From a reader…
I enjoy smoking marijuana from time to time (about once a week). I’m trying to be a better Catholic and was wondering if I absolutely have to give this up? To put it into context, when I get high I don’t act like an idiot. I generally read Aristotle or Aquinas, or listen to Mozart. Marijuana activates my religious side, it doesn’t dull it. [Uh huh… riiiiight.]
Also, most Catholics enjoy a beer. I don’t see why they can have a drink but I can’t have a joint. I think marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and more enjoyable.
Smoking marijuana has been condemned on two principles: 1) the fact that it is illegal and 2) that it dulls the senses.
The fact that, in a few states and municipalities in the United States and elsewhere around the world, the legality of marijuana is an open question, causes us to turn with more concentration to the second principle.
Now – please concentrate. Don’t get distracted by that thing on the wall that may or may not be a fly. Put down the bag of chips and drop that fudge brownie. We’re going to do some detailed moral reasoning here.
Smoking marijuana dulls the senses. Even the most devoted fan will admit that. In fact, that’s why many people smoke it. It can seem to heighten some senses, but for the most part it leads to impaired motor skills, decreased memory, impaired concentration, and the inhibition of moral constraints.
“But Father! But Father!”, some are gurgling, “So does alcohol! But we don’t say it’s wrong to drink alcohol. Jesus used alcohol! He turned water into wine! You must hate Vatican II.”
Sure, we don’t condemn the use of alcohol except in excess and at the wrong moments and places. And, for many people, the effects of alcohol are far more adverse than those of marijuana.
Taking any substance that leads to the loss of control of the will is problematic. One should never freely surrender one’s will. When one’s will is impeded, one often makes poor moral choices. One’s culpability for one’s choices can be lessened when one’s will is impaired. For example, the man who, in a blind rage, kills the one who is injuring his child is less culpable for his actions than the man who hatches a murderous plot in cold blood. But when one purposely impairs one’s own will by getting intoxicated or high or stoned, one’s culpability is increased. If, for example, I know that I get violent when I am drunk, but I nevertheless choose to get drunk, I have no excuse.
Is smoking marijuana, but not to excess, in places where it is legal morally wrong? It’s high time we get a definitive answer.
Those who have argued that marijuana is always immoral, no matter how strong the dosage or what the circumstances, have had their say. The moralists who are in favor of a limited use of marijuana should be weighing in any moment now. Right after that next Twinkie.
UPDATE 21 Feb:
A priest-reader sent me the Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care’s Handbook on Drugs and Drug Addiction: HERE