"Are we prepared to promote conditions in which the living contact with God can be reestablished? For our lives today have become godless to the point of complete vacuity. God is no longer with us in the conscious sense of the word. He is denied, ignored, excluded from every claim to have a part in our daily life." - Alfred Delp, S.J.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Is smoking dope a sin?

Fr Matthew P. Schneider, LC has joined the discussion.

So first I read Fr. Z's post.  Then I read Fr. Schneider's post.

They were both informative.

I haven't smoked in years and years and years.  I liked it though.  Do I miss it?  Not really.  But I must admit I like the drugs administered whenever I've had surgery and invasive exams, and in that state I can be reminded of weed - marijuana - and I might reminisce, thinking, it might be nice if it wasn't a sin.  That's so far from perfection BTW - to be willing to do something if it wasn't a sin.

Very seriously, I don't miss it.  Would I take a hit if offered?  I don't think so.

So anyway...

The conversation about marijuana use is important and needful - especially since it is fast becoming legal for medical use as well as recreational use.  The thing about dope today is that it is so much more potent than it was way back when it was always and everywhere illegal - and therefore immoral for recreational use.

Today it is very much more potent - or so I'm told.  One hit (puff, drag, toke on a joint) just might equal a half a joint of the old stuff.  Like I said, I don't know that for sure.  The last time someone gave me a joint I hid it away for the Zombie apocalypse and never found it again.  Now that's wasted.  Back on topic: one hit might have a lot more bang for the buck - so maybe even one hit would be excessive? There is a lot we who do not use it do not know.  (Medical use is not the same as recreational use of course.  I would think it is morally acceptable, just as sedatives and pain killers when prescribed and used accordingly.)

Waiting to exhale?

I appreciate Fr. Schneider's take better than how it was discussed at Fr. Z's - not that I disagree with Fr. Z - but I'll quote Fr. Schneider instead, because his answer is more direct.

So, it seems that if it’s legal, very small amounts of marijuana would probably be morally acceptable – the side effects are similar to two beers and three cigarettes. That isn’t something I’d recommend, but it isn’t something I’d denounce someone for. However, there are two caveats. I wonder how many pot-smokers only smoke one joint. And we always need to seek what is best and not as bare minimum morality. - Fr. Schneider

Quite seriously, I don't think legalization is a good idea, except for prescribed medical use, but I don't think recreational use is an appropriate  'buzz'.  I used to mix - drink and smoke and then chain smoked regular cigarettes - and that's intense.  Fr. Schneider is correct, smokers usually smoke more than just one joint - or, as I used to do, mix substances.  The potential for more serious abuse is always there.  Likewise, habitual smoking of weed becomes another issue.  I've known people who smoked every day and were buzzed all of the time - even at work.  Most would regard that as chemical dependency or addiction.

Remember, Teresa of Avila always said, "Prayer and self-indulgence do not mix."  I say, living a devout life and dope do not mix.  You will either despise one and love the other - you can't serve God and marijuana.  You can maybe have a rock star type of holiness - you know how they always thank God at the Grammy's, but you know they're buzzed, while their private lives are not all that edifying?  I just don't think true devotion includes getting stoned.

True devotion - a holy, prayerful life - is the Christian life.  Getting 'wrecked' wrecks it.  If John of the Cross discourages seeking visions, consolations, and other mystical experiences, he would surely discourage getting high, hallucinating, and arriving at some sort of stoned-soul prayer of quiet.  It's not exactly the narrow way.

But who am I to judge?


  1. Smoking pot for medicinal reasons is still up in the air. I am a Hospice Nurse and there has been no discussion at all in my field of work as to whether or not it will be used as some pts. are just too weak or families would object since the drug of choice is Morphine and some have trouble accepting that.

    As to the morality of using marijuana, I think it is wrong to use it for the sole reason of getting high. I have seen what it does to people after years of use. In my opinion, it is a life waster and demotivator...no thanks.

    You know I have shared with you Terry I live with two brothers who are drug addicts. Their first drug of choice was and is "Mary Jane." My mom and dad had it out with them over the years but they stuck to their love of drugs. A third brother is sober now going on five years. I thank God for such.

    Anyway, I am of the opinion that while marijuana may make folks feel good, it also makes them stupid, lazy and indifferent. I have seen my brothers go from vibrant, fun loving boys to lazy, wasting their lives on nothing men. They have moved on to other drugs but still toke the toke.

    I tried smoking the stuff (in my dad's garage) back when I was like 13 years old. Maybe I did not inhale enough or my attitude was not of the right kind but after a few drags, I looked at the joint my brother had passed to me and I was like, "is this it? I don't feel high at all." They all laughed at me.

    Later, when I was like 28 years young, I went to a small get together with some friends who were passing a bong around. They passed it to me, and me, wanting to fit in and acting cool, took a few hits and I was out.
    I was trying to the best of my ability to stay awake and to stay alert but I felt like I was falling and could not get up. I started to panic too.

    I am glad I never was smart enough nor cool enough to smoke the stuff and that when I did, it was a big FAIL for yours truly.

    If I am gonna waste my life and my God given talents on pot, then yes, I am treading dangerous waters on the road to hell.

    No thanks.

    1. I think it is a life waster/demotivator too. I guess Lady Gaga can't write music without it and other artists use it - I can only imagine they are high functioning. I couldn't do it. In fact, even when I used to do it, I'd only use it on the weekends, never had large quantities, and never used it daily. I always experienced a sense of degeneracy if I got high, and so I usually only used enough for a buzz. I also had a sensitive conscience I think - and often had a deep sense of remorse. I wasn't fun.

      My point in bringing up Teresa and John of the Cross is that since we warn against spiritual deceptions involving mystics and apparitions, dope is clearly a deception for it's mind altering potential - and it masks authentic spiritual consciousness - therefore we should be warning against it. Interestingly, ancient cultures may have used it for religious reasons, because it opened the soul to the spirit world and encounters. That's another very real danger with drugs.

      Thanks Yaya for adding to the post here.

    2. "Prayer and self-indulgence do not mix"

      So true. I mean how would one be able to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit if one is under the influence? The 'ol boy downstairs could slither in real easy like and make me believe I am in direct communion with the Most High. ;p As it is, we are instructed to be careful.

      Anyway, even if I wanted to smoke my brains away, I can't. My professional Nursing license would be at stake since my job requires I be drug-free. If I was to slip at work, they would drug test me and if I proved positive, I am terminated and then reported to the Board of Nursing in my state.

  2. I completely agree that one of the big issues is the changing quality of the drug. The more it becomes legal, the better the quality will be (I dare anyone to find mediocre pot in Amsterdam). The better the quality is, the harder it is to justify because the dosing options get really narrow. Yes, it's effects are morally akin to alcohol (at least in my opinion), but if alcohol only came in doses where one gets you tipsy, two gets you drunk, and three gets you wasted, then the moral calculus involved in drinking would be different than it is now (alcohol having a pretty much continuous dosing spectrum when your doses are something like sips of beer). High quality weed is like that--anything past three or so hits is just wasting the product. And if you get into edibles, you're asking for a blackout. (It's been years since I've partaken, but if it was like that when I did, I'm sure it's even more so now.) To anyone who says, "no, I can smoke and be fine..." I'd say "...because you've smoked a lot, which is a problem." Like the functioning alcoholics I've known who could put down 4 or 5 martinis and you'd never know. Just because your tolerance is high doesn't make it ok.

    1. Thanks for adding that. I didn't know edibles were so potent. It's strange but I've only come across these two priests who have really addressed the morality of weed - every other discussion is usually focused upon legalization, its efficacy for medical purposes, and so on. No moral consequences are ever discussed. I used to jokingly post things like, "If marijuana becomes legal will it still be a sin to smoke it?" I do that stuff to bait priests into a serious discussion but few ever respond. Now with Fr. S and Fr Z opening up the debate, hopefully this can be addressed. Recreational use is not a good idea in my opinion.

    2. I can't speak to the new mass market edibles with their plainly stated doses, only the brownies a friend used to make. But I imagine people will get into all sorts of trouble with the mass marketed ones too because it takes a while for edibles to kick in. It takes a while to start (15-20min maybe) and then it slowly builds for a looooong time (over an hour). So the end result is you don't know the full effect of what you've eaten until 1.5-2 hours after you ate it. Now, tell me how many people are going to be that patient to sit and wait it out? My experience is that when things start feeling pretty good (30-45 min after eating), the impulse is to consume more. You just can't control something that has that great of a lag time.

      The last time I ate one of those brownies, my wife and I split one (on a weeknight! what were we thinking?). Neither of us remembered anything past a half hour out. Somehow we got up in the morning and she called from work around 3:00 or so and said "well, I think I'm no longer high but I'm not sure." Like I said, last time for that.

      I really enjoyed marijuana, so I wish there was a way to enjoy it in moderation like with alcohol, but I don't think it's possible. Just like a little alcohol increases the enjoyment of family and friends in a morally acceptable way, I can see how the right amount of weed could increase the enjoyment of art, friends, sensations in a morally acceptable way. However, I don't see how you could meter it like that. And, it should go without saying, that too much is like too much alcohol--sinful because you lose control.

    3. LOL! I love brownies.

  3. Reality sucks. Smoke away!

  4. I don't know...it brought to my mind the Words of Jesus...'It is what comes from the heart of man...'
    Not sure why.
    But I have always been frightened of drugs, even paracetamol,
    The best thing is going through life like Forrest Gump..
    Santa Teresa ..might have fond really difficult to dominate herself but she said it was the work of God

    1. I'm not an authority on S. Teresa and interpret things too strictly.

  5. I'm firmly in the camp that marijuana(and probably certain others) >can< be used morally.

    The original reason we have drug laws in this country was because white people didn't like Africans and Chinese.
    "In the early 1900’s, a series of stories began to circulate that Southern black men were getting high on cocaine and were going out and raping white women. Even the New York Times eventually fell for the false hysteria and published an article on February 11, 1914 alleging, “Most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct result of the ‘cocaine crazed Negro brain.’” That phrase “cocaine crazed Negro” swept the nation. And a host of anti-cocaine laws followed. This was also when police departments around the nation began adopting the .38 caliber revolver. Southern police departments were telling their fellow officers that black men high on cocaine could not be stopped by the then standard .32 caliber revolver."

    Cocaine is not PCP and marijuana is not acid.

    Well anyway, I avoid posting on the topic as I fear being burned at the stake or going to hell.

    I suppose someone could make the argument that without a proper Christian culture to go along with it, the whole thing ends up as the lowest common denominator. If Christians ostracize drug users back into their ghettos, there's no way to "baptize" it into something that could be integrated into Christian culture.

    Everybody just pops pills now anyway, there's less of a stigma on that I guess.

    I didn't say that, you said that!

    1. I didn't say that. So anyway - next time you're in town then. What?

    2. LOL!

      I got the stomach flu after posting this so it's a sign.

      So what if I'm the only guy around who puts roofies in is own drinks.

      Now that Larry's not around we have lost our moral compass.

  6. "Quite seriously, I don't think legalization is a good idea, except for prescribed medical use, but I don't think recreational use is an appropriate 'buzz'." I specifically avoided the issue of legalization - there is a lot of political prudence there to the point it may a good idea in some places but not others. I focused on individual use assuming it is legal (or functionally legal - i.e. everyone and there dog know the cops won't enforce the law on the books).

    Regarding reaching perfection: I agree but we can take things for relaxation that don't directly connect us to God - otherwise the whole potato chip & cookie industry would be immoral.

    Nice blog overall. One favor: I don't always check who linked to my blog so next time you write a response please leave a comment linking to it or tweet it to me.

    1. Thanks Fr. - I will definitely let you know when I link to something you wrote. Sorry about that.

      "Regarding reaching perfection: I agree but we can take things for relaxation that don't directly connect us to God"

      I will reconsider now if someone offers me a hit. Just kidding.

  7. Christ advised us that we are supposed to ALWAYS be watchful for the return of the Bridegroom, keeping awake, keeping the oil in the lamp....if He comes and we're stoned or drunk...we'd be left outside the gate in the dark! yikes! I dont' think I want to take that kind of chance!


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