Legal Doesn't Equal Moral
This week the federal government legalized the distribution and consumption of marijuana across the country. Does that mean that we are now free to partake of the drug at our leisure? Prior to Oct. 17th, 2018 was it immoral to smoke or ingest marijuana simply because the government said so? The quick answer is, “no”. True morality is not simply based on government legislation.
If it were the case that the government dictates morality, then the killing of pre-born babies, the elderly and the sick (if they want to die) would be morally good in this country. I am not saying that smoking weed is a sin of the same gravity as killing vulnerable people. The point is simply that legal doesn’t equal moral.
For a more complete discussion of the morality of smoking or ingesting marijuana, please read “Canada Up in Smoke” by John Paul Meenan. It’s only about a 10-minute read, and he does an excellent job of explaining various aspects of the moral problems presented by weed.
For my part, I would like to re-iterate Catholic teaching on care for our bodies. This topic is addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church within the section on “Respect for the Dignity of Persons”, paragraphs 2284-2301. Paragraph 2288 says, “Life and physical health are precious gifts entrusted to us by God. We must take reasonable care of them, taking into account the needs of others and the common good” (CCC, 2288). This means that we have a moral responsibility to take reasonable care of our physical health. Similar to smoking cigarettes, smoking marijuana damages the lungs, and there are also long-term effects on the brain. These concerns should be taken seriously, but they are not the primary reason for the consumption of marijuana being immoral.
The Catechism goes on to say that care for the body must be considered in connection with the rest of human life: “If morality requires respect for the life of the body, it does not make it an absolute value. It rejects a neo-pagan notion that tends to promote the cult of the body, to sacrifice everything for it's sake, to idolize physical perfection and success at sports. By its selective preference of the strong over the weak, such a conception can lead to the perversion of human relationships” (CCC, 2289). We must care for our body, but we don’t make an idol out of the body. Our ultimate goal is to reach heaven, but there are also many other goods that God has given to us in this life, which foreshadow heaven, but they are not heaven, and so they are not ends in themselves. For example, food is good, but we are not made simply to eat; therefore, eating too much, too extravagantly, too unhealthily, etc. are all forms of gluttony, which is a sin a against temperance.
“The use of drugs inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use, except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense” (CCC, 2291). The primary reason for the immorality of using marijuana is its effect on the mind. God gave us the ability to reason and make good decisions. When people use marijuana or other mind-altering drugs, they impair their ability to reason. This rational also applies to getting drunk on alcohol. Getting drunk, like getting high, is also a grave sin! If you watch any TV, you’ve probably noticed a lot of ads about not driving high. By now everyone in the country should know that driving drunk or high are terrible things to do; however, the fact that so many people are still caught by the police or get into accidents driving drunk or high is proof of why they shouldn’t even have gotten drunk or high in the first place. People who are high or drunk don’t make good decisions! To get drunk or high is to willingly give up the gift of reasoning and sound decision making, and for what? Fun? Escape? That’s not a good trade.