Embracing Marijuana Within the Church and Assessing Its Historical Role in Spirituality
By Naomi Pepper
Religion and drug use don’t typically mix in the western world. Most churches we’re familiar with aren’t in favor of pot. Throughout history, it’s been a pretty niche group of people who find their spiritual lives are enhanced by smoking or ingesting THC, but it seems to be coming back into style as our society takes another look at their bans on the cannabis plant.
If we go way back, we find that a surprising number of religious practices in the ancient world involved marijuana—especially in Asia, where it grew naturally.  When it’s used in this way, weed is called an entheogen.  It’s meant to enhance the connection between God and man in this context—it brings down walls and evokes the feeling of awe and completion.
Jumping all the way forward to the 1960s, the hippie movement was chock full of people who incorporated drugs into their spiritual journeys. It was majorly influenced by ancient Asian culture and their incorporation of drugs into spiritual practices. This is an important distinction, though: hippies typically did not view themselves as religious, but spiritual. They weren’t nearly as concerned with doctrine and churchgoing as they were with feeling. If the goal is feelings, cannabis can accomplish that.
Apart from using weed as an entheogen or just for recreation, there’s the matter of medical marijuana. Sue Taylor, a former Catholic school principal, has made it her personal mission to inform senior citizens of the benefits of medical marijuana. Jamal Bryant is a clergyman for a Baptist church who has created a line of CBD oil (this contains no THC or ability to intoxicate, but it embraces the medical benefits of the cannabis plant). 
Jamal Bryant says, “I’m not telling you God said for you to take it,” but that it’s right for the church to provide it if it helps a member medically.  This is a stance from a pastor that would’ve been unheard of even 20 years ago. Could it be that the hippies were onto something when it came to spirituality?
In the end, cannabis is just a plant. Whether we should be rolling it up and smoking it is up for debate, but a fear of cannabis isn’t helpful. If ingesting THC is advantageous to the human body and spirituality, then studies will eventually prove it. The smartest thing a Christian can do regarding this subject is to research and understand the science of the plant. We can always wait for more research—there’s no need to rush this thing—but Christians seem to be moving in favor of pot.
- Johnstad, Petter Grahl. (2020, September 22). Cannabis as entheogen: survey and interview data on the spiritual use of cannabis. MBC. https://bit.ly/3nPfwiT.
- Entheogen. Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen.
- Jordan, Mike. (2020, June 28). The world of God in the age of legal marijuana. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-word-of-god-in-the-age-of-legal-marijuana-11593343801.