In a recent interview with New Yorker magazine, President Barack Obama was quoted as saying this:
“As has been well-documented, I smoked pot as a kid, and I view it as a bad habit and a vice, not very different from the cigarettes that I smoked as a young person up through a big chunk of my adult life. … I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol.”
While he discouraged the use of marijuana, the President’s statement is dangerous and a problem for several reasons.
People listen to the President
As Christians, we know that God will hold us accountable for every word we utter (Matt. 12:37). At the same time, the President of the United States has an especially important platform. What he says can greatly sway opinion, including among young people, not to mention affect behavior and laws.
For him to downplay marijuana use as merely a “bad habit” is irresponsible and undermines other sources of authority (e.g. parents, pastors) who are trying to warn young people against the real dangers of marijuana.
What’s worse, in almost every state, the use of marijuana is illegal, and for the president to compare it with legal substances like alcohol and cigarettes, undermines the laws of those states and adds fuel to the fire of those who are seeking to legalize marijuana. Of all the problems our society has, too much strictness on our “freedom” to use substances is not one of them.
Marijuana is always an inebriant
A just-married couple sips a glass of champagne on their wedding night. A Lutheran drinks wine during the communion ceremony. During these acts—and many just like them—the people ingesting alcohol are likely not doing so with the intent of becoming intoxicated.
While I think there is a strong case to be made for Christians to abstain altogether from alcohol, everyone admits the use of alcohol does not always cause drunkenness. In the case of marijuana use, however, it always acts as an inebriant.
Why is being inebriated so bad? You do not have to look through very many headlines to see instances where an inebriated person did damage to themselves and others. A drunk driver crashes and kills another. Someone growing marijuana in their apartment sparks a fire that burns down the building. While accidents happen every day, they are highly more likely to happen when people are intoxicated.
Bad for children
The ones with the most to lose when people use marijuana are children, especially those who are directly or indirectly affected by the users. We spend millions of dollars advertising against second-hand smoke, but we smile and laugh when movies portray the use of “pot.”
We encourage parents to be aware and alert to the safety and needs of their children, then we condone the use of marijuana, which makes users less aware of the needs of children around them.
Time after time, we read about people who are on drugs, harming those around them. With marijuana, it may not necessarily be acts of violence, but it is often acts of negligence that do the most harm.
America is facing a crisis of the family and a huge upsurge of children in need of responsible parents (through foster care and adoption), so the last thing we need is to add more marijuana users to the population.
As a concluding note, I would add that drug use is not the unforgivable sin. While we should strongly argue against anyone seeking to legalize more drug use or convince others it’s “no big deal,” we must have compassion on those who are addicted and seek to bring to justice those who deal drugs to the most vulnerable in our society.
While I am sure the President may not have intended his words to make a negative contribution toward anybody, I respectfully ask he reconsider his words and position on this key issue.