Recently marijuana was legalized in Canada. As such, the issue has come up that Marijuana can stay within the system for a very long time and a habitual user can be impaired by marijuana even if he/she hasn’t used it recently. My understanding is that Catholics cannot be impaired by drugs and alcohol at the time of the wedding for the sake of validity because of their inability to give free consent to the marriage. Would this mean that habitual pot heads wouldn’t be able to marry in the Catholic Church? If so, what would you recommend if, hypothetically speaking, a legal pot head were to be planning on getting married in the Church and is concerned about validity?
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
Whether or not marijuana is civil legal or not, the question is a good one. Habitual use of any intoxicant can impede a person from being able to use his discretionary faculty – that faculty which allows us to freely choose something, in this case, marriage.
To marry, the Church requires that a person have the ability to exercise his free will. Without internal and external freedom, matrimonial consent can fall under a shadow of possible invalidity. The Church would presume – before any investigation is done – that the consent is valid, but upon investigation, someone who was shown to be regularly under the influence of marijuana – and under that influence at the time of the wedding in particular – might be proven to have not posited a valid act of consent.
If someone accustomed to using marijuana – or alcohol, or any intoxicant that numbs the senses – with regularity were to come to me preparing for marriage, I would first take pains to remind him of the moral gravity of surrendering his free will through the use of intoxicants. Our free will is a precious gift from God, and should not be lightly surrendered.
Secondly, I would urge him, at the very least, to observe a period of sobriety of at least several days before and certainly during the wedding. If I were a priest preparing such a person, I would inform him that, unless I had confidence that he was sober and clear of mind the morning of the wedding, said wedding would not be taking place.