Is smoking a joint a sin?
That depends on your interpretation of the scripture, according to religious scholars.
Though the default opinion seems to be that marijuana is an illegal substance, and breaking the law is intrinsically sinful, some experts see evidence in the Bible that cannabis is not only permissible but may have also played a role in accounts of miraculous healing.
To start, there's nothing in the Bible that explicitly prohibits the use of cannabis, or any other drug for that matter. The passages most commonly cited in support of its use comes from Genesis, when God grants humans access to "every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth," and the New Testament letters First Timothy, which state that everything God created is "good."
Reverend Chris Schuller, who recently participated in a viral video series that brought together a reverend, a rabbi, and an atheist for a roundtable on cannabis, told ATTN: that "when there are no explicit passages about a certain topic, people will then go to passages where a meaning could be implied."
One way to look at cannabis use is to draw inferences from what the Bible says about wine, Schuller said. The overarching message conveyed through scripture is that drinking wine is acceptable, even encouraged in certain contexts, as long as its consumed in moderation.
"Marijuana is the same as everything else, whether it's chocolate, alcohol, or sex — these things that God has clearly created out of love for us and for our good pleasure," he said. "It has to be with love and with the wisdom that God has given us."
But in the U.S., marijuana is different from chocolate, alcohol, and sex in that it remains federally illegal. Schuller said that doesn't necessarily change the calculus. After all, Jesus routinely violated Old Testament laws when he believed doing so would "produce good fruit."
"I think you could infer then that I would certainly think it's okay to ignore a federal or state law if it actually produced greater physical health in an individual or a group," Schuller said.
There's an argument to be made that cannabis does appear throughout the Bible.
Some religious scholars believe that the holy anointing oil that Jesus used to perform miracles such as healing the sick and disabled contained cannabis oil. For example, the name of the ingredient in Hebrew, "kaneh bosem," is similar to the Greek word "cannabis."
"There can be little doubt about a role for cannabis in Judaic religion," Dr. Carl Ruck, a professor at Boston University, told The Guardian. "There is no way that so important a plant as a fiber source for textiles and nutritive oils and one so easy to grow would have gone unnoticed."