As a minister and leader in the church today, one of my greatest responsibilities is helping those I lead fully realize the life to which God has called them. So often we see in church today people choosing a temporary escape over the abundant life God has for them. When faced with pain and frustration, leaning into self-medication and temporary gratification will in the end only leave one worse off and lacking full contentment with the life they have chosen to live. Earlier this year, as I heard the Legislature had taken up the issue of medical marijuana, I feared we were once again headed down a path where lawmakers were attempting to find an earthly solution to so many eternal needs.
Before I go any further, I want to make an unequivocal statement. So often when we read articles today, they highlight the necessity of medicinal marijuana for those facing chronic illnesses. We see heartbreaking and gut-wrenching stories of people from all walks of life who need a very real solution to the medical issues they are facing. Those people are not the ones I am talking about in this article. We do live in a blessed country where great medical care can be given to those who are hurting. My concern is about the men and women who are facing real and troubling anxiety and are turning to a temporary escape to solve their issues. I talk with so many pastors, community leaders and parents who see their friends, family and children turning to this in a variety of ways to help with their troubles.
In recent months, I have been on the streets of several cities where medicinal marijuana is legal. It seems each city sees the same result, an increase in homelessness. What started out as a potential remedy to reduce seizures in children has morphed into a new way for people to buy legalized marijuana. I fear this will be the result in all states across our country where the move towards the legalization of marijuana almost always start with good intentions. In 2012, Colorado took a bold step and passed a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. There it was legalized for medicinal purposes in 2000. Since the enactment of its recreational use legalization in 2013, and since the legalization of hemp by congress in 2018, there has been an increase in the variety of ways people are able to access THC and THC-based products. We have seen the effects of these products in young people’s hands – cases all across the country. CDC officials have said that in most cases people involved in the outbreak are using some type of THC product. In the news, we are reading story after story of kids being hurt and having severe health complications as a result of vaping and CBD pens. No, students might not be turning to the traditional source for marijuana, but the ways they are accessing it now are new and may pose even more risk.
It would be wise to remember that marijuana is against Federal law. Our nation has not passed legislation to legalize this gateway drug. So, the tax windfall so many speak about concerning marijuana will not materialize, due to the mere fact it cannot be federally regulated. Second, we need to remember that although marijuana is considered “all natural,” so are lions, tigers and bears…oh my! We wouldn’t want those natural remedies either! There is a balance of being compassionate without becoming all-out crazy.
Even worse is that so many people are turning to these temporary pleasures to try and cure the longing in their souls. I weep at the thought of this. So many are hurting their health and their futures by turning to these products. They are gaining short-term pleasure by putting at risk their long-term security and the life God has called them to live.
I am hopeful our state will take the appropriate steps in the face of this. I do believe it was the correct move to, instead of legalizing medicinal marijuana outright, convene a commissionto study the possible impact before moving forward. Interestingly, Senator Tim Melson said, “…provide medical cannabis to those who need it and keep it out of the hands of those who don’t .” This statement concerns me that the decision has already been made and I definitely hope this is not the case. Wisdom would bring caution to this commission agreeing to dosomething before open discussion about this direction. Whether it be the pulpit or public office, let us be diligent and responsible with the authority God has given us in our chosen occupation. We must ensure we fully realize the impact before putting these things on the market and believing we have found the solution to people’s problems. I remember just a few years ago, more and more friends and family members were being prescribed opiates and now, we are in the middle of a crisis. My fear is that the coming epidemic of marijuana addictions taking place if Alabama continues to walk this direction will have a severe impact on our state.