the recreational use of marijuana. This decision, of course, leads to a host of pastoral questions and issues.

I have been asked these questions for years, as Mars Hill Church has always reached out to a high (pun intended) percentage of single young guys living typical, irresponsible urban lives. These guys are generally not very theological, but curiously they tend to know at least two Bible verses:

“Then God said, ‘I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth.’” (Genesis 1:29, NIV)

“Thou shall not judge.” (Luke 6:37, otherwise known as the catch-all, in-case-of-guilty-emergency-break-glass verse, paraphrased)

Over the years, my default answer has been Romans 13:1–7, which basically says that believers must submit to the laws of government as long as there is no conflict with the higher laws of God in Scripture. This was a simple way to say “no” to recreational pot smoking.

Now that recreational marijuana use is no longer illegal (according to my state laws, at least), the guiding question is now twofold.

But now that recreational marijuana use is no longer illegal (according to my state laws, at least), the guiding question is now twofold:

Is using marijuana sinful, or is it wise?

Some things are neither illegal (forbidden by government in laws) nor sinful (forbidden by God in Scripture), but they are unwise. For example, eating a cereal box instead of the food it contains is not illegal or sinful—it’s just foolish. This explains why the Bible speaks not only of sin, but also of folly, particularly in places such as the book of Proverbs. There are innumerable things that won’t get you arrested or brought under church discipline, but they are just foolish and unwise—the kinds of things people often refer to by saying, “That’s just stupid.”

Full Disclosure

I have smoked pot as many times as I have been pregnant. I grew up next to the Sea-Tac airport before the area was incorporated as a city. Practically, this meant there was no local law enforcement. Drug deals took place openly and frequently on Pacific Highway South, which was also legendary for brazen prostitution. I grew up in a home where my then-Catholic parents warned my four siblings and me about drug use. I had many friends who ranged from recreational drug users to addicts. I saw drugs used in front of me numerous times. I even buried one friend who overdosed as a teen. However, by God’s grace, I have never touched any drug of any kind, including marijuana. I have never even taken a puff of a cigarette, though I did try one Cuban cigar over a decade ago while in the Bahamas. That’s the sum total of my entire life’s smoking experience.

Simply put, my view of recreational marijuana use is not motivated by guilt from my past or present, nor do I have any desire to partake in the future. I have never smoked weed, I will never smoke weed, and I will strongly urge our five children to never smoke weed. As a pastor, I would never encourage anyone to smoke weed recreationally. (Medicinal use is another matter, which we’ll deal with later in this article.)

Pot as Self-Medication

As a pastor, I would never encourage anyone to smoke weed recreationally.

Frankly, I think that our entire Western culture is addicted to self-medication with food, alcohol, pot and other drugs, sex, prescriptions, etc. My doctor is a naturopath, and I am one who prefers to avoid prescriptions for anything, except as a last resort.

Furthermore, as a pastor I have noticed that people tend to stop maturing when they start self-medicating. Everyone has very tough seasons in life, but by persevering through them we have an opportunity to mature and grow as people. Those who self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol (as well as other things) often thwart maturity as they escape the tough seasons of life rather than face them. This explains why some people can be biologically much older than they are emotionally and spiritually.

Childish Ways

Practically, what also concerns me is the fact that young men are the most likely to smoke weed and, by seemingly all measurable variables, are immature, irresponsible and getting worse.

Young men are less likely than their female peers to attend college, work a job or attend church. For the first time in America’s history, the majority of births to women under the age of 30 are now out of wedlock—meaning the majority of those kids have no experience of their father ever being married to their mother.

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Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 13:11 are timely: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.” There is nothing wrong with being a boy, so long as you are a boy. But when a man acts like a boy, that's a real problem. A recent article even noted that young men are now less likely than ever to own a car, as taking public transportation allows them to use their smartphone more hours every day playing video games and downloading porn. The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated and less productive; instead, they need to “act like men, [and] be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).

The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated and less productive.

Other Considerations

Also, many will attempt to treat marijuana usage as analogous to alcohol. But while the Bible does speak of alcohol, it never mentions marijuana, which means the issue requires a great deal of consideration before arriving at a thoughtful Christian position.

All that said, I hope this helps Christians think through the matter of marijuana in an informed way. It is by no means meant to serve as a definitive word on the subject, nor are these thoughts meant to be comprehensive, or even unchangeable. I have a lot to learn and consider on these issues, and along with many fellow Christian leaders am seeking to develop thoughtful and helpful answers to these questions. I want to thank in advance those who will contribute to the conversation so that we can all become more informed and better counselors by God’s grace, for God’s glory, and for the good of God’s people.

Originally posted at The Resurgence, as excerpted from Mark Driscoll’s free ebook Puff or Pass: Should Christians Smoke Pot or Not?

Top Comments

Danielle Hewitt


Danielle Hewitt commented…

Interesting article, and I think I have a valuable personal opinion on the matter that I'd like to share.

I smoked weed for the first time when I was 13, and I thought it was great. I continued smoking weed, just about every single day (with some exceptions during pregnancy) until relatively recently. I think the two Bible verses about seed-bearing plants and judging others are funny because those are the same two verses I would have relied on if someone was going to tell me my actions were unsavory.

Fact is, at some point in my life, it stopped being a recreational thing and became a dependency. California's legalized medical use (which is REALLY easy to get, btw) only enabled me further. Eventually, I became a full-blown addict. [yes, you can be addicted to weed, contrary to what most stoners will tell you]

Then some months back I got tired of being stuck in my life. I could NOT make progress no matter how hard I tried. I simply could not improve my relationships, finances, or personal growth any longer. I was at a dead stop. I eventually got sick of it and started asking God for help every single day through prayer. I would be praying and praying and praying, and would hear a little voice "You have to quit smoking weed Danielle" and I would be like "SHUT UP! Can't you see I'm talking to God? geez..." and go back to my prayers. Same voice, same sentence, same reaction - day in and day out - for weeks and weeks.

Then one day I realized that little voice WAS God. It was the answer to my "what else can I do? wah wah wah...why can't I get out of this rut? wah wah wah...I am so tired of living this life...wah wah wah..." QUIT SMOKING WEED, DANIELLE! And oh man...when I realized that voice was God answering all my redundant questions, I threw a childish fit. I started crying, trying to rationalize my choices, fighting tooth and nail about how absolutely valid and respectable my daily weed-smoking was. I threw this stupid tantrum for a good couple hours, but finally I gave in. So I did not smoke weed that day. And I did not smoke weed the next day, and I have not smoked weed since.

On my second day of not getting stoned, the 'likes' on my Facebook business page more than doubled, and my reach extended by 2000-and-something percent. I was floored.

And then, as if dominoes in my life were set-up just waiting for that initially tip, everything began transforming. I actually connected with my husband, rather than just passing a pipe back and forth. I got baptized as an adult. The lead pastor at church re-tweeted my blog entry and I got more traffic than I'd ever seen on there in the two years it had existed. My mom suddenly wanted to hangout with me again. My dad paid off my school payment plan. People started calling back about the part-time job applications I was submitting. My money stayed in my wallet. My friends and colleagues began declaring this respect and admiration that I'd never heard from them before. And perhaps the greatest thing of all is that my heart changed. My priorities shifted and my daily activities became centered on God and my relationship with Jesus. THINGS CHANGED...for the first time in freaking YEARS, things finally began to change.

And they're still changing, still getting better. I don't wake-up thinking about how much pot I have left or when I need to go to the clinic again. I spend my time studying the Bible and working to finish school, watching my kids play, making love to my husband, planning my future.

This one simple change, the one thing the little voice was telling me to do, changed everything. It transformed every aspect of my life. And it taught me something about Jesus-followers smoking weed...

Jesus endured more stress in his last days on Earth than I have ever dealt with or likely ever will deal with, but he did not smoke weed in order to get through it. He prayed, he cried, he called out to the Father, but he did not rely on a substance, earthly or natural as it may have been, to face his fate. And if my aim is to be as Christ-like as I can be, then I too must choose the faithful way of facing problems. Whether the problem is stress, frustration, sadness, or even be like Jesus (which I think is the greatest aim of any Follower) we have to choose like Jesus would choose; not as faulty, sinful humans so often do.

Isn't is written that what you ask for IN FAITH will be given. Not what you ask for in a cloud of smoke, not what you ask for over a glass of wine, not what you ask for while telling your 'little voice' to shut up...but what you ask for IN FAITH will be given.

Choosing to release the use of weed and replace that dependency with faith in my God transformed me. And so I have determined that simply put: No, Christians should not smoke weed. Recreationally for sure. Medicinally is another topic, and one that I will not involve myself with because my feigned "anxiety" was not a medical need. So I cannot speak for a cancer patient or someone who may be truly helped by the practice. But a follower of Christ can choose better than that, can use their money better than that, and can engage with the beauty of all creation better than that.

Christal Butler


Christal Butler commented…

I wonder about this at times. If I'm not sinning while doing it, then is it a sin to do it? Is it really sorcery if I'm not meditating on sinful things or casting spells? What does it mean to cast a spell? What does it mean to be a sorcerer? Jesus turned water into wine at a party (people tend to drink more than one glass of wine at parties), which leads me to believe that there is a time and place for nearly everything.

Jesus created this plant so why can't I eat it? If God approves of us eating this plant then doesn't His approval supersede man's disapproval?

I feel like I don't know the answers and I've been on the fence about this one. I wish I could accept the truth, whatever that may be.


Moyo Mamora


Moyo Mamora commented…

Quite interesting read...but what will the take away be? I think this just allows people to make a decision that has always been in their heart, to do or not to do.
But why would anyone want to smoke pot? Scriptures offer a better way of dealing with life's issues, rather than using herbs or "juice"

Colton Hager


Colton Hager commented…

I don't know if Mark was trying to take any personal attacks towards anyone individually. He was noticing a trend in society that really is hurting the local churches in America. Is he wrong to say that there are a lot of 20-30 year old 'boys' in America? I don't think so. I struggle with wanting to grow up and be responsible myself. The temptation is out there. From his pastoral point of view, I can't blame him for being against it. He sees this as hurting or delaying the process of building leadership in the church, home, and communities. It seems like many times when he speaks, he speaks about general situations and general concepts he is against. He is against immaturity, but I would suppose he would love and be kind to anyone one on one. Yeh, his transportation argument is a little off, maybe it makes more sense in his context. Overall, his argument is summed up into "The last thing these guys need is to get high, be less motivated and less productive; instead, they need to “act like men, [and] be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13)."

As much as that is inconvenient to me, or not fun, or not exciting, or maybe even argued that it's limiting my "freedom", I have to kind of agree with him. I wouldn't normally pin someone who is consistently escaping reality (sort-of) through marijuana or alcohol as a leader. Maybe there are exceptions, maybe people can use it to share Christ or for the glory God, I don't know.

Perhaps for me the biggest conviction is that I wouldn't ever recommend smoking pot to children or a little brother or sister. Even if I am of age, and older, and responsible, and legal, I know there are people watching my actions and moves and wanting to act like me. I don't know what I would do if my decision led to my little brother's addiction to drugs. A little extreme? yes. But not worth the risk.



E commented…

In Southern California there's a link between marijuana accessibility and the Mexican mafia. Marijuana is also considered a "gateway drug". The issue can be (and often is) much bigger than "someone just wanting to get high". I'd be interested in an exploration of some of these issues.



Virginia commented…

Have some patience with Mr. Driscoll, guys. I've been raised in the church as well, and while I've never smoked pot personally, I've been around many people who have, and in an attempt to ditch my "goodie-two-shoes" label, I've even lied to my friends and told them I have (... that's embarrassing as crap...). I had been mistaken in thinking smoking pot made you interesting. The fact is, from seeing people high and drunk and under the influence of any sort of "self medication", I can tell you, it doesn't make you look cool. It makes you look (and act) like a sodding idiot. It messes with your brain. The bible says Christ-followers are to be of sound mind. You can't be when your brain is basically shut off. Regardless of Driscoll's methods, he is right.



Justin commented…

There is a stigma to smoking pot.
For medical purposes it is better than getting addicted to opiates.
Alcohol is also a drug, you drink to much you get drunk.
Pot is no different than having a drink. Several friends have a toke or to after work.... I see no problem with it. Yes, I am from Washington....

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