Should Christians consider legalising drugs?

There has been some discussion on drug laws over at New Zealand Conservative, with Lucyna referring to an article called “Don’t legalize drugs” by Theodore Dalrymple, which I shall refer to below.

This is a very polarising issue, with most people either saying “Drugs are bad – ban them” or “You have no right to legislate what people put in their own bodies – legalise them all”. Those in favour of legalising them argue that this will reduce the price, reducing crimes committed by people trying to fund their drug habits, and increase the quality (less people dying from dodgy concoctions). They generally assume that if drugs were legal usage would not increase much, as most people are sensible and won’t take them. I highly doubt this, it is logical to expect that usage would increase somewhat, people are more likely to use something if they can do it on a whim (pop into a shop and buy it) than if it is more difficult and expensive to obtain.

We don’t know what exactly would happen if all drugs were legalised – we haven’t done it yet. As Theodore Dalrymple states:

“But a certain modesty in the face of an inherently unknowable future is surely advisable. That is why prudence is a political virtue: what stands to reason should happen does not necessarily happen in practice. As Goethe said, all theory (even of the monetarist or free-market variety) is gray, but green springs the golden tree of life. If drugs were legalized, I suspect that the golden tree of life might spring some unpleasant surprises.”

I am certainly no fan of the legalisation of all drugs. It is a stupid idea to take drugs, I don’t even drink. However, many Christians rightly see drugs are bad and as a result go completely in the opposite direction – “ban them all”. Many seem to believe for some reason that Christianity requires drugs be illegal, and won’t entertain any discussion about adjusting the drug laws. But nowhere in the Bible is there ANY example of a drug being illegal.

Currently alcohol and tobacco are legal in NZ, most other stuff is illegal. The decision which drugs should be legal and which ones restricted is not based on Christianity at all. Rather, it is a purely pragmatic decision based on the costs and benefits to society of having a substance legal or illegal. Therefore it is perfectly reasonable for us, whether Christian or not, to entertain discussion on the costs and benefits of whether possession of certain substances (such as BZP, or cannabis) should be legal, illegal but not criminal (e.g. you get fined but don’t end up in court, just like a driving offence), or a criminal offence.

Dalyrmple also states:

“Analogies with the Prohibition era, often drawn by those who would legalize drugs, are false and inexact: it is one thing to attempt to ban a substance that has been in customary use for centuries by at least nine-tenths of the adult population, and quite another to retain a ban on substances that are still not in customary use, in an attempt to ensure that they never do become customary.”

Which is also an excellent point. The social acceptability of a drug makes a big difference in whether it is practical to restrict it or not. If enough people find something socially acceptable, it will be impossible to police. You can never control a substance without public support.

But where does this leave socially acceptable illegal drugs like cannabis? Whatever its status in the past, and despite research showing how harmful it is, cannabis is now socially acceptable in many circles. If you doubt that, just think – do you know someone who you strongly suspect uses cannabis? Most people know users, it is so widespread. Have you reported them to the cops yet? If not, why not? Why don’t you respect the law? Do you too find cannabis socially acceptable?

If even you find cannabis socially acceptable and won’t report it, how do you expect the police to control it?

What our drug laws should be is something I am as yet undecided on. And I am strongly aware that changing one small thing can be the start down a “slippery slope” towards more stuff that would be undesirable. However we must be willing to entertain pragmatic discussion on these issues. Christianity has a lot to say about the rights and wrongs of many different things – we can conclusively say abortion is wrong for example. But it has little to say about drugs, so we must be careful not to jump on one end of the dispute (either “ban it all” or “complete freedom”) and hold this as the “Christian” position, rejecting all practical considerations to the contrary.

6 Responses to “Should Christians consider legalising drugs?”

  1. Sb Says:

    My approach to this is that by any way of measuring things the current system does not work.

    I know someone who boasted that they could get any drug in NZ with an hours notice! I had no reason to doubt what they were saying.

    The “war on drugs” does not seem to acheive any good while causing considerable bad.

    So change it to something else, if it gets worse then change it again , if it gets better then improve it.

    I suspect that some substitution would occur and that total consumption would not rise much. You can only get stoned so many times in a week.


  2. Tony Says:

    I am a Christian who smokes cannabis.. well actually I use a vaporiser but same outcome but without smoking complications .
    I would have been up until 6 or 7 years considered to be rather outspoken in condemning cannabis .
    In total desperation and after much sole searching I experimented with cannabis , it was initially suggested by a Medical Specialist as a potential medication ,other more acceptable drugs had not proved effective for a complex health issue I have..Ii made a considerable positive change , Life once again became manageable..

    I still had huge reservation , both from my Christian perspective as well I figured if it was a legal medication , it meant our Pharmaceutical watchdogs must have had sound information to base it ban on, it must have extremely negative aspects..

    The relief being offered overrode my personal objection.. but caused me to explore the cannabis more fully..

    What I found out not only eased my mind as to my personal usage , but caused me to have a complete change of heart as to it place in our society .. I am still very anti drugs , in particular meth /P and have no desire to see anything but an all out effort to eradicate it..
    But if legalized cannabis may well offer up some real positives..
    Its medical attributes are considerable .Its only those who have not experienced it benefits who question its validity as a medication , or those swayed by propaganda.

    Its social costs are also very different to the those I used to believe as well..
    Fear of , and for many the consequences ( jail, employment , travel ) are more harmful than the drug itself..
    Couple this with gangs who market a multitude of drugs including Meth/P have a captive and vulnerable ready made clientele . Kids will smoke pot , something like 67% will try it more than once , best they buy unlaced , controlled product from non gang , reliable sources .

    I now read more expansively regards cannabis and am surprised at how many experts support having cannabis legal with suitable controls as to age and the like .. But they seldom get heard above the propaganda vested interests , , Alcohol, Cigarette, and Pharmaceutical encourage..

    Our own MOH reports and the New Zealand Drug Foundation publications offer up some interesting reading .


  3. Mr Dennis Says:

    Tony, thanks heaps for that info. I understand there are many people like you who find cannabis to be medicinally beneficial. I do think that if it actually is the best option for some people, and being a natural product probably has less side effects than many alternatives you could be offered, it is a shame to not be able to use it. The issue of how to allow medicinal use without encouraging recreational use is a tricky one however.

  4. MikeE Says:

    And what exactly is wrong with recreational use?

  5. peterquixote Says:

    dunno about abortion dude, but quiet drugs are fine,

  6. Eco Green Says:

    Politicians are 10 years behind the times when it comes to hemp use. People have been fighting for a long time against marijuana and pot prohibition with some movement going on now. Still too slow for those caught up in the jail system for possessing a little weed. Our freedoms have been trampled on by folks who know nothing about how beautiful cannabis can be for someones life, if one learns how to grow cannabis. Keep up the good work.

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