Strictly speaking, there’s nothing specific about marijuana in the Bible. People in Israel may have been cultivating cannabis and smoking the crop for recreational purposes as early as 750 BC, a few decades before the Assyrian occupation.
What does the Bible say about weed? There aren’t explicit references to cannabis or weed in the Bible, but Scripture does have a lot to say about related subjects, including intoxication, addiction and health issues. Knowing more about what the Bible says on the subject, even tangentially, may help you decide for yourself whether using marijuana is problematic for people who follow the Bible’s standard for living.
It goes without saying that no two people read the Bible quite the same way. Even people who fellowship in the same church can read verses in different ways in good faith.
Because of its ubiquity in the United States, most of the quotes in this piece are drawn from the King James version, which is the most available and often taken as the definitive iteration among English-speaking Christians. Many of the passages cited are also available in the Douai–Rheims Bible, which is canonical among Roman Catholic practitioners.
This article is not an effort to interpret the Bible for you or to push a specific sectarian belief, but to give you a better understanding of the Scriptures’ discussion of various issues that may shed light on marijuana use.
Intoxicants and Marijuana In the Bible
While there isn’t any marijuana in the Bible, the Scriptures generally take an unfavorable view of indulging in alcohol. The first mention of the subject comes in Genesis, when Noah presses wine right after the Flood and has a private party in his tent, minus his clothes:
“[Noah] drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.” Gen. 9:21-23
This is the first reference to an intoxicant in the Bible, and features Noah, an otherwise positive figure, becoming intoxicated and performing shameful acts. Another early reference appears in Proverbs 31:4-7, which warns kings and other authority figures against intoxication but advises it for the sick, the poor and the grieving:
“It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted. Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”
Despite frequent warnings, it would be hard to argue that the Bible outright forbids taking intoxicants. Several verses can be found that seem to encourage moderate consumption of alcohol:
“Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.” Ecc. 9:7
“He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengthens man’s heart.” Psalms 104:14-15
Alcohol even plays a central role in one of the Bible’s most well-known stories, from John 2:1-11, where Jesus performs his first recorded miracle at a wedding and turns jugs of water into fine wine.
The Bible’s View of Addiction
Despite striking some positive notes, the Bible consistently treats debauchery and carousing — what people today would call binge-drinking or escalating substance abuse — as a grave misdeed. Countless verses in both Testaments warn against getting out of control or causing harm to others, either directly or by becoming a drunkard:
“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy. . . drunkenness, orgies, and the like. . . [T]hose who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. 5:19-21
“Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” Rom. 13:13
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Eph. 5:18
“Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” Prov. 20:1
What Is the Bible’s Approach to Vice?
While it’s true that marijuana is not exactly equal to wine in its intoxicating effects nor in its potential for abuse, it seems to most readers that the Bible takes issue mainly with the debauchery and loss of control that often goes with mind-altering substances. This is treated in the text as a vice, which is usually handled as an evil in itself.
A common way to look at it is that, as stated in Job 5:6-7, “[M]an is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward”. In this view, sin is not so much an act as much as a state of being. Individually bad acts are not sins unto themselves, but the destructive behaviors of people who are nevertheless in a state of sin.
As such, it’s not so much as question of “is smoking weed a sin” as much as it’s about whether your use of marijuana is part of an overall sinful pattern, which can include gluttony, sloth and other acts of self-harm.
Deciding Whether Marijuana is a Sin for You
Interpretations of the Bible can vary from culture to culture, person to person. Whether you believe in the literal truth of the text or use it as a guide to living a good life, the matter of marijuana in the Bible can inform your own path forward, or the path of someone you care for.
If you believe that marijuana use is causing harm to you, or if someone you love is struggling with marijuana abuse, you don’t have to face the problem on your own. The compassionate care team at Sunlight Recovery is available 24 hours a day — contact us to take your first steps on the road to recovery.