SBC leader opposes medical marijuana

Russell Moore says the agenda behind the push to legalize marijuana is more economic than medical.

By Bob Allen

The Southern Baptist Convention’s top public-policy expert says any therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana are outweighed by costs to society that disproportionately burden the poor.

Russell Moore, head of the SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said in a Jan. 23 podcast that he sees nothing immoral about the medical use of mind-altering drugs like morphine by people who are seriously ill, but he believes the real motive behind the push for legalization of pot is money.

russell moore mug“I think as Christians we need to recognize what’s happening here,” Moore said. “There is an industry — just as big tobacco was an industry that had a cheap product that was able to hook people in — we have the same sort of industry involved here with marijuana.”

Moore cited a September 2013 column by CNN contributor David Frum on “big marijuana” that said the typical user of medical marijuana in California, rather than being seriously ill, is a 32-year-old white man with no life-threatening illness but a long record of substance abuse.

“This is not something that is being given to people with terminal cancer fighting off in a hospice sort of situation those last stages of pain,” Moore said. “It’s something that is being given very indiscriminately with a substance that has a long cultural history in this country of essentially inducing a kind of immediate drunkenness, which of course is prohibited in Scripture for a believer: ‘Be not drunk.’”

Moore said while Christians might disagree on the morality of drinking in moderation, everyone agrees that the Bible discourages drunkenness. He said the counsel of Proverbs 31, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart,” permits a medicinal use of alcohol to someone who is dying in a way that doesn’t seem permissible elsewhere.

“Let’s bracket for a moment whether or not alcohol is ever acceptable for Christians,” he said. “The mind-altering aspect of drunkenness is clearly forbidden in Scripture and every branch of Christianity affirms that. So I think there is a sense in which we do make a distinction between recreational use of drugs and something that is genuinely medically treating somebody.”

 “Having said that, I think when it comes to the issue of marijuana, we’re dealing with something different than we are dealing with, say, morphine or something else, because I think the issue with medical marijuana [is] about the marijuana industry,” he said.

Moore said if he lived in a state where medical marijuana was on the ballot, he would vote against it.

“It’s not because I don’t have compassion for people who are dealing with difficult illnesses, nor is it saying that some terminally ill person who takes marijuana at a doctor’s order is personally sinning,” he said. “I don’t think that’s the question.”

“I think the question is what does the normalization of marijuana usage do to people?” he said. “We already have a tremendous issue of wrecked lives in this country when it comes to alcohol abuse, and we have a tremendous issue in this country of wrecked lives when it comes to prescription pain [killers] addiction. Even within the church prescription pain addiction is everywhere.”

“Wherever we have medical marijuana coming in we have marijuana usage going up,” Moore said. “That is not a good thing. I think most of us can agree marijuana doesn’t do anything good for a work ethic, for someone’s life, and the people who tend to get hurt in all of these situations aren’t those who are in the cultural elite, who often are the ones who are normalizing these things culturally.”