“Ask a Priest: Is It Sinful to Use Medical Marijuana?”

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Q: Since it’s such a gray area within the Catholic Church, I was wondering what your opinion was on marijuana/THC/CBD. Personally, I use it to help me with my chronic pain; otherwise, doctors just want to prescribe me things like oxytocin since over-the-counter drugs don’t help my pain at all. So, I’m not sure if that is more of an exception, or if it is frowned upon in the Church. In general, is it a sin to use it? — Grace

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: There are various factors to weigh, including legal, medical, ethical and moral issues.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis, or marijuana. CBD, or cannabidiol, is the second most prevalent active ingredient in marijuana.

Obviously, it’s not good to get involved with marijuana if it’s illegal in your area. That would amount to supporting an illegal drug trade and involve formal and proximate material cooperation in evil.

Then there is the medical issue. Some researchers and doctors are very skeptical about the medical value of marijuana, as this National Catholic Bioethics Center posting points out.

Among the warnings sounded, the article states that the chemical components in marijuana can contribute to emphysema, bronchial irritation and inflammation.

It does note, however, that in regard to marijuana its “isolated components, the cannabinoids and their synthetic derivatives” show more promise. Several cannabinoid medications have been found to work as well as or better than marijuana, with fewer side effects.

From the ethical point of view, there is the application of the principle of double effect.

This principle states that unintentional bad effects can be tolerated in certain cases, though the good effect must be proportionate to compensate for the bad effect.

In this case, that means that the use of medical marijuana could be at times justified when there are no alternatives and the proportion of benefits outweigh risks. Again, as mentioned above, there are cannabinoid medications that might be suitable (and thus more ethical) alternatives.

There are also moral issues to consider. Given the potential for addiction, would your use of marijuana scandalize others, including children?

Also, would your demand for marijuana help promote a market that is geared more and more toward drugs? Will legal marijuana send signals to young people that distort their values?

In any case, you might want to get a second medical opinion from a physician. And then take all these issues to prayer.

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  1. Well, Father; even if marijuana is deemed ‘legal’ in a certain state; we know such ‘legal law’ is only the opinion of those looking to capitalize on the market value of such $ubstance, without any of the considerations you mentioned. The taking of ‘legal weed’ is supporting a ‘trade’ that should not be supported. Healthy people do not need substances to ‘get high.’

    As to taking ‘medical marijuana’ or ‘CBD’ . . . again, there is too little info on the type of pain this person is talking about and where the pain is coming from. Body aches could be a problem relieved by physical therapy, massage therapy, a simple heating pad or ‘cream’ that provides relief (I don’t want to name any names but there’s many on the market)

    Medications of any type NEVER SOLVE any health issue. Medications merely relieve the symptoms until the next dose is needed… which leads to drug dependency. For that reason, I would say find another way to relieve ‘body aches’ . . . OR as the saying goes ‘USE IT AS A TOOL’ to PURIFY the soul… ‘offer it up’ for (another soul, a soul in purgatory, or one’s own soul) NOT EASY when in pain, I realize, but… AS YOU SAY … just taking a ‘drug’ aka medication … is only making for a larger market for DRUGS as ‘the answer’ to what ails…

    When at all possible… seek out those medical treatments that are HANDS ON … physical and massage therapists, occupational therapists, SPECIAL CUSHIONS to sit on, heat wraps or creams that sink into the muscles and tendons and tissue to bring direct relief.

  2. I add that while medications are used to relieve health problems, NOT ALL make for drug dependency. Those who need heart medications, blood thinners, diabetic pills, ETC … medications that can STABILIZE a body with a specific problem ARE GOOD. But PILLS that ‘take away pain?’ . . . they do til another dose is necessary. Pills or drugs for pain . . . needs to get another opinion as to WHY THE PAIN and what can be physically done. (a special brace, a pillow to sit on or against, to get physical therapy for tendons and tissues stretched wrong, or massage therapy.) Then there may be the reality… the pain is A CROSS TO BEAR… make it count IN A SPIRITUAL WAY for self and others… ‘OFFER IT UP’ in union with THE PAIN OF HE scourged and pierced … praying for A WAYWARD IMMORAL NATION (hooked on hallucinogenic drugs)

  3. Sounds like Elizabeth has never had severe chronic pain. I have. I do not use cannabis. But telling someone in sever chronic pain to use creams, pillows, or physical therapy is beyond ridiculous. Chronic pain is a medical condition the same as heart problems. My body is dependent on heart medication. If I stop taking them, so does my heart. The dependency is real. Being awake several days in a row without chance of sleep due to pain is also a medical condition. The chemical imbalance caused by that is just as deadly. Being in sever chronic pain increases blood pressure and can lead to death.

  4. If chronic pain is the ‘symptom’ of a MEDICAL problem, then as Father stated, it is best to find out what that medical condition is, rather than ‘masking it with a pain pill’ . . . continually. I am sorry if my OPINION offended. This is the reason for a medical diagnosis (slipped disc? strained tendon? pulled muscle?)
    Physical therapy can relieve the medical problem.

    As stated here:

    There are many options to relieve pain and as Father indicated a second medical opinion is best.

    Also useful, per the link, and ‘the condition to be alleviated’ is topical pain relievers as creams, lotions, and sprays to relieve inflammation. I was writing objectively of the topic at hand, and NOT any one subjective person’s pain. I hope the link provides a solution to your pain.

    Also stated in the link:
    In July 2015, the FDA asked that both prescription and over-the-counter NSAIDs strengthen their warning labels to indicate the potential risk of heart attacks and strokes. The risk increases with higher doses of the drugs. In addition, there is also the possibility of developing bleeding stomach ulcers. Pills to mask pain can be dangerous. They are not a permanent solution. Objectively speaking.

  5. Helen ‘blipped’ over this part of my comment:

    again, there is TOO LITTLE INFO on the TYPE OF PAIN this person is talking about and where the pain is coming from. Body aches COULD BE a problem relieved by physical therapy, massage therapy, a simple heating pad or ‘cream’ that provides relief. Note COULD BE not SHOULD BE relieved by…

    I will say a prayer for your pain Helen, i feel for you. Hope the link guides to relief.


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