Clearing the Heart to See the Truth


Among the lesser talked about but just as troubling results from the travesty known as the Election of 2012 was the approval of the recreational use of marijuana in my once native state of Colorado, along with the state of Washington. This situation is sad and regrettable but unfortunately not surprising. The moral compass in our country was broken in the 1973 legalization of baby murder, and has only grown more warped with each passing fall lineup for network t.v. (I think writers for most current t.v. programs must have a bowl with three slips of papers in it which they select to determine the plot and theme for this week’s episode: sex, morbid violence, more sex.) Those who favored the legalization of marijuana in Colorado argued that regulating the drug would keep it from the “underground market.” O.K.  Other proponents argued that it is safer and healthier than alcohol. Hmm. Spoken like a true consumer of healthy, mind numbing narcotics. For the clearer-minded, these arguments should have sounded just a little convoluted and irrational. Should not the question under consideration be is marijuana use really good for America? Hang out with a few pot-heads for about a day and your question will be answered. Amidst bouts of laziness, irresponsibility, and conversations lacking both focus and substance, interrupted only by ravenous forays into somebody’s kitchen to snarf anything resembling food, anyone with half of a brain not dazed by the second-hand smoke would see that legalizing marijuana may not be the best of ideas. Voter response like this makes me yearn for a return to the days of a government ruled by monarchs named Louis. At least then I’d expect self-serving, short-sighted superficial rulings aimed at placating an egocentric faction of the citizenry.

 So what‘s the difference between smoking a little weed and drinking a little alcohol? Is a drunk any safer behind the wheel of a semi than a stoner? The answer to this question is obvious: neither a drunk nor a stoned driver is safe behind the wheel of any moving vehicle, nor are any of the other drivers. Pot-users argue that motor function isn’t impaired with marijuana use the way alcohol use impairs motor function. This is like saying that someone handling dynamite in public is less dangerous than someone handling nitro glycerin. But what is a person doing having explosives in public?? Asking which poses the lesser danger is a foolish question if the goal of government is to protect the safety of its people.

The difference between consumption of alcohol and consumption of marijuana is that a person can sit down and have a drink or two without the goal or end of getting drunk. In fact, he can stop once he feels the ‘buzz’ coming on, which is the sign that he has had too much and is about to intentionally damage his rational and moral judgment (hence, the buzz.)

This is not the case with pot. With pot, the intention—whether to have one hit or more—is to get stoned, to get impaired rationally and impaired in one’s moral decision making. That’s what it means to get ‘stoned,’ or high, or whatever. Thus, what is called the ‘remote intention’ is different in these two cases. A temperate person can remain so with one glass of wine, for instance, but can’t remain so with one hit. One doesn’t take a hit if one doesn’t intend to get high.

When a society decides that recreational use of marijuana is acceptable, it implies that actions which intentionally impair one’s rational and moral abilities are considered morally comparable with those that do not. The logical conclusion of such nonsense would be to get rid of law altogether and let people do what they want, given the implied equivalency between healthy and self-impairing actions. When societies think that they can legislate the moral goodness or badness of an act based on public opinion, then the basic elements needed for a stable community—namely, do good and avoid evil—are gone. All that’s left for said society is the playing of Taps.

One final anecdote: I found myself having this argument with a couple of stoners when I was involved in campus ministry. They argued that there is no difference between having a glass of wine or two and taking a couple of hits off of a joint. So I pointed out to them that I’ve known many occasional drinkers of wine, beer, or spirits who didn’t drink to the point of intoxication, and I have known many occasional users of pot. The pot users exhibited the following cluster of traits not found in the occasional alcohol drinkers: laziness, irresponsibility, rebelliousness with regard to authority, proneness to abuse alcohol, proneness to sexual promiscuity, proneness to abuse more serious drugs, difficulty concentrating, difficulty with problem solving, difficulty with memory, impaired initiative, as well as heart and lung issues.  Interestingly, these very college students debating with me were complaining not five minutes earlier about the extreme difficulty they had cultivating their prayer life. Unbeknownst to me, they had also been discussing their difficulties keeping motivated with their studies with one of the other campus ministers before I walked into the room. Needless to say, upon hearing about the traits developed by pot smokers, they conceded the argument.

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  1. John C says:

    I was always taught that impairment begins with the first drink, so that pretty much blows this author’s theory to pieces.

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      Is artificially manipulating your intellect or passions the goal? If that is your goal in drinking, then you’ve got a problem. I know many people who don’t drink for those reasons. I don’t know anybody who smokes pot apart from those reasons. So even if the effects are the same, the object of the will is different, and that is what makes the moral difference.

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  3. Zach Dalton says:

    I have to disagree with this article. Was the law prohibiting marijuana not deciding what was good and bad based on public opinion? This opinion was based on propaganda and misinformation. While not everyone drinks to get falling down drunk, I don’t know anyone who drinks to stay sober. Yes, some of the stereotypes of potheads you laid out are accurate but I don’t believe they are lazy evacuee of pot. I think they have these negative attributes and then start smoking. I’ve personally seen that to be the case several times. Not everyone who smokes weed does so in their moms basement because they are too lazy to get a job. Richard Branson and Ted Turner are two wildly successful, hard working individuals who both openly admit to marijuana use.

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      First, laws prohibiting narcotics or other substances that are bad for you are were made because they were considered immoral, regardless of whether or not people approved of them. That has now reversed, a point I made in my article. Second, your point that nobody drinks to stay sober is an odd statement, and I don’t exactly follow it. If someone is not drinking to get drunk then they are sober by definition. Sobriety is the healthy state of having proper control of your faculties, which you can have even while drinking, unless you get intoxicated, which is immoral. If they are drinking to ‘not stay sober,’ as you put it, then they would be drinking to get drunk, which I agree is immoral. One smokes weed, on the other hand, to disconnect one’s emotional and psychological state from reality. This is neither healthy nor sober. My point is that what makes pot smoking problematic is that it seeks to disconnect the psychological and emotional life from reality. Finally, a consistent but perhaps not universal consequence of frequent pot smoking is character malformation. There may be excdeptions, but these are exceptions. Similarly, as with a tobacco smoker who does not get lung cancer, we don’t conclude that tobacco smoking is healthy. We recognize that although not every pot smoker exhibits malformed traits, these traits are exhibited enough to recognize a problem.

      • Matt Nagle says:


        I too am puzzled by your statement that “nobody drinks to stay sober.” It seems to me that someone whose intention is to have only one or two drinks with some friends is essentially drinking to stay sober. In other words, the very manner with which our hypothetical person engages in the activity of drinking is such that he is intending to stay sober in the process.

        Troy, great article – agree with you wholeheartedly

  4. Matt says:

    Some words from GK Chesterton relating to the matter:

    “Prohibition never prohibits … Prohibition, therefore, plainly violates the rights of man, if there are any rights of man … I am content here to note that a man’s treatment of his own body […] If coercion applies to that, it applies to everything … A man has a right to control his body.” –GK Chesterton, What I Saw in America

    • Profile photo of Troy Hinkel Troy Hinkel says:

      I would like to see the context of Chesterton’s quote. It sounds to me like he is talking about Prohibition, to which I would agree with him: we cannot legislate according to degree of a given activity. In other words, a bad law would be like this, ‘you can have one drink, but two is definitely against the law.’ We can legislate according to kind, however. Pot smoking is the kind of activity that seeks to separate psycho-emotional activity from reality and is therefor dangerous and wrong. Again, I would like to see the context of the quote. I don’t think Chesterton would consider himself a ‘pro-choicer,’ or a moral libertarian, for that matter.

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