On election night 2018, while most of the nation’s attention was focused on the Democrats taking the House and the Republicans expanding their Senate majority, few noticed a funny smell wafting in from the Midwest.
Michigan became the 10th, and the first Midwestern, state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. New York and New Jersey seem to be next in line, and more members of Congress now favor federal legalization. Legalized pot, it seems, is on a roll.
All of this is, pun intended, stone-cold crazy. The recreational use of marijuana is dangerous to individuals and degrading to public health and safety.
Recently, in a lead New York Times op-ed entitled “What Advocates of Legalizing Pot Don’t Want You to Know,” Alex Berenson laid out the evidence for why this push toward legalization is exactly wrong. The article is sobering. Even frightening.
Key to the growing support for legalized weed—roughly 65 percent of Americans now favor it—is that marijuana lobbyists and for-profit companies have been blowing smoke (figuratively and literally) for years about the drug’s safety, and about the public benefits of legalization.
Advocates say marijuana is a medicine, not an intoxicant, and that legalization can slow the opioid epidemic. Not true, Berenson argues, pointing to an American Journal of Psychiatry study that shows “that people who use cannabis are more likely to start using opioids later.”
Pot advocates also downplay the mental health risks of using cannabis, but The National Academy of Medicine reports that using pot “is likely to increase the risk of schizophrenia and other psychoses; the higher the use, the greater the risk.” In fact, between 2006 and 2014, emergency room visits from marijuana-induced psychosis tripled to 90,000.
And all those claims that legalizing marijuana would take the air out of the black market for weed? It’s not happening, Berenson claims. Instead, “it lower(s) prices, increase availability and acceptability, and drive(s) up use.”
And all the Boomers out there who fondly remember taking that toke at a concert with no harm caused, Berenson wants you to know: “in the 1970s and 1980s, marijuana generally contained less than 5 percent THC. Today, the marijuana sold at legal dispensaries often contains 25 percent … As a comparison,” Berenson writes, “think of the difference between a beer and a martini.”
Of course, I see every day what Berenson is talking about here in Colorado. As my friend Jeff Hunt at Colorado Christian University wrote in USA Today, the woes brought upon our state by legalized weed are significant: an increase in drug related traffic deaths and poison control calls, a growing black market, and marijuana related arrests for minority youth. Not to mention, it’s proven impossible to regulate, and to keep in state and out of schools. For all the promises of tax revenues being generated for education, one school superintendent retorted bluntly, “So far, the only thing that the legalization of marijuana has brought to our schools has been marijuana.”
Now two years ago, when I talked about marijuana on the air, our phone lines, emails, and social media accounts lit up. A lot of folks were not happy. So let me briefly address the concerns I heard then: Because I don’t want pot legalized does that mean I want to lock up all pot users? That’s an odd question to ask a disciple of Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship. The answer of course—no—even if, as Berenson points out, the “problem” of incarcerating people for possession is overblown.
And what about cigarettes and booze? Aren’t they just as dangerous—if not more? My quick response is: If they are, why would we legalize and unleash another health menace on the public?
The legalization wave says a lot about the worldview of our culture—one in which the state wishes to aid and abet the inability of people to deny themselves any pleasure. That’s called state-sponsored hedonism.
A biblical view says that government exists to preserve order and to promote justice, which means the state has every right to restrict the use of a dangerous substance, and every reason not to incentivize vice and aimlessness with the promise of free tax money.
If Christians truly desire the good and human flourishing of our neighbors and communities, we can’t remain silent on marijuana.
John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.