The state of Arkansas voted against legalizing recreational marijuana in November. Did the Bible play a role in its defeat?
The initiative intended to “authorize the possession, personal use and conception of cannabis by adults, to authorize the cultivation and sale of cannabis by licensed commercial facilities, and to provide for the regulation of those facilities” statewide.
One group that fought the law is the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee (AFCAC), a conservative Christian lobbying group that opposes marijuana use.
In its effort to stop marijuana legalization in Arkansas, the AFCAC enlisted a powerful ally: local pastors.
Does a Higher Power Oppose Getting High?
The AFCAC encouraged local faith leaders can take the anti-marijuana fight to the pews. The group prepared a brief for local pastors explaining why they should join the fight against legalization, how to answer common questions, and why marijuana consumption is anti-biblical.
Call it the Christian case against marijuana.
In a section titled "Higher purpose than getting high," they lay out their first point: “The whole point of consuming ‘recreational’ marijuana is to get high,” the brief reads. “The Bible has numerous warnings against drunkenness. Being filled with the Spirit leads to more self-control, but using marijuana leads to less self-control and a loss of inhibitions.”
In another section, they argue that “Christ-followers are commanded to stay awake - to be alert to the privilege and responsibility of living out their citizenship of the gospel, always, everywhere, and before everyone. Marijuana clouds our ability to perceive the world clearly, and it dulls our sense of urgency about what disciples of Christ should be doing. It clouds a person’s senses, and it makes it more difficult for them to see their need for Christ.”
Additionally, that marijuana consumption is a violation of the Bible’s golden rule: thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
“The Bible says we are to love our neighbors as ourselves,” the brief says. “There is nothing loving about standing by and looking the other way in silence while your neighbor destroys his or her life and those around them.”
Blaze the Lord
Apparently, the strategy worked; the Arkansas initiative only received 44% of the vote this past fall.
However, supporters say things are trending in the right direction and plan to reintroduce another bill during the next election cycle.
They may have a point, in that marijuana legalization at the state level has gone from a fringe proposal to commonplace in the span of just a decade. Is it just a matter of time before all states adopt the policy?
At least one other governor is looking at some form of legalization; North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper recently called on his own state legislature to “end the stigma” and decriminalize small amounts of marijuana intended for personal use.
However, one interesting storyline here is faith leaders' ability – so far, anyway – to successfully lobby against legalizing cannabis.
Franklin Graham – one of the most prominent evangelical voices in America and a North Carolina native – called the effort to decriminalize in his home state “harmful.”
It seems the battle lines are being drawn, but the real fight will happen at the ballot box. The outcome of those votes could have huge implications for the fate of legal marijuana in other states across the country.
What is your view on legalizing marijuana? Is there a biblical case to be made against legalization, or are Christian groups grasping at straws here?