Christians are divided over whether marijuana should be legalized. Some say the drug is an essential pain medication and even an aid in worship! But others claim it’s a dangerous, unregulated, gateway drug. This week on The Roys Report, Jonathan Merritt, who supports legalization, will be joining me to share how marijuana delivered him from chronic pain. But challenging his position will be Dr. Richard Poupard, an outspoken critic of legalization. I really hope you’ll join me for The Roys Report, this Saturday morning at 11 on AM 1160 Hope For Your Life, and at 7 p.m. Sunday evening on AM 560 The Answer.
Dr Rich Poupard
Dr Rich Poupard Earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery from Northwestern University Dental School. He practices as a Board Certified Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon in Michigan. He has special interest includes medical ethics and Christian Apologetics. It is this interest that led him to study and complete his Master’s degree in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. He is published in the Christian Research Journal on topics such as ethics of cosmetic surgery, abortion, gaming, pornography and marijuana use. He has been hosted on multiple podcasts including The Bible Answer Man and Hank Unplugged. He is married and has five children. He enjoys reading, golf and board games.
Jonathan Merritt is an award-winning writer on religion, culture, and politics. He serves as a contributing writer for The Atlantic, a contributing editor for The Week, and is author of several critically-acclaimed books and has published more than 3500 articles in respected outlets such as The New York Times, USA Today, Buzzfeed, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. As a respected voice, he regularly contributes commentary to television, print, and radio news outlets and has been interviewed by ABC World News, NPR, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, and CBS’ “60 Minutes.”
Jonathan holds a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades including the Wilbur Award for excellence in journalism, the Religion News Association’s columnist of the year, and the Englewood Review of Books “Book of the Year” award.
David E. Smith
David E. Smith is a Christian husband and father to eight children. He is also an experienced Executive Director of two non-profit public policy organizations, including the Illinois Family Institute. David works to educate and activate Christians in Illinois to “boldly bring biblical perspectives to public policy” for the welfare of families in the turbulent culture of Illinois. David also serves as a GOP Township Chairman and is an ordained minister and elder in his local church.
Note: This transcript has been slightly edited for continuity.
JULIE ROYS: What should Christians think of marijuana? Welcome to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I am Julie Roys. And today, we’re going to be debating a hot topic in both the culture and the church. Some people say marijuana is a miracle drug that can bring relief for chronic pain and ease depression. Yet, others say it’s a dangerous drug, especially for young, developing minds. Plus, marijuana can be a gateway to harder drugs, and legalization can lead to the proliferation of social problems.
In Illinois, where this show originates, we just legalized marijuana, but the law hasn’t gone into effect yet. That happens in January. But marijuana—both recreational and medical—is legal now in 10 states and the District of Columbia. And support for it is growing. In 1988, only 24% of Americans supported legalization. But in 2018, 66% of Americans supported it.
And Christians, who once vehemently opposed the drug, seem to be softening. In fact, there’s a prominent Christian leader who now openly admits he uses weed three-to-four times a week. And he claims it enhances his worship experience.
So how do you think Christians should think about this issue and should they support legalization? This week, Judson University student Carista Richie asked people that exact question and here’s what they said:
STUDENT 1: “I don’t, okay, I don’t know much about it but I have, I know that it helps people with some medical conditions. So I think that it should be legal in that way, for that, but otherwise no.”
STUDENT 2: “I think that, as Christians, we are supposed to not smoke marijuana. But I think that the de-criminalizing of marijuana makes the justice system more equal and more fair for people of color. And therefore, we should support it.”
STUDENT 3: “In order to worship God and have God be the number one priority and thought in your mind, you need to be in the right state of mind. And you aren’t able to control that state of mind whenever you are under the influence of a drug that is going to make you think, or hallucinate or whatever that may be. And you are not going to be in the right state of mind to focus on God one hundred percent.
STUDENT 4: “I think the Bible is very clear about not taking or using anything that is going to kind of change your state of mind. But I do think that the laws need to be set in place to kind of differentiate between what recreational use and what medical use is. I think that saves a lot of benefits from using marijuana medically. So yeah, that’s my answer.
STUDENT 5: “No.”
CARISTA RICHIE: “Okay. How come?”
STUDENT 5: “Because it distorts your perspective of reality and you shouldn’t run away from the reality God gave you.
STUDENT 6: “I don’t think they should support it. I think it’s a gray issue in Christianity. I don’t think it’s a wrong, like a right or a wrong but I don’t think they should support it, but if they do, then I think it’s OK.
JULIE ROYS: Well, what do you think? The number to call is 312-660-2594. And I know there’s a wide variety of opinions on this issue, even in the faith community. So I encourage you to call in.
But joining me today, I have guests on both sides of this issue. Supporting legalization is Jonathan Merritt, an award-winning author on religion, culture, and politics—and someone who grew up as the son of a prominent Southern Baptist preacher. But Jonathan, I’m going to guess—you’re no longer a Southern Baptist. Am I right on that?
JONATHAN MERRITT: Well, I, in order to be a Southern Baptist you have to attend the Southern Baptist church and since moving to New York City, I’m at a non-denominational church. So the answer is no. But no ill feelings toward the tradition of my heritage.
JULIE ROYS: Sure, but would you say you’ve moved? Like if there were a Southern Baptist Church, do you think you’d attend that or do you feel like you’ve moved a bit from sort of that conservative foundation?
JONATHAN MERRITT: I’ve moved somewhat but the real reason, I think, for my shift is that I love kind of a quasi-Anglican or more of a liturgical expression of worship. And so that’s one of the main reasons why I attend the church I do today.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah and I know that this issue of marijuana is something that has shifted as you’ve grown. And I’m going to get into that in a second. But I want to introduce my second guest, which is Dr. Richard Poupard, a board-certified oral surgeon and member of the surgical staff at MidMichigan Regional Medical Center. And Dr. Poupard is a critic of legalization. So Dr. Poupard, welcome! Great to have you.
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Oh thanks so much, Julie. It’s great to be here. And hi Jonathan.
JONATHAN MERRITT: Hi, hello.
JULIE ROYS: So Jonathan, let’s just start with you because you have an interesting journey on this issue. Again, brought up Southern Baptist, brought up basically thinking marijuana is something that you shouldn’t ever consider or touch. But that’s changed over the years. So tell us a little bit about your journey.
JONATHAN MERRITT: Yeah, it was a view that I held growing up, that it was just sort of a an unmitigated moral wrong. And I had no reason really to challenge that view. So I held that view for decades. And in 2015, I developed a chronic pain disorder that doctors have classified in different ways. Some have called it fibromyalgia but, regardless, the kind of a nagging pain condition that prohibited me from working full hours of the day. Really, I think, was one of the impetuses for creating a lot of anxiety and depression and even, at the end, a little bit of almost suicidal thoughts. And so a couple of years ago, I was in California, and a friend of mine had urged me to go and see a physician there. And I did, and was prescribed medical marijuana. And even though I was very afraid to try it, I was sort of at the end of my rope. I tried every kind of medication known to man—pain killers, nerve pills, you know, anti-seizure medications and nothing had even come close to working. And so I tried it and found that because of medical advances, I was able, without really having the experience of a high. You know people talk about, you know, tripping over like almost like you would be drunk. I didn’t really have that but I had a massive pain reduction. And it just brought me to tears and I think induced a real re-thinking about the morality of this issue, at least in some cases, for me.
JULIE ROYS: And can I ask what form you took the marijuana in?
JONATHAN MERRITT: Yes, it was an edible form. So it was almost like a piece of candy. It wasn’t like smoked. It was like a something that you just sort of chewed up and swallowed. And then kind of over time, released into the body.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. And do you know what the percentage of the THC was in that drug?
JONATHAN MERRITT: You know, I don’t know. I remember when I was picking it up—you sort of, you go to the doctor and then the doctor sends you to kind of like a dispensary, like a pharmacy. And I don’t remember the exact percentages but I remember that you could kind of choose. And it was a lower percentage of THC, a high percentage of CBD. So he was like, you know, I said I want to be able to funtion. I want, I don’t want to really want to get high. I’m taking it for pain. I kind of explained it and then he was able to kind of select and recommend a product to me.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. Dr. Poupard, I asked all those questions because I’ve talked to you about this issue before. And this was, I think, a couple years ago, maybe 2017. And at that point there wasn’t a lot of great labeling of the drug. And most medical marijuana, it was my understanding at that point, from our discussion, a lot of it was just the joint that you would smoke. And you would get high and you’d call that medical because you got a prescription for it. Has it changed in the past few years?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: In some ways it has, you know. Obviously, even when I first wrote my article in the Christian Research Journal even five years ago. The comps, the CBD oil was just coming out. With Charlotte, who found that CBD, dissolved in oil, was an effective treatment for her seizures. And since that time, that then actually the FDA has approved medications that are enriched in CBD. I mean, now when it comes to the products that are available, it’s widespread everywhere. CBD, obviously, is seen—that the health claims and it’s really gotten out everywhere. And it’s kind of on fire in terms of those that are claiming that it’s going to pretty much fix everything. But in terms of, you know, I do believe that most of the, even though there’s many other options, I find that in my studies, that those that are taking compounds from marijuana, for medical reason for pain relief, you know, tend to use more edible type of solutions because they are long-lasting. And those that are actually taking for more recreational reasons, still tend to smoke it because you can get the desired dose. And control the desired dose better that way—get a better and bigger hit as opposed to taking the edible.
JULIE ROYS: Yes, sorry about that. We have to go to break. But when we come back, I want to talk a little bit about the difference between the recreational and the medicinal use of this. But also, I want to talk about a pastor who says smoking marijuana, or taking CBD and THC, it actually enhances his worship experience. What do you think about that?
Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report. We’ll be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Well, can marijuana enhance your worship experience? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And according to Pastor Craig Gross, that’s exactly what marijuana does. And we’re talking today about marijuana—how people of faith should view this drug. And many Christians, especially conservative Christians are against using the drug. But Craig Gross, the founder of a ministry in Pasadena, California, that helps people overcome porn addiction, is a marijuana enthusiast. Gross says that he uses cannabis 3 to 4 times a week, and he says it’s also an aid in his worship. On his website ChristianCannabis.com, he writes that in 2017, he discovered cannabis-infused mints, which contained about five milligrams of THC. He said this “microdose” was perfect for him. And shortly after he started using it, he said he had an intense spiritual experience. This is what he writes and I quote:
“There, in the midst of a break from a convention, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, the Lord met me in ways more powerful than I have ever known in my 42 years on this earth. My head stopped spinning and I heard His voice. I got clarity. I got direction. I got out of my head, and I let God into my heart in a lasting, visceral way.”
Interestingly, Gross, just last month, resigned from his ministry for porn addicts that he launched 17 years ago. He actually passed that on to someone who had found help through that ministry. And now he is giving a new cannabis business his full-time attention.
What do you think of that? Is Gross a little bit whacked out—or is he on target and enlightening his fellow Christians? The number to call: 312-660-2594. And before I go to my guests, I do want to go to our phone lines cause Tracy’s on the line right now. And Tracy, from what I understand, you’re for legalization of pot, not just medicinally but also recreationally? Yes?
TRACY: You know, I am but I think that we’re really talking about two separate issues here. The first is the morality and the spiritual responsibility that a Christian has—to be true, honest, honoring of their bodily temple and these things. Right? The criminalization or de-criminalization—I think it’s a completely separate issue. The people that are going to smoke pot, it’s clear that they’re going to do it whether it’s legal or not. And when I say smoke, let’s say take. People are going to take marijuana.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, so you’re saying legalizations, let’s put that on the side, okay? The legalization. So what do you think about Christians using it? Are you for that or against that?
TRACY: I believe that marijuana is an intoxicant like many others. I believe that, unlike some others, it is more possible to use this intoxicant in a responsible way—the way one would use wine with dinner.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, so just a little bit. Maybe get, you know, a little buzz but not intoxicating. And what do think about the worship experience thing? Enhancing your worship experience with marijuana?
TRACY: You know, and I think that sounds great and it’s a really good way to make someone feel not horrible about what they’re doing. And I don’t know the pastor’s heart. I don’t know anyone’s heart. The Lord knows their heart, not me. But I think . . .
JULIE ROYS: But you’re cool with it.
TRACY: Well, it’s disingenuous to say that, you know, I’m using this because it enhances my spirituality. I didn’t begin living my life as a conservative Christian. I came to that through the grace of God, okay. And there was a time when I used intoxicants more than I would care to admit.
JULIE ROYS: So you think it might be a little bit of a rationalization for wanting to use it period.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. All right. Tracy thanks, thanks. I want to go to our guests and give them a chance to weigh in. I appreciate your comments.
Again, joining me today, Jonathan Merritt, a Christian author and advocate of marijuana—and Dr. Richard Poupard, an oral surgeon and critic of using the drug. So Jonathan, I’ll throw that to you. Your thoughts on Pastor Craig Gross, or I should say ex-Pastor, I guess, and his enhancing worship experience with the drug.
JONATHAN MERRITT: Well, I think it strikes me as a little strange, right off the bat. I have a lot of friends who practice Easter religions, who make use of these kinds of things—psychedelics, psychotropics for spiritual enhancement. It’s not something that’s normally a part of the Christian tradition. And I don’t have any real experience with it but I can tell you one thing in my experience. I grew up journaling, you know, just sort of writing down my thoughts from my quiet time and journaling. But I will tell you when I had my pain condition, I couldn’t journal because I was so consumed with thoughts about my physical state that I couldn’t quite piece my thoughts together to journal in my spiritual journal. But I will tell you that when I was able to kind of clear that out, just a little bit, I was able to journal. And I guess maybe if that’s what someone says is an enhancement I suppose that’s one thing. It’s very different, I think, than someone using to quote “reach an enlightment,” kind of drawing from non-Christian traditions. And I feel like when I read Craig’s words there, it kind of confuses me as to what side of the line he’s on, I guess, in this discussion.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, and, you know, I know for me it kind of sets off some red flags because I remember reading, and this is going to date me, but Keith Green—his autobiography, not autobiography, his biography—that was written after he died but Keith Green was a Christian artist who really stood out, I think, in those early days of Christian contemporary music. Very straight-up artist. If you don’t know him, you should check him out. He’s like my all-time favorite. But Keith wrote, I remember, talked about how, before he came to Christ, he would use a lot of drugs. And it became a portal not just for, you know, first it was like these very happy spiritual experiences. Then it became much darker and he began to suspect that this was really a portal for Satan to reach him. So it seems like it can open us up. Dr. Poupard I’d like your thoughts on that. Open us up to whatever influence can come in which could be light or dark. Correct?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Well, I think so and I think that’s a great concern for when we have now this increasing popularity of marijuana. By the way, mentioning Keith Green also dates me too, so I’m with you with that. One thing about this topic and it’s really a good example. We’re talking about there’s a big difference between using any medication for a treatment of a pathology, treatment of an illness. And, you know, returning the goal in that, of course, is to returning our body to its normal state. For someone who has neurogenic pain, chronic pain that’s refractory to other treatments—to have something that can bring you back to where you can now be and worship God correctly and function well, you know. That’s something that we absolutely need to celebrate. At the same time, there’s that next step in which we think that in taking this medication, we can actually increase our worship. This is nothing new. This has been going on for millennia. In Eastern religions and the like, where people want to become close to the higher power by changing our brain chemistry. I think it’s pretty clear that we should be very concerned about that. And Craig Gross himself, I mean, he started out basically, once again, taking the medication for chronic migraines, I believe. But now is an advocate for selling and selling it actually on his web site. Vape pens that have praise and persevere and peace on it. And I think the peace that we get from our faith does not, should not be coming from, you know, the THC found in a vape pen.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah and it does make you a little bit leery when he goes from doing ministry and now he’s in a for-profit business, you know. What’s behind all that, you know? I don’t know but it does, sort of make you think about the interest, the heart with all of that. But I want you to just comment on our caller who said, “Why can’t marijuana be a little bit intoxicating, just like say drinking a wine with your dinner?” Can it be used in that way?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Well, I don’t have personal
experience but the research shows that an intoxicating dose of marijuana usually happens at basically like four puffs of a joint. And very few advocates of marijuana, that use it recreationally, use less than that. So, you know, the whole point of smoking marijuana, especially recreationally, is to basically dose yourself to a certain point in which you feel then good. And it’s known that when you go past that point, then other things like psychosis and paranoia can kick in. So in general, I don’t know anybody who uses marijuana recreationally as a non-intoxicating manner. Now when you’re using it for medical purposes, if you’re, you can do micro-dosing and things like that but that will bring us to the fact that whether or not research has shown that these things are, actually on a populaton level, effective for treating the things that are claimed to be treated.
JULIE ROYS: Well again, that’s Dr. Richard Poupard, an oral surgeon and critic of legalizing marijuana. Also joining me today, Jonathan Merritt, an author and proponent of legalizing marijuana. Joining me in just a little bit will be someone who can talk about legalization laws, state legalization laws and if you don’t want marijuana coming to your town, what you can do. Stay tuned. The Roys Report will be right back after a short break.
JULIE ROYS: Well, welcome back to The Roys Report, brought to you in part by Judson University. I’m Julie Roys. And today, we’re discussing what Christians should think about marijuana. Is it okay for Christians to use marijuana? Does it matter whether they’re using it medically as opposed to recreationally? And what about legalizing the drug? Should Christians support legalization or not? I’d love to hear your thoughts. The number to call is 312-660-2594. Also, joining me today to debate this issue are Jonathan Merritt, who’s an advocate of marijuana—and Dr. Richard Poupard, who’s a critic of the drug. And we’ll return to that debate in just a minute. But I wanted to take a minute to discuss advocacy, especially in Illinois since this show does originate here in Chicago. And a lot of our listeners are in Illinois. Although I want to mention this week, kind of excited about this, we’re adding a new station—WBIS Awesome Radio in Greenville, North Carolina. So welcome to all of you listening in North Carolina. We’re so excited to have you as part of The Roys Report listening audience. And I should mention that in North Carolina, speaking of marijuana, marijuana is not legal, although lawmakers there have introduced a medical marijuana bill. And we’ll see what happens with that bill when the state legislature re-convenes next year. But in Illinois, the question of legalization is somewhat of a moot point in Illinois. That’s because earlier this year, the state legislature legalized marijuana. But now there’s initiatives to ban dispensaries in certain towns. This is similar to what’s been done across Michigan. There, the drug is legal, but more than 500 cities have opted out of the Marijuana Act and are banning marijuana businesses in their towns. So, joining me now is David Smith, executive director of the Illinois Family Institute. He’s someone who has been very involved in this issue. And I believe he joins me now. Hi Dave? Can you hear me? Okay, looks like we weren’t able to get him on the line. We will get him on the line before the end of this show. And I want him to comment on some of these issues of opting out and what your cities can do. But let me take it back to our guests Jonathan Merritt and Richard Poupard. Jonathan, before the break we were talking a little bit about medical vs. recreational use. How do you feel—I know you want it to be legal, you want Christians to be engaging on this issue and talking about this issue—but what do you feel about the recreational use? Do you think that there’s a legitimate place for Christians to use marijuana recreationally? Wait, we lost Jonathan. Okay, well Dr. Poupard can you hear me?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Yes I can.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, all right so I guess we’ve lost a couple of our guests there. My apologies to those of you listening a few technical issues today but do you think I think it’s pretty clear you don’t think there’s any any place for using this drug recreationally. Correct?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Well no, I think especially from a Christian standpoint, I don’t see an argument that can be laid across that says it is a good thing to use this drug as a life enhancer. And it’s interesting that the playbook that the pro-marijuana advocates have used extremely effectively in terms of beginning by talking about how it can be effective to treat illnesses and we should be able to have access to it for compassion. But frankly, I agree with in terms of treating patients with (inaudible) disorders. And then quickly turning to say that it should be completely legal for everybody to use because it’s safe and it’s a better intoxicant, say, than the ones that we currently accept. I think that’s been very effective. And that idea has been kind of pushed across our culture. And I think we should push back on that. I don’t imagine a better culture with more of us engaging with marijuana. And in fact, a lot of the proposed advantages of marijuana of over say alcohol have been shown really to not be effective. We thought that, for a while, that increased use of marijuana might decrease the opioid problem that we have. And some early data showed that might be the case. Well the latest stuff that came out, the latest studies show that it has a negative effect. The more people who smoke pot actually end up on opioids further. In things for instance with intimate partner violence. We used to think that well, it would be better if husbands, or partners, if they were high, maybe they’d be more relaxed and there would be less likely to abuse their families. Well, now it turns out that even in terms of when we account for all the other variables, that those who smoke pot actually have a greater incidence of abuse even with controlling alcohol use and everything else. So I think that both in a spiritual aspect, which is what I’m concerned about as a Christian, but also the cultural effects I think are going to be great and, right now, unknown.
JULIE ROYS: I think we have Jonathan back on the line. Yes?
JONATHAN MERRITT: We do!
JULIE ROYS: Yay! Okay. Sorry about that friend. Didn’t mean to drop you. But, so we’ve been talking a little bit about using marijuana recreationally as a post to medicinally. I wanted to know your input. Do you think it should be legalized recreationally as well as medicinally?
JONATHAN MERRITT: I do. I do, and not because I think that recreational use is healthy or good or even advisable for a Christian. But simply because of all of the difficulties that have come with making it illegal. You know, I think I would make the same argument for other dangerous drugs—tobacco as well as alcohol, both very, very dangerous drugs—that there’s a difference between making it illegal and being able to sort of enforce those laws—and to do so in a just way—and also then encouraging people to use something responsibly that can be used irresponsibly.
JULIE ROYS: I can understand that. And so Dr. Poupard, what do you think about that? Is this too hard to regulate at this point that we should just say, “yeah it should be legal, even recreationally even if we wouldn’t do it or advocate doing it?”
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: I actually agree with Jonathan. I think it’s wise for us to look at the laws that we presently have. And in instances in which they have been unjust, we should look at changing them. But I don’t think that necessarily leads to a full legalization. Just as an aside, decriminalization of marijuana might be a good step. Instead of putting those with small amounts of possession in jail, small fines and the like, I think would be a next step that maybe we may consider taking. I think that’s different then making it legal. Now there’s an assumption, I think, in Jonathan’s comment that if we do make it legal, then people would be actually, you know, more apt to use it responsibly. And I would disagree with that. I think that even when we look at states that have passed medical marijuana laws, for instance, most—to be honest with you—most of the time that those with medical marijuana cards are not using it for legitimate medical purposes.
JULIE ROYS: Okay, Dr. Poupard. We need to go to a break. When we come back, let’s talk a little bit more about that. I also want to get to how this affects the developing brain of adolescents. And we do have David Smith on the line from the Illinois Family Institute. We will be right back after a short break. Again, you’re listening to The Roys Report with Julie Roys. We’ll be back.
JULIE ROYS: Well, what should Christians think about marijuana? Is it a medically important drug and relatively harmless to those who consume it? Or is it a dangerous drug, especially for younger, developing minds—and maybe a gateway drug? Welcome back to The Roys Report. I’m Julie Roys. And today we are talking about this controversial issue with guests on both sides.
And I want to let you know that if you missed any part of today’s broadcast, or just want to listen again or share it with friends, it will be available at my website today about an hour after the broadcast. So just go to Julie Roys, spelled ROYS, dot com and click on the podcast tab. That’s Julie Roys dot com.
I also want to let you know that next week, we’re going to be discussing an extremely important topic—how churches should minister to abused women. Just this week, I published the first of two investigative articles about women who were in abusive marriages and sought help through the Soul Care ministry at Harvest Bible Chapel during the years 2012-2016. The women say the ministry failed to protect them, and instead protected their abusive husbands. If you’d like to read that article, it’s available at my website, Julie Roys dot com. But on The Roys Report next week, Judi Noble, an experienced counselor of abused women, will be joining me. And she has tons of insight about how churches should respond to this issue. And clearly, churches need a little bit of help in this area. So I hope you’ll make a point to join me next week on The Roys Report.
But returning to the topic of marijuana again. Joining me Jonathan Merritt, an author and proponent of legalizing marijuana and Dr. Richard Poupard, an oral surgeon and critic of legalization. And also right now Dave Smith joins me, the Executive Director of the Illinois Family Institute and a good friend. So, David, so glad you could make it.
DAVID SMITH: Hello, Julie. Glad to be on The Roys Report.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I am glad to have you. And I know a lot of people listening especially here in Illinois, again, where this show originates but I know there’s people listening online in communities all across the country. But in those, in states where marijuana has been legalized, is this a moot point? I mean, is it water under the bridge? There’s nothing that we can do? Or is there something people can do in communities if they’re concerned about legalization?
DAVID SMITH: Well, here in Illinois, we have the blessing of having an option, in the law that they just passed, to be able to opt out our local communities, and even our counties, out of retail sales. So, in other words, use and possession of marijuana will still be legal, however, there will be no pot stores or retail sales of it in the community, if they zone it out. And we want to encourage listeners to consider this seriously and reach out to their local mayors, aldermen, their city council, their county board members and encourage them. You know, if you don’t want to become a destination point, you know, for drug use and for marijuana purchases, you can opt out and you can encourage your lawmakers, your local officials, to pass an ordinance to ban it. Also, for your listeners in Chicago, while the city of Chicago probably won’t consider such a ban, local precincts, each precinct within the city of Chicago, can ban the retail sales, just like they can with alcohol. They can make the precinct dry. While in this case, if you lived especially in a precinct that’s near a business district, you may want to consider passing the local ban in the precinct to safeguard the community.
JULIE ROYS: And Dave, why would somebody want to do that? Why would a community want to do that? When you say a “destination point” what’s your concern with it?
DAVID SMITH: Well, that’s because especially when there’s no cap on the THC levels. You know, the addiction levels, that can come with high THC levels, will bring in a lot of addicts. And we’ve seen in Colorado even. For example in Pueblo, Colorado, the homeless community has exploded in Pueblo, Colorado—a lot of people coming just for the pot. And being able to use the pot in that community. And so, we’re also very concerned about people driving in and out of the community—your neighborhood, going to get their next, you know, stash of marijuana. You know, what state of mind are they in currently? We know that THC stays in your blood a lot longer than alcohol does and it could affect your fine motor skills. So who’s on our roads? Who’s driving through our communities? And in what state of mind and intoxication are they in?
JULIE ROYS: Well, Dave thank you for informing us on those things. I appreciate it and I appreciate your work on the part of Illinois citizens. So appreciate you joining me.
DAVID SMITH: Thank you, Julie.
JULIE ROYS: Let me throw this to Jonathan Merritt. You’re in, I know, in favor of legalizing. Do you share some of those concerns, about your community being a destination point for people that might come in, that might have THC in their blood? And the homeless, you know, some of these claims it’s increased because of legalization. What do you say?
JONATHAN MERRITT: Yeah, I mean, I’d have to see some of the data on it. One of the difficult things, I think, for all of us who are trying to figure out what we think and what we believe about this. And I know this, just from being a journalist, is there’s so much conflicting data out there. And so, you know, you can find a study that shows there’s a rise in this or there’s lower levels of this. I think one legitimate concern would be how safe the roads would be. And that’s something that I just can’t get away from even as a person who, you know, if you look at the whole issue, supports legalizing it. It seems to be quite a risk to road safety. Because it’s difficult to test for, it’s difficult to decide if there was really alcohol mixed with marijuana. It’s difficult to know what levels of marijuana you’ve consumed. So is it safe to drive or not? And I don’t think there’s anyone in America that wants more unsafe drivers on the roadways, where their spouses and their children and their friends are also trafficking. So I think that’s a very strong argument and that’s one that I think we need to talk about.
JULIE ROYS: And also ER visits tend to go up in communities where they’ve legalized marijuana. Is that correct, Dr. Poupard?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Yeah, the latest study in Colorado, the ER visits have increased three times since this complete legalization has occurred, mostly for both hyperemesis as well as marijuana related psychosis. And anecdotally, a lot of my emergency room colleagues I’ve spoken to, even since we’ve legalized in Michigan, even though we don’t have dispensaries yet, they’ve seen a significant uptick in problems in the emergency room. And my main concern is, also, there’s no question that as we have increased access to marijuana, even though, obviously, it’s going to be illegal for those under 21 to have, that our kids are going to have increased access to it. And not only that, at a much higher potency than we’ve had in the past. As a father of teenagers, that certainly is a concern, especially with the data known. We know it affects a developing brain in ways that can sometimes be irreversible—that between impairing function, processing speed, memory, and attention span, and concentration. And you can actually measure these changes with an IQ test. I hope Jonathan agrees with me in his article that, you know, we have to do try to do what we can to keep this away from kids. Most medical groups say, actually, under 25 but certainly those that have a developing brain.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, and that is such a big issue. But I know I talked to my daughter, for example, you know she’s a teenager, about this issue, how she feels. And a lot of these talking points, that you hear from the marijuana lobby, they get right into the main stream, there’s no doubt, and there isn’t necessarily a lot of good education on these sorts of things. And a book that I read, you know, what is it, Telling the Truth About Marijuana to Our Kids, talked about even the link between violence and marijuana use, especially when it’s introduced when these minds are developing. And isn’t there a propensity, even if you’ve used marijuana, not a lot, it’s in a small group of the population, but you never know who it is, where paranoia and some violent tendencies may come out if you’re using marijuana? Is that correct, doctor?
DR. RICHARD POUPARD: Well, there’s no question that marijuana has a positive correlation with psychosis, and psychosis has a positive correlation with violence. So that being said, as the book stated, that there is definitely, most likely a correlation between marijuana use and violence. At the same, you know, one of the concerns—the truth of the matter is that the majority of people who smoke marijuana and have in the past, smoked it when they’re young and they kind of grow out of it. And that makes it seem like it’s not dangerous. You don’t have a lot, like a tremendous number of people, who are, you know, show addictive tendencies. But as we look at any drug, any medication, we can’t just look at the average person. We have to look at what effect it has on even the rarer individuals.
JULIE ROYS: Let me throw that to Jonathan because Jonathan you said you have friends, you know, that you were saying, that are into Easter religions, use some psychotropic drugs. But marijuana use—I’m guessing you have friends that have used marijuana and used it for awhile. I mean, what’s your impression about did they start when they were young? Was it a gateway drug necessarily to harder drugs? What’s your experience?
JONATHAN MERRITT: You know, I don’t have any friends, now this could be more a statement, by the way, in my friend group than it is, you know, like a scientific sample size, but I don’t have any friends who started out using marijuana and then transitioned to cocaine or heroin or something hard. But, you know, I live in a fairly affluent neighborhood in New York City where people are working and it’s different. I would imagine it would be different in different communities. There’s different levels of availability of certain things and so I don’t know that that would be truly reflective. I do think that one thing that we need to talk about is when we talk about marijuana use, you almost have to explain which type of marijuana use you’re talking about. Because I’m betting you have lots of people listening to this, who are Christians, who would say they don’t want to legalized this. They don’t want this being used for recreational use but if you talked about my situation—a very serious Christian, who is trying his best to follow Jesus every day of his life, who came down with a disorder that he didn’t ask for, who tried every legal medical remedy out there and found no help. Who really thought he was at the end of his rope. Who found some help using medical marijuana that did not make him high or incapacitated. I think there are a lot of people who’d be so sympathetic about that and would say I don’t know that I can say that’s a bad thing based on what it means for me to follow Jesus. And so it’s a little different sometimes now we’re having to figure out what we’re really talking about when we are talking about marijuana usage.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah, I know, personally, I don’t have a problem with medical marijuana provided that it’s truly medicinal. In other words, it’s prescribed by a doctor for a legitimate medical condition and the amount of THC in each dose is clearly labeled. And there’s controls in place to assure the consumer that what’s stated on the label is accurate. I think that’s another issue. It seems like in some of these states, there’s not really good controls over these things. But I think if somebody has that medical marijuana, I think that’s okay but I think what isn’t okay and this is where I think the Bible is really clear. It’s against intoxication of any kind. Ephesians 5 says, “Do not get drunk on wine . . . but instead be filled with the Spirit.” Proverbs 20, verse 1 says, “Wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” So I think that’s pretty clear. So Dr. Poupard thank you so much for joining me. Jonathan thank you so much. I appreciate the discussion. And friends let’s continue this discussion as we’re in our churches. I think it’s important that we talk about these kind of issues. So, I Peter 5 encourages us, “Let us be sober-minded and watchful.” God has important work for us to do. And the last thing we need as believers is another distraction. Thanks so much for listening today. Hope you have a great weekend and God bless.