Thomas Lee Abshier, ND
Today on the Fox Business News, High Noon segment, the commentators considered the issue of legalizing medical marijuana. They argued that legalization would lower the crime rate by reducing incentives for gang and organized crime, etcetera. They noted that crime became organized because of the prohibition era. Basic economics confirms the validity of this relationship. If there is no barrier to the use of an addictive substance, then the price drops, and organized crime is no longer interested in trafficking it, and the associated cost of law enforcement also drops. Thus, carte blanche legalization is commonly offered as the solution to the problem of regulating the use of addictive drugs.
The other side of legalizing an addictive substance, and the reason it is opposed, is the human cost of easy access. For example, marijuana can be addictive, and for some, it leads to using other more strongly acting drugs, it impairs the judgment/inhibitions, changes emotions, and can change motivation/drive for accomplishment. The societal cost of legalizing marijuana, even if restricted by age and through authorized vendors, will have a coarsening effect on the culture. When a segment of the population has its senses blunted by chronic use of a mind-altering drug, there will be a shift in the culture.
The strongest argument for legalizing marijuana is America’s experiment with prohibition. Without question, it provided the opportunity, organizing force, and economic incentives for organized crime to coalesce and crystallize into a discreet and sustainable group-organism. The society simply ignored the law, and chose to indulge in alcohol regardless of the penalties, and patronized their organized crime suppliers to continue a flow during that era.
But, overt broad stroke legalization of the sale and use of all drugs is not the answer. Solution of this problem will reflect our maturity as a people in our relationship with God and man. The ultimate solution to every problem of dysfunctional behavior is self-control. There is no easy answer to the problem of the individual controlling his urges and desires. Each behavior has its own particular set of challenges, and each man must master the temptations to misuse addictive substances. But, even then, there is no absolutely clear distinction between ordinary necessary substances and those which are highly addictive. Food, sex, alcohol, and marijuana all stimulate endorphins or other pleasure-producing neural pathways.
There is no argument that drugs in their excess are harmful. And, some are so toxic that their useful and beneficial dose is only at levels approaching the homeopathic dilution. For example, arsenic, while toxic at larger doses, is possibly beneficial as a trace element, and certainly effective in treating conditions as a homeopathic for disease conditions matching its toxic symptom profile.
Alcohol has a benefit as a relaxant and possibly cardiovascular conditions (although this is controversial and may be a false result due to population sampling errors). But clearly, its use in excess destroys health, wealth, and happiness. Marijuana has been shown to be effective for pain relief and has been legalized in a number of states to reflect this fact, but its use also impairs memory, dulls inhibitions, and places men under the influence of other spirits.
All this to note that there are good and bad sides to every drug, food, herb, and behavior. The problem is not with the substance, but with the discretion of the individual in regulating himself to engage its use properly. And, the proper use of any substance is that defined by God. The Bible clearly allows the use of alcohol, but on the other side, it encourages a higher
Ephesians 5:17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
The argument commonly used to justify the continued prohibition of marijuana, speed, crack, heroin, etcetera is that if it were readily available, then people would self-select, and use these various powerful mind-altering drugs irresponsibly, become addicted, cause accidents, lose motivation, behave violently, and behave as lower quality citizens. And in fact, for a certain number of people, if temptation were available, that segment of society would succumb to the degrading effects of the drug and sink to a low level of personal and social discipline. Seeing the effect of opium use in China in the early 1900s led legislators to outlaw narcotic use.
If society allows adults to choose to use mind-altering recreational drugs, then society must be mature, self-disciplined, and its individuals accountable for its behaviors. The society must have a commitment to following a general moral self-directed compass that guides, informs, and directs the public and individual toward an excellent character. But, such maturity is seldom possessed by the person who is choosing to use such drugs.
The child can be moved by counsel, discipline, curiosity, and seduction. Strong and clear moral guidance should inform and guide his development of habit and character. In a culture with such guidance, the populace will be able to pass along the wisdom of adulthood.
When the public policy regarding drug is one of allowing mature self-controlled use of potentially toxic substances, the public sphere has an obligation to teach and guide the youth the boundaries of proper use, and direct by law and peer pressure the habitual proper decisions of the adult population. The mature society will provide the needed force on the individual and group behavior to maintain the discipline to use toxic substances in proper therapeutic moderation.
The current policy of defining drugs as good/bad reflects a simplistic societal world view. People will naturally cope with their pain of life in various ways using socially accepted substances and activities such as food, TV, sex, work, and exercise. Each of these coping mechanisms has its own limits of use that must be observed. Overuse or improper application of each will produce its own toxic effect. In other words, there is no clear line between toxic and harmful substances and dosages. In general, any substance can be toxic in large enough dosage.
Developing a healthy relationship with all the substances and activities of life is one of the most important aspects of engaging and mastering life. We cannot avoid the experience of, and responsibility for, coming to a proper relationship with drugs and substances. We can stay children in any area of life and give responsibility for proper action to government, parents, teachers, and professionals. But, such a relationship is inherently immature.
Some substances, such as the legend drugs (prescription medications), are beneficial in the proper situation and dosage but can be harmful without following the proper guidelines. Staying under the supervision of a professional who is familiar with the entire gamut of behavioral, physical, and spiritual effects and challenges is a good point of accountability and training for a mature relationship with a drug. Recreational drugs have a high potential for misuse (as opposed to food, work, TV, and exercise, which can be misused but have a lower potential for misuse). Thus, one solution for moderating their high potential for misuse and toxicity is supervised usage during the period of developing mastery.
Revelation 18:23 “The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery all the nations were deceived.
The word sorcery is translated from the Greek Pharmakia, which means medicine, and by extension, sorcery or witchcraft. The scripture strongly counsels against pharmakia. In other words, there is a spirit associated with medicine. The challenge is to control the spirits that are in all medicines so as to not worship them, or be deceived into following the counsel of false spirits. Some drugs, the hallucinogens, are so strong in their effect that distinguishing between the voice of the Holy Spirit and the unholy spirits is almost impossible when under their influence. This illustrates the danger, difficulty, and near impossible task of taming or mastering the use of strong mind-altering drugs. The use of such drugs should probably be limited to irritant therapies, to accentuate a problem, get insight into its hold on the psyche. After a short treatment and a period of processing the insights, life should be re-engaged, attempting to integrate the insights and master life from a sober perspective.
Supervision, prescription, and controlled use does not eliminate the possibility of misuse, nor does it completely eliminate the profit potential of crime, but it is a step in the direction of a society recognizing the complex relationship we have with addictive and biologically active substances.
There will always be a portion of the society in an immature phase of life, another group that has personal mastery, and another that has mastery and can teach mastery. All of us should strive to master the passions and skills of life as they confront us. We cannot avoid confronting the issues of addiction, overuse, avoidance, and proper balance of the forces of life.
A public policy that recognizes the forces of life and their balance can help provide an environment for proper maturation of the soul. Ultimately, each person stands before God alone. Everyone’s personal level of mastery will determine his responsibility and reward in this and the age to come. Public and private policy should integrate the many domains of life to work together to achieve the desired goal of life. In our consideration of proper public policy, we should use a holistic approach of man and his environment. The examination should include the levels and domains such as child, adolescent, and adult; individual, group, and government; parent, child, and adult; matter, life, and spirit; spirit, soul, and body.
As individuals, we should all be working toward maturing our souls, and thereby coming into proper relationship with God and man. Our relationship with government should be one of synergistic support. Government should be an external manifestation of our own desire to hold ourselves accountable to the highest standards of life. A government which enforces policies at odds with attaining those lofty goals should be modified by a general expression of its citizens in democratic action. As such, we each must take on the responsibility to monitor and judge our government, just as we should intervene to influence our self, friends, family, work environment, and community.
With regards to mind-altering drugs, all substances and activities have their place, and each person must learn to place them in proper perspective. Giving children knives and firearms is a recipe for producing harm. Keeping adults from knives and firearms is a formula for eternal dependence and immaturity. Some substances are so toxic they should never be used in doses larger than homeopathic dilution. Some activities are so harmful, they should never be allowed other than as mental considerations of what should not be done. As a society, we must grow up and transfer responsibility to the individual as he becomes ready and knowledgeable enough to take on the burden of judging and accepting personal consequence.
Commentary in the media:
US Drug war has met none of its goals
Mexico legalizes possession of small amounts but does not legalize sale