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For too many Westerners, using marijuana isn't seen as a shameful and forbidden act; it isn't scorned as a mark of a degenerate, slothful man. Rather, in our dysfunctional society, smoking pot is widely accepted as a form of stress relief and leisure. We're told it's a "cool" and "liberating" thing to do, especially for teens.
In general, weed is seen as slightly edgier than alcohol but not as taboo as something like heroin. However, it's more appropriate to group this drug with the latter, rather than the former. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, marijuana is indeed classified alongside heroin (and ecstasy and LSD) as a "Schedule I" substance — a substance that has "no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse."
Ignoring the DEA's analysis that marijuana has no accepted medical use, 37 states have legalized it for said purpose. Medicinal relief, though, is not the primary reason why people turn to marijuana — a substantial number of people use marijuana recreationally, to get high. Still, the canard of marijuana conveying health benefits needs to be dispelled.
Here are but a few reports of marijuana's negative health effects:
The physical harm marijuana does to one's brain should be enough to earn this drug an outright ban; however, glassy-eyed drug advocates have crafted fairytale alternative narratives regarding the so-called perks of cannabis use.
Some people rationalize that they have a legitimate "medical" reason for marijuana use because they fancy that such extraordinary circumstances would justify their high and its attendant consequences. Many unjustifiably assume marijuana is safe because it's now legal in many places. But whatever "medical" reasons people may have, they don't outweigh destroying one's crowning organ, the brain, with a drug that's outclassed by other legitimate therapeutics.
The secular State is driven by the prospect of financial gain, over and above the well-being of society. As such, it conjures up smokescreens like "medical marijuana" in order to line its pockets. Dr. Richard Fitzgibbons warns of the dangers of greed outweighing an allegiance to sound science: "In the past, the tobacco industry reaped enormous profits while denying the harm of cigarettes. History must not repeat itself — this time with a powerful cannabis lobby that also stands to make enormous financial gain."
The deeper spiritual problems also need to be addressed.
The Church clearly teaches that recreational drug use constitutes a grave offense against God. This teaching stems from the reality that it's wrong to use anything for something other than its proper purpose.
The 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say on the matter: "The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense" (§2291).
The false claim is often made that marijuana is therapeutic because it supposedly helps with anxiety and depression. Marijuana surely provides a transcendent feeling for the user, but this is what people get addicted to. It allows somebody to "transcend" his current misery, however intense it may be. But when anxiety and fear are covered up instead of embraced and suffered well, this puts someone into a deep hole that is extremely hard to get out of.
In his book Introduction to the Science of Mental Health, exorcist Fr. Chad Ripperger provides a Thomistic remedy for those struggling with addiction:
To overcome the average addiction ... he must, obviously, stop using the drug, which will, over the course of time, break the dependency. ... Actions contrary to his vices must be performed. He must exercise custody of the mind and custody of the eyes to keep the images of the drug and the experiences of the drug out of his imagination. He must avoid the persons, places and things which will cause him to fall into the drug use again.
Alleviating depression is a major reason why many people use drugs like marijuana. This is a prime example of a misunderstood mental illness being treated with a misguided remedy. Getting high is ineffective in alleviating both anxiety and depression.
Depression, according to Fr. Ripperger, "is a state of constant sorrow with few or no periods of relief." Catholic psychologist Dr. G.C. Dilsaver, using the same Thomistic framework as Ripperger, understands depression to be a soul-deep sadness "that refuses to accept the humiliations of reality, of human existence and one's personal circumstances."
When the inescapable sufferings of life are "taken care of" with drugs (like marijuana) that only provide temporary and fraudulent comfort, man only finds himself more enslaved and miserable. For a depressed soul, there is constant sadness and, oftentimes, self-pity due to the fact that the person is not seeking true relief.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict XVI, called drugs a "pseudo-mysticism." Authentic transcendence only comes from the transcendent God.
While there are plenty of people who accept this reality, Christians have the deepest and most intimate understanding of it. We recognize that God came down to His suffering creatures and gave them access to the perfect freedom and peace that all men long for.
To learn more, watch this week's Mic'd Up, where David Gordon interviews Jesse Romero about the spiritual dangers of marijuana.