Ask Chuck: Should Christians Invest in Cannabis?

Dear Chuck,

There is a lot of talk lately about the potential profits to be earned by investing in cannabis (marijuana) opportunities. Personally, I think it is wrong, though some of my Christian friends see it as an appropriate way to invest. As a parent of teenagers, I am very concerned about the likely legalization for recreational use. Where are you leaning on this issue?

Not Riding the High

 

Dear Not High,

This is a loaded question! Sorry for the bad joke. It is actually a serious topic that I have been asked to respond to by a number of my friends as well.

A friend reported to me that he attended a party in a state where medical marijuana is legal now. At the party, he was offered “a drink or a joint” by his Christian hosts. Although he declined both, he said it was eerie how much of a non-issue his friends now consider smoking marijuana.

One of my acquaintances is a licensed, legal grower. He got into the business because medical marijuana helped reduce his young daughter’s seizures from many per day to only a few per week. He sees the good it can do for those that have found no other medical solution to their issues. On the other hand, I recently sat on a plane next to a man that was an early investor in a California-based growing operation. He said he lost money and would never make another investment in a cannabis operation. When I asked him why he lost money, he said the workers were stealing too much of the product all along the distribution chain.  

Market Size

Some have predicted that the marijuana business could reach $22 billion by 2022 due to states legalizing recreational use and the promotion of medicinal marijuana. The US beer market is approximately $100 billion in annual sales and the market for painkiller medications is estimated to be $300 billion by comparison. Interestingly, many Christians invest in companies that own or produce these products (alcohol and painkillers) which are also addictive and in many cases harmful.

Whether legal or on the black market, the sale of marijuana is big business.

For Christians, we should never allow the lure of money and big returns to cause us to compromise our values. Greed and a get-rich-quick mentality are terrible reasons to justify any investment.

General Thoughts

Because research still remains to be conducted, I will refrain from specifically addressing the use of medical marijuana. I am only addressing here the question if Christians should generally invest in the cannabis market regardless of how the product will be used.

Canada legalized cannabis across their county, with recreational sales to begin this month. That is pretty close to home.

Many are interested in the future of marijuana stocks. Some believe these stocks are in a bubble like we saw with the hype over Bitcoin. In our rapidly changing country, many states face a difficult decision as they weigh the pros and cons of legalization. Marijuana ETFs (Exchange-traded funds) are struggling partly because many banks are not willing to hold the underlying securities due to regulatory uncertainties.

States desire the tax benefits of the products to prop up their public schools and pension funds.

Yes or No on Investing?

Since your main question is an investment one, I sought advice from Jerry Bowyer, a trusted friend who is a Christian, an economist and professional investment advisor. Jerry said, “It seems to be [Not High’s] view that other Christians who do invest in these stocks (for medical purposes) are wrong. I think that takes things too far. I think that liberty of conscience is the main thing here. Seems as though at arm’s length, investments in publicly traded companies are more like meat sacrificed to idols, or what Lutheran theologians call ‘adiaphora,’ things neither forbidden nor commanded…”

My Personal Perspective

I don’t believe the economic benefits will be able to cover the problems our society will experience from a wide-spread legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes. Make no mistake, large corporations will lobby for their ultimate goal to make it available as easily and broadly as possible.

Coca-Cola is considering infusing beverages with an ingredient in marijuana that eases pain without inducing a high. Heineken, Corona, and Coors are interested in marijuana-infused alcohol along with Lagunitas “IPA-inspired” sparkling water products. Wonder why they’re investing?

Marijuana has an ingredient known as THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) – the cannabinoid which produces the euphoria or “high” that users want. Today’s marijuana has a much higher THC level than decades ago. Scientific modification has altered the plant. One article (a must-read, in my opinion) outlines some of these differences.

The dangers associated with recreational use have been documented despite the growing belief that it is harmless because of legalization. Consider the negative effects of our opioid epidemic. Legalized marijuana will change our nation.   

 

  • This process of legalization is associated with an increasing trend for many risky behaviors in youth as observed in Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports. Binge alcohol consumption, extramarital sexual activity, and increasing use of narcotics are among the associated behaviors.

 

  • Marijuana is addicting, has adverse effects upon the adolescent brain, is a risk for both cardio-respiratory disease and testicular cancer, and is associated with both psychiatric illness and negative social outcomes.
  • Participants who used cannabis heavily in their teens and continued through adulthood showed a significant drop in IQ between the ages of 13 and 38 – an average of eight points for those who met criteria for cannabis dependence.
  • Teen abuse is perhaps the most worrisome—17 percent of adolescent users become addicts, and 76 percent of adolescent admissions to publicly funded addiction treatment centers in 2014 were marijuana-related. One study of a Colorado children’s hospital found that cannabis-related emergency room visits for youth ages 13-21 quadrupled there from 2005 to 2014.
  • With the use of a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Device (MRI), doctors are able to identify visible changes in the brain’s information highways after ingestion of the drug. THC clogs receptors acting as switching stations, resulting in memory reduction, slowed reaction time, loss of motivation, and reduced peripheral vision. In short, the brain is temporarily incapacitated.

 

 

I wonder if proponents of recreational public use have asked themselves the following:

  • Would you want your employees using marijuana on their breaks or over lunch?
  • Would you approve the use by child care workers or school bus drivers?
  • Would you mind medical personnel, nurses, surgeons or pharmacists partaking?
  • Would you mind if coaches or teachers use?
  • Would you trust an Uber driver or airplane pilot who uses? How about the truck driver in the lane next to you?

In an article last year, my friend, Randy Alcorn said he would not want his grandsons to try marijuana. Why? He says, “Because I love them and don’t want them to go where it leads. Even if it doesn’t become the gateway to other drugs (which it very well may), it would mess with their minds and bodies, dull their consciences, and impair their walk with Jesus and testimony for Him.”

We, God’s stewards, are called to conduct our lives in such a way that honors God. Our Biblical worldview should be evident in the way we spend and the way we invest our resources. And, we are called to be sober-minded and alert, which is contrary to what cannabis does to the mind.  

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians 5:5-8)

Marijuana effectively serves to alter our perception of reality. This mind-altering effect can be compared to the warnings of drinking to excess in Proverbs 23:29-35. How much better would it be to help others learn to enjoy reality.

I hope this has been helpful. I will continue to watch this trend and others like it as I try to help Christians to make wise financial choices.

 

Originally published on the Christian Post, October 26, 2018

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