Bulletin Banner

Return to March/April 2012 articles.

The title of this article is Medical Marijuana and the Venice Beach Boardwalk.

Genesis 6:5 quotation

This description of ancient man refers to a time when man was primitive, barbaric, violent, uncivilized, abusive, destructive, and totally without moral or religious direction. One has to be impressed however, with how little mankind as a whole has progressed in many of these attributes. The difference is that early man came from a position of ignorance and lived in a natural world where he struggled to be dominant. Today we live in a world where man is dominant and has the lesson of history as his schoolmaster. The mistakes of the past are spelled out in the hope that man will not make the same mistakes again. The most fundamental lesson of the past was originally stated in Deuteronomy 28 where God says that if we will live as God has called us to live, mankind will be blessed in every way, but if we reject God's teachings the results will be catastrophic. The entire Old Testament is the history of mankind showing God's prophesy to be true.

book cover for Under the Influence

In our day nothing has changed. Following the principles laid down by Jesus in Matthew 5-7, as opposed to the violence of other religious and political systems, has revolutionized whole nations of people. Books like Under the Influence by Alvin J. Schmidt have documented the positive effects of the Christian system. The negative responses to such materials from a wide variety of quarters show how ingrained secularism and selfish exploitation are.

A major area of controversy is the use of recreational drugs. A recreational drug is a chemical substance that serves no positive purpose other than to bring temporary pleasure to the user. Recreational drugs have been a negative because of the damage they do to the body. In 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, the Apostle Paul writes about our life's work and purpose and says, “Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple.” The message is clear, that our lives must be built on a constructive use of the physical bodies that God has given us. In 1 Corinthians 6:15-16, prostitution is condemned in the same way.

The response to this by the alcohol and marijuana industry has been to point to the beneficial aspects of these substances or to point to their use in the day of Christ. The alcohol of Jesus' day was used to purify water and was more of a source of water and minerals than a social lubricant. In our day of distillation, alcohol is rarely used in that way. The claim of nutrient value is based on flavonoids which do not come from the alcohol but from the natural substances used — namely the grapes. Alcohol is unquestionably the most destructive drug of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries so far. It is difficult to find any positive nutritive quality to justify its use.

In the case of marijuana the attention of the public has shifted to the use of medical marijuana as a means of fighting a variety of common human ailments. There is some medical research showing that smoking pot reduces inner eye pressure in glaucoma patients. Any drug that reduces cerebral function has a chance of lowering pain sensation which may be helpful in cancer or other painful chronic human maladies. The recognition of these facts has caused some states to legalize the medical use of marijuana. We recently visited Venice Beach in Venice, California, which has become a center for medical marijuana. We have also talked with some experts in the field and have learned some things that we feel Christians and the general public should know about medical marijuana.

1. Smoking pot is not the only way, and in fact not the best way, to deliver the beneficial aspects of the active ingredient. Marijuana is Cannabis sativa containing the chemical delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). There are receptors in the brain called cannabinoid receptors which the THC trips. This is a part of the brain which controls memory, time perception, and coordinated movement. Studies have shown that THC can lower intra-ocular eye pressure aiding in the treatment of glaucoma. It also has been shown in many cases to ameliorate nausea making it useful in medical treatments where nausea is a frequent by-product. It is a general analgesic and stimulates hunger, all useful in medical applications.

On the negative side THC interferes with problem solving, memory, and learning. It has a high correlation with schizophrenia and depression. Marijuana smoke is between 50% and 70% more carcinogenic than tobacco and increases heart attacks among its users by a factor of 4.8. The key point here is that rapid scientific advances have produced a growing number of drugs containing THC that reduce and control these side effects or eliminate them. Dronabinol, nabilone, and Sativex mouth spray are already available and a variety of other drugs are in the wings. Smoking pot is the worst way to get the benefits of THC.

2. Legalization is not working. Many people argue that the best way to control a drug is to legalize it. The argument is that the drug can be controlled and taxed and will not be under the control of the criminal element of society. The first response to that statement might be to ask if the legalization of alcohol has solved the destructive effects of alcohol in our culture, and removed it from the control of the criminals? Recreational drugs are big business, and big business has great problems with a workable moral code that controls how it affects the lives of common people.

business cards for a dispensary

In the case of the legalization of marijuana, California offers a showcase on this issue. Venice, California, is on the ocean west of downtown Los Angeles. The Venice Beach boardwalk stretches along the beach with skateboard parks, souvenir shops, Muscle Beach gym, and a variety of tourist attractions. Teens and children abound mixed with every segment of society one can imagine. Every twenty feet or so of the boardwalk there will be someone standing in a white coat with a medical patch of some kind on his sleeve. He is passing out colorful, expensive business cards that say, “Medical … Doctor … Get Legal Now! … Come in for your evaluation and recommendation letter for medical marijuana … for any illness for which marijuana provides relief” including stress, anxiety, or insomnia. Once you have your interview and get your letter you are directed to a place which claims to be “Venice's Premier Medical Marijuana Dispensary.” You can smoke this pot anywhere as long as you have the letter showing you are recommended. The smell of marijuana is all over the boardwalk, and drugged recipients are everywhere in the area. When I asked a policeman who was standing there about the situation, he threw up his hands and said that as long as no one caused any trouble, the police had to focus their energy on more serious problems.

The place we visited was just one of many outlets on the beach. The point we are making here is that once the drug is legalized, the enforcement of any kind of control is a virtual impossibility. Legalization is not an answer, and getting real help to people in real need is only hindered by situations like Venice Beach.

3. The only solution to this issue is Christianity in its biblical form. What that means is living and encouraging others to live as Christ has called us to. That means not supporting the pleasure obsession of our culture, but serving others in a way that brings real answers to the world in which we live. I would love to see a ministry in California near Venice Beach that has qualified doctors who would actually help real patients with real needs find relief through every medical tool available — not pushing recreational drugs in the name of medical needs. In the meantime we must work on educating the church and our own young people with the facts of how destructive all recreational drugs are. Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse at www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/marijuana

— John N. Clayton

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com.