Tag Archives: Marijuana

Sweet Mary Jane, Some Facts On 420

The following conversation was overheard between a street preacher and a heckler. Evidently the street preacher had said something negative about marijuana, so you know somebody’s going to jump to the defense of their precious Mary Jane!

Heckler: Ok, who created marijuana?
Preacher: God did.
Heckler: Well, since God created it, there’s nothing wrong with me smoking it (Proceeds to high five his friends who all think he burned the preacher).
Preacher: God created poison ivy too. So why don’t you go take your clothes of and roll in it!

Today is 420, the chosen day for hedonists to celebrate their favorite weed. I don’t think it likely I’ll be able to convince anyone who smokes marijuana regularly that it is a bad idea. Weed is now considered by many to be not only safe, but healthy. This is not an objective conclusion. You can read studies that demonstrate marijuana’s destructiveness when used in a chronic way (pun intended), and studies that tout marijuana’s helpfulness in assisting cancer patients with nausea, for example. As is the case with many things, the truth about weed is likely found in the middle, not at the extremes of opinion.

The source of marijuana’s capacity to make someone feel “high” are cannabinoids that mimic brain chemicals. This is why young teenagers are particularly susceptible to the siren song of Mary Jane, since their brains are in development.

Here are some excerpts from neuroscientist Marc Lewis in his book Memoirs of an Addicted Brain:

“Cannabinoids are specialized neurotransmitters released by neurons that have only just fired… in some parts of the brain, cannabinoids increase the firing rate of the neuron that has just released them….By increasing the action of neurons that are already active, cannabinoids cause each thought, each response, each act of perception or imagination to magnify itself… The cannabinoid receptor system matures most rapidly…during adolescence…. teenage thinking bears an uncanny resemblance to the delusional profundity of a marijuana high…Even when they’re not stoned, adolescents live in a world of ideation of their own making and follow trains of thought to extreme conclusions, despite overwhelming evidence that they’re just plain wrong” (exerpted from pp. 51-53).

So, let’s relax all the “weed is safe” rhetoric here. Marijuana is a powerful drug because it changes the way your brain works. By the way, that’s exactly what prescribed psychotropic medications like Xanax, Zoloft, Celexa and Ativan do, not in the same way, but all of these drugs affect how your brain functions. In fact, so does alcohol (There’s an interesting chapter on this in Lewis’s book). Therefore, it would seem caution, perhaps extreme caution, is in order when deciding to put these chemicals into your body and brain.

It is quite ironic, in an insidious sort of way, that many who smoke marijuana and tout it’s positive medical benefits, vilify cigarette smoking. The irony comes in two forms: one, the idea that sucking smoke from one plant into your lungs is healthy while doing the same with another plant is not; and two, consider that the exact claim being made about marijuana’s health benefit was also made regarding cigarettes in the earlier part of the 20th century. The only healthy substance that belongs in your lungs is clean air, not smoke from a weed or the leaf of a tobacco plant.

What about the medical benefits of THC? Should it be administered to help, say, epileptics if it is shown to slow or stop seizures. Absolutely, yes. However, that’s a far cry from the majority of medical marijuana prescriptions being written. Quite frankly, the medical marijuana industry is largely just a cover up for those who want a legal way to get high. The reality is, some doctors write prescriptions to make more money. I have anecdotal evidence to illustrate. My sister, who is now deceased, saw a doctor for years who prescribed a long laundry list of drugs for her to take, many at her request. Taking a high quantity of so many different drugs was very destructive to her health, but this doctor didn’t care about my sister, just his bottom line. I mention this in the event that someone is tempted to leave decisions about their health to the judgment of just any doctor, especially a doctor who writes a large quantity of prescriptions for marijuana, or other psychotropic medications.

Now, you might assume that someone with opinions like mine would be opposed to the legalization of marijuana. I don’t think it is healthy, but neither do I think it is any more dangerous than alcohol. This country went through some violent times during prohibition, and there are parallels between the distribution of illegal liquor in the 1920s and the violent drug cartels that supply marijuana today. I am interested in seeing some hard data that demonstrates how legalization has impacted Colorado and other legalizaiton states, not just economically, but how it has impacted usage, especially among teenagers. I really don’t want to smell weed on every corner, but I don’t like the violence associated with it’s illegal sale, nor do I believe those who smoke it should go to jail.

What about you? Believe it or not, I didn’t write this to judge you or tell you what to do with your body. I write it as a counterpoint to the rhetoric you’re likely to read online. I will say this, if you are buying weed (or any other chemical) from a drug dealer, you are supporting organized crime and violent cartels. You share responsibility for the deaths of thousands in Mexico. If you want to smoke marijuana, move to a state where it’s legal and buy it from a store. Put these violent gangs out of business. Quit supporting organized crime with your habit.

Be informed. It has been proven that chronic marijuana usage, particularly in teenagers, lowers one’s IQ.  Marijuana Lowers IQ Smoking weed also lowers motivation, inhibits memory and learning.

Make an informed decision. As for me, I’ve never possessed marijuana and I’ve never smoked it. I don’t intend to start, not even if it becomes legal.

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Vindication Part 3

This is the third installment in a series about 21 years of overcoming conflict and opposition as I’ve tried to learn how to minister and speak the truth in Garland, Texas. You can read the first two chapters in the series in my notes on Facebook.

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I’ve been accused of being negative. Sorry, I’m trying to be more positive. I think faith is positive. It just seems I’m always fighting some kind of adversity. Maybe that’s the case with everyone. Probably that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If everything is going well, if I’m not fighting anything, I become comfortable and I don’t grow. Of course, if growth is predicated on conflict, I should be a spiritual giant by now! There’s more to it than just dealing with affliction, offense and opposition. I have to overcome, and that won’t happen apart from Christ working through me.

House of Judgement 1998 was the most difficult project for which I had been responsible, until I started a church. How the church got started is a story all it’s own, and I’ve written about it previously.

My church was founded under unique circumstances. I didn’t just come up with the idea one day. Really, my hand was forced. It became readily apparent that I could no longer be part of the status quo in youth ministry (as if I ever was!). A vocal but influential minority at the church where I served previously were unhappy with my unorthodox methods of reaching teenagers. I made this worse by doing stuff like bleaching my hair and doing our youth meetings at a place called the ROC (instead of at the church– as if the church is a building, but that’s another discussion).

Everything came to a head on February 15, 1999 when I was pulled over by the police at 2:00 A.M. with a car full of young adults. When asked why, the officer in charge told me I had made an illegal u-turn. Okay. We had just returned from… are you ready? Dunkin Donuts. Pretty shady place to take young people, I know. When the police officer asked the ages of the people in the car, one young person was about a month short of his 17th birthday, so he was technically in violation of curfew. I should have checked before I let him go with us, I know.

It was cold outside. The 16 year old in question was not dressed for winter weather, but the officers took him out of the car, searched him and kept him shivering out there. I was frustrated and made the comment under my breath (I thought) that they’d see me in court over this. That is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. Promptly, the senior policeman, who we will just call “Officer Lurch,” appeared at my window like a quantum particle. “What did you say?” he demanded. I repeated myself. That may be the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.

“Step out of the car,” commanded Officer Lurch. He then made me spread eagle on the hood of his cruiser where he searched me. For what, I didn’t know. He put me in the back of the police car. He and his partner continued to talk to the young adults in my car, and continued to keep the 16 year old out in the cold. Officer Lurch got into the front of his warm police car and lectured me through the screen. He told me that they had the right to pull anybody over for anything they pleased at any time. At this point I had become wise enough to remain silent. The lecture about police rights lasted about 15 minutes.

At some point I was made aware that they had called the 16, nearly 17, year old passenger’s parents to come and get him. Since I wasn’t being charged with anything, –in fact, they never wrote me a ticket for the allegedly illegal u-turn– I asked if they’d let me out of the back of the police car before the young man’s father arrived. I didn’t need the guy thinking I’d done something wrong. Officer Lurch said, “We’ll see,” he said. I could only watch helplessly as the father looked over at me sitting like a guilty man in the back of a police car, then take his young adult son and leave.

At this point the story turns quite dark. Officer Lurch came to the back of the police cruiser and commanded, “Step out of the car, please.” I complied. “Step around to the front of the car please.” I complied. As I was escorted to the front of the car by Officer Lurch, his rookie partner circled around behind me, pushed me down on the hood of the cruiser and snapped handcuffs on me. Quickly Officer Lurch quickly returned to the open door of police car and in one fluid movement appeared to reach into the back seat remove a small plastic baggy with a dark substance in it. He walked up to me and waved the baggy in my face. “You’re under arrest for possession of marijuana!” He stated.

Officer Lurch, then looked over at my car and waved the baggy at the shocked passengers still seated there. He taunted them with a smirk: “See, your youth minister is a doper!”

I thought, ‘This can’t be happening!”  It was like I’d been dropped into the middle of some B-rated cop movie. In keeping with this, I lamely cried out, “I’m being framed!”  as they put me back into the police car. Well, I was being framed. I guess they figured if I was going to see them in court, they’d give me a reason that would make them smile.

The officers then took charge of my car to have it towed, and made the remaining young adult passengers walk back to my apartment in the cold. I spent several hours in jail before I could post bail. I didn’t sleep, I assure you.

That week I spent money getting my car out of the impound, spent money on a drug test that proved I was clean. I even paid for at polygraph which proved that I was telling the truth when I stated: “The marijuana taken from the back of that police car was not mine.” I had to hire an attorney to present all of this evidence. Once the Dallas County prosecutors office was confronted with this evidence, along with my clean record, they declined to pursue the case. The charges were dropped before it got to the point of an arraignment.

Sadly, the information about my arrest go out and there were those intent on ruining my reputation in the community. Gossip and rumor spread. “Did you hear about the youth minister who got arrested? Word got back to me from a member of our church who had heard the news from a police officer in line at the grocery story, another member heard it from someone at the bank.I had already informed our pastor of the incident, Now I held a meeting of all the youth parents and presented my case and evidence. The great majority of them believe me. I had spent seven years in that church as an honest, upright (and health conscious) associate pastor and youth minister. Later the same night I made the presentation to the rest of our congregation. Most of them believed my story as well, but not all.

Apparently, the disbelieving were vocal enough to have an impact. I was told by the pastor that my position would be reduced to part-time by the onset of summer. I was called to minister full-time. The youth group at that church needed a full-time minister. What to do. I prayed.

I determined that God was calling me to start a church where people who felt unwanted, rejected and judged could come and find grace. I presented this idea to the pastor of our church and he was very enthusiastic. He took me to the local officials of our denomination and they chose to support the church. On July 4th, 1999 a new church called City of Refuge was born in Richardson, Texas. We started with about 30-40 young people and a few stable adults.

There was no model for this church, just the philosophy found in Jesus statement:

“It is not the healthy who need a physician, but the sick. But go learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Matthew 9:12-13, NIV).

Everyone who attended received Christ’s unconditional acceptance. Many allowed his mercy and grace change there lives. There were also people who used this grace as a license to justify their bad behavior. It was a rough start. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. In fact, I could write an essay on how not to start a church.

In February of 2002 I determined that God wanted us to change the name of the church. Jesus tells us that we need to be his light in the world like a city set on a hill.  Zion is a name for Jerusalem in the Old Testament. It appears many times in connection with promises that God has made to his people. We are his people. His promises are for us. I don’t mean to say this about my church alone. All people who put their faith in Jesus have access to God’s “very great and precious promises” (see 2 Peter 2:2-4). Zion is a name that will remind the people of our church of this truth when they read one of God’s amazing promises.

12 years later I started to notice that some people misunderstood the name Zion. Some thought it was Jewish, others associated it with Rastafarianism. Zion has a great biblical history, but too many organizations, good and bad, use it.  So, at the risk of appearing unstable, I proposed that we change the name. I looked at the passage of Scripture from which we got our motto, “Spirit and Truth.” It is from the story about Jesus and the woman at the well. He promised this hurting outcast that if she asked, he would give her living water, water that would become a spring inside her, “welling up to eternal life.” Life Well. I want to live a Spirit filled, Christ focused life, and I want to receive the overflow of rich and satisfying life that Jesus offers to those who believe.  I want to help people to live life well. Now our church is called Lifewell and our new motto is “living life well.”

Along the way I’ve prayed that I would be vindicated, that my name would be cleared and my reputation restored. I had hoped one of those police officers somehow would have the conscience to come forward and tell the truth by now. Not yet, but I still have hope because I still believe the promises I received when I first came to Garland.

“So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

All who rage against you

will surely be ashamed and disgraced;

those who oppose you

will be as nothing and perish.

Though you search for your enemies,

you will not find them.

Those who wage war against you

will be as nothing at all.

For I am the Lord, your God,

who takes hold of your right hand

and says to you, Do not fear;

I will help you.”

(Isaiah 41:10-13, NIV)

I suppose I could just forget about this terrible incident and move on, but the church I pastor is right around the corner from the church where I was youth minister at the time this occurred. We still do ministry at a community center owned by that church.  No, I have to believe that what happened to me happened for a reason. God’s providence ensures that nothing takes place in the lives of any of his children apart from his approval. “God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). I do love God. I have been called. He has and will use this incident for good. I may not have had the courage to start City of Refuge if it wasn’t for what happened to me that cold February night in ’99.