Is It Okay for Christians to Use Marijuana (Cannabis) and Other Drugs?
by Rich Deem


A number of young Christians these days use marijuana and other recreational drugs. Some of them write to ask if this kind of behavior is acceptable for Christians. If you are over 35 years old, you are probably thinking "that's a no-brainer." However, in many of today's Christian churches this question has never been answered adequately. This page answers the question of marijuana use from what the Bible says. Another page examines medical aspects of marijuana use.

Bible verses about marijuana




Okay, so there are no verses that talk directly about marijuana. Is that surprising? Although the Bible mentions weed, it was the kind that interferes with agriculture (Genesis 3:18). Pot was something you cooked in (Numbers 11:18). The only smoking that was going on at the time the Bible was written was caused by burning wood, houses, sacrifices, and ultimately, people (at the judgment). So, smoking of cigarettes and marijuana are not mentioned in the Bible.

Who is a Christian

At this point, we need to back to examine the question from a more fundamental perspective. We originally asked if it was okay for a Christian to use marijuana and other drugs. The question we need to ask first is "Who is a Christian?" Many young people believe they are Christians because their parents are Christians or they aren't Jewish, so they must be Christians.

Aren't you a Christian if you go to church and at some point went up front in response to an alter call? Jesus said that people are Christians if they believe in Him.1 Jesus also indicated that those who believed would hear His voice and follow Him.2 Part of the process of following Jesus is to repent. Repentance is a fancy Christian word that means to turn from one's sins and go in the opposite direction (righteousness). Jesus said that those who do not repent will perish.3 Jesus also indicated what kind of commitment one should make to be considered His disciple:

Then He [Jesus] said to them all: "If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" (Luke 9:23-25)

So, Jesus made it quite clear that a casual confession of "faith" isn't going to cut it. One who really believes in Jesus will follow Him as their ultimate purpose in life. Now that we have a clear understanding of who is a Christian, we can go back to the original question.

The Bible's take on other mind-altering drugs

Is smoking weed a sin? Although the Bible does not address marijuana directly, it does discuss other mind-altering drugs. Specifically, the Bible addresses the use of drugs in the book of Galatians:

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)

So, where are the drugs mentioned in this verse? Actually, the word translated "sorcery" is the Greek word pharmakeia,4 from which we get the English word "pharmacy." The primary meaning is "the use or the administering of drugs" (usually associated with sorcery or idolatry). Since this verse comes from a list of things that, if practiced, would preclude one from heaven, this should be a reasonably strong suggestion that the Christian should not practice drug use. In addition, the book of Revelation lists drug use as one of the things for which the unrepentant will suffer the wrath of God.5

The Bible has a lot to say about alcohol. In biblical times, there was no hard (distilled) liquor—just wine and beer (which was more diluted at that time than it is now). Even so, the Bible has much to say about people who used wine to get drunk. One was Lot, who got drunk and slept with his daughters.6 Others sold girls to get wine to get drunk.7 The Bible warns about the bad effects of drunkenness—seeing strange sights and being confused, saying stupid things, making poor decisions, vomiting, getting involved in fights, and losing one's wealth.8 We are warned not to join with those people.9 The consequences of such behavior is judgment.10 Jesus Himself used two examples of those who will be drunk when God comes to judge the world.11 God's judgment of such behavior does not paint a pretty picture. The New Testament condemns drunkenness12 and warns that those who engage in that behavior will not inherit the kingdom of God (i.e., heaven).13

The Old Testament warns the priests not to go into God's house drunk, or they will die.14 In the New Testament, those who serve in the body of Christ are not to be addicted to wine or any other sordid thing.15 Even those who do not directly serve in the church are warned not to be addicted to wine.16 Finally, the New Testament commands us to not get drunk, but be filled with the Spirit of God:

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. (Ephesians 5:18)

Does marijuana get one intoxicated? Even proponents of marijuana usage encourage users never to drive a motor vehicle while using marijuana.17 Why is this? Because when one use marijuana, one is legally intoxicated and incapable of clear thinking and reasonable reactions. Being intoxicated is clearly condemned in scripture. So, if one uses drugs or anything else to escape and get high, or is addicted to these substances, it is against the commands of scripture and inappropriate for Christian participation.

Breaking the law?

Besides the moral question, there is the legal question. Christians are commanded by the scriptures to be in subjection to governing authorities and submit to every human institution.18

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)

The only exception to this command would be if those in authority directly contradicted the commands of God.19 Since smoking marijuana was never a command of God, Christians should not smoke marijuana where doing so is illegal.

What about freedom in Christ?

We do have freedom in Christ, but that freedom is not to be used to sin:

The freedom of Christ is freedom to follow Him in service to others. We are not to use the law as an excuse for immorality (e.g., "I can't help that person because it is the Sabbath"20). Likewise, we are not to allow things (e.g., drugs) to bring us under their control:

We are not to be slaves of sin, engaging in fleshly desires and lusts, but we are to serve the living God.

Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. (Romans 6:11-13)

There are many who call themselves Christian, but basically serve their own desires. God will not be deceived by those who play the Christianity game. Jesus said that you will know them by their love for one another,21 and not love of self.22

Seek first the kingdom...

Ultimately, the most important principle in the Christian life is to do what Jesus told us to do. When Jesus was asked what was the most important commandment, he answered:

And He said to him, " 'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38)

Obviously, smoking marijuana does nothing to fulfill this most important commandment. Along the same lines, Jesus said that people should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.23 However, these days, it seems that many "Christians" seek first the kingdom of self and its attendant pleasures. The scriptures predicted as much when the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

Jesus indicated that people would respond in several ways to the gospel message. In one of His parables, He indicated that there were different kinds of soils. One of the soils was filled with thorns and weeds, which choked out the ability of the crop to produce fruit. The reason why these people produced no spiritual fruit is because they were more concerned with the "worries and riches and pleasures of this life"24 than with the kingdom of God. There are many other verses25 in the Bible that condemn those who seek pleasure first, instead of God's kingdom.

God created herbs

Many Christians make the argument that God created the herbs (including marijuana) for us:

And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. (Genesis 1:29, KJV)

Marijuana smokers are especially fond of the King James version, since it uses the word "herb". However, the Hebrew word is much less specific, having the general meaning "plant," with the root word having the meaning "green." Furthermore, the verse talks about fruit trees, indicating that the real meaning of the verse is about edible plants.  So, the verse makes it clear that God created the plants for us for eating. It doesn't say anything about smoking them! Here is the more contemporary NASB translation:

Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;" (Genesis 1:29, NASB) Marijuana - What's a Parent to Believe?

Conclusion Top of page

The argument has been made that everything God created is good, and that this includes hemp. Everything God created is good,26 but all these good things can be turned into evil. Sexual relations are good within marriage,27 but adultery is evil.28 It's all sex, which was created by God for good, but not all that men do with it is good. Poisonous mushrooms are good for breaking down dead wood, but bad for eating. Hemp is good for making rope, but bad for smoking. So, now you know. Do what's right!

for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [and smoking pot], but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)

References Top of page

  1. Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." (John 6:29)
  2. "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28)
  3. "I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." (Luke 13:5)
  4. Thayer's Greek Definitions
    pharmakeia φαρμακεία (Strong's #G5331)
    1. the use or the administering of drugs
    2. poisoning
    3. sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
    4. metaphorically the deceptions and seductions of idolatry
    Part of Speech: noun feminine
    A Related Word by Thayer's/Strong's Number: from G5332
  5. The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries [pharmakeia] nor of their immorality nor of their thefts. (Revelation 9:20-21)
    and the light of a lamp will not shine in you any longer; and the voice of the bridegroom and bride will not be heard in you any longer; for your merchants were the great men of the earth, because all the nations were deceived by your sorcery [pharmakeia]. (Revelation 18:23)
    "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers [pharmakos] and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." (Revelation 21:8)
    Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers [pharmakos] and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying. (Revelation 22:15)
  6. That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and lay with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. The next day the older daughter said to the younger, "Last night I lay with my father. Let's get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and lie with him so we can preserve our family line through our father." So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went and lay with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up. (Genesis 19:33-35)
  7. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine that they might drink. (Joel 3:3)
  8. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt! They beat me, but I don't feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?" (Proverbs 23:31-35)
    On the day of the festival of our king the princes become inflamed with wine, and he joins hands with the mockers. (Hosea 7:5)
    And these also stagger from wine and reel from beer: Priests and prophets stagger from beer and are befuddled with wine; they reel from beer, they stagger when seeing visions, they stumble when rendering decisions. All the tables are covered with vomit and there is not a spot without filth. (Isaiah 28:7-8)
    I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly--my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was worthwhile for men to do under heaven during the few days of their lives. (Ecclesiastes 2:3)
    The LORD has poured into them a spirit of dizziness; they make Egypt stagger in all that she does, as a drunkard staggers around in his vomit. (Isaiah 19:14)
    Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. (Proverbs 20:1)
    He who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich. (Proverbs 21:17)
    for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. (Proverbs 23:21)
  9. Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, (Proverbs 23:20)
    But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. (1 Corinthians 5:11)
  10. Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. (Isaiah 5:11)
    Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks (Isaiah 5:22)
    Wake up, you drunkards, and weep! Wail, all you drinkers of wine; wail because of the new wine, for it has been snatched from your lips. (Joel 1:5)
    They will be entangled among thorns and drunk from their wine; they will be consumed like dry stubble. (Nahum 1:10)
  11. But suppose the servant says to himself, 'My master is taking a long time in coming,' and he then begins to beat the menservants and maidservants and to eat and drink and get drunk. (Luke 12:45)
    "Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap." (Luke 21:34)
  12. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. (Romans 13:13)
    For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. (1 Thessalonians 5:7)
    For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do--living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3)
  13. Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
    The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
  14. "You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the Tent of Meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come." (Leviticus 10:9)
    No priest is to drink wine when he enters the inner court. (Ezekiel 44:21)
  15. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, uncontentious, free from the love of money. (1 Timothy 3:2-3)
    Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain (1 Timothy 3:8)
    Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. (Titus 1:7)
  16. Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. (Titus 2:3)
  17. "Principles of Responsible Cannabis Use" NORML's website, February 19, 2007.
  18. Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. (Romans 13:1-2)
    Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed (Titus 3:1)
    Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17)
    Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. (1 Peter 2:13-15)
  19. saying, "We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man's blood upon us." But Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:28-29)
  20. Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent. (Mark 3:4)
  21. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another." (John 13:34)
  22. But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; and avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
  23. "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)
  24. "The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity." (Luke 8:14)
  25. For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. (Titus 3:3)
    What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
    Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. (James 5:4-5)
    But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you (2 Peter 2:12-13)
  26. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:4)
    And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:10)
    And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:12)
    and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:18)
    And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:21)
    And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and everything that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:25)
    And God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31)
  27. See The Biblical Design for Human Sexuality.
  28. "You shall not commit adultery." (Exodus 20:14)
    'If there is a man who commits adultery with another man's wife, one who commits adultery with his friend's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Leviticus 20:10)
    The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; He who would destroy himself does it. (Proverbs 6:32)
    "You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY'; but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:17-28)
    For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. (Matthew 15:19)

We are what we think.

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Last Modified April 9, 2012


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