I live in a poor neighborhood.
A lot of people smoke marijuana in my neighborhood. By “a lot” I mean I can smell it pretty much whenever I’m out for a walk, and I often see it being smoked openly at the park where I play basketball. Smoked, rolled, dealt, etc.
Everyone I know who smokes marijuana is a good person. Good, fun, nice, pleasant, normal, etc.
Another note: this blog post is not about medical marijuana. This is a post I’m hoping some of my friends who smoke marijuana will read. None, that I know of, are medical marijuana patients or have any serious health problems. It’s easier to write a general blog to a generic readership population than it is to have a 1 on 1 sit down with someone about these things.
People say marijuana is not addictive. I guess they mean it’s not physically addictive, where your body demands it like it would nicotine or harder drugs like heroin or crack.
I not only live in a poor neighborhood, I live and hang out there on purpose. I’m a pastor there on purpose. I would like to see people’s lives fully satisfied in Jesus and I’d like to see the generational cycles of poverty broken. Poverty is terrible, and there aren’t a lot of helpful solutions to stop it.
My circle of friends who smoke marijuana is larger than my specific neighborhood alone as we do ministry with people all over the city, and I have some of those friends in mind with this blog post as well. This is what I’ve noticed about many of my friends who smoke marijuana, especially those who are financially poor:
Their lives revolve around smoking it.
It brings great comfort.
It is the number one priority on their financial list of needs.
So for example, many (not all) of my friends smoke a lot of marijuana but they can’t pay their light or water bills. Or they don’t have enough food. Or they can’t buy clothes. Or they need rides because they can’t afford a car or bus passes. Because so much of their money has gone to weed.
So as a loving friend and pastor I have paid for car repairs, bought food, bought clothing, and paid utility bills for friends who spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars a month on weed. (Not everyone I have done these things for smokes weed)
When you are friends with people who can’t afford food, clothing, cars, and utility bills because they are so dependent on marijuana, it breaks your heart. It makes you start to wonder what the true nature of this marijuana really is in their lives.
I can say without a doubt that marijuana keeps people poor. And poverty is terrible.
And yes, there are systemic reasons poverty exists and those need to be addressed as well. But that doesn’t negate the point that marijuana keeps oppressed people poor indefinitely.
Two things make this heartbreak even worse:
One is how accepted this mass consumption of marijuana is in these communities and subcultures. Having weed is a huge status symbol. Many of my friends who smoke weed had parents, neighbors, relatives, and friends of their parents who smoked weed all throughout their upbringing. It is as normal to them as ice cream from Dairy Queen and french fries from McDonald’s. The reason for smoking weed is because it numbs reality. It makes you feel good. You don’t need to fix your reality when you can numb it.
The second reason for heartbreak is that these friends have children. Children that are being neglected because their parents are so focused financially on getting high that the kids’ short and long term needs are not being met. Children that see the joints being rolled and thick smoke being exhaled and like any child, want to be like their role models. Hungry, neglected children with zero dollars in their college fund (not all, but yes, some).
The dad of a 16-year-old friend of mine is also his dealer.
A 12-year-old friend of mine gets high whenever he’s able to and he’s been doing this for years. When I asked him how his life would look different if he followed Jesus he told me, “I try not to think about things.” He was referring to things in general.
This is all normal and accepted behavior in my friends’ subculture.
Nothing I say seems to do any good. It’s hard to tell someone Jesus is better than something that makes you feel good, something that brings you friends and acceptance, and sometimes something that gives you one of your only bonds with your parents.
But the problem is when your main goal is getting baked (this is not a derogatory term, but a word used frequently in this subculture), you really don’t need to care about anything else.
It doesn’t matter if your kids have food, clothing, money for college, or most importantly your attention, love and affection if you are baked.
It doesn’t matter if you have food in your fridge if you are baked.
It doesn’t matter if you have a job if you are baked.
It doesn’t matter if you have reliable transportation if you are baked.
It doesn’t matter if you have a high school diploma if you are baked. Let alone a college degree.
It doesn’t matter if none of your friends’ parents have ever been married and marriage is as foreign to you as Mandarin Chinese. Yet having children during your teenage years is commonplace. None of that matters if you are baked.
I am not saying these things to be judgmental. Like I’ve already said, poverty is terrible, and I understand why people want and need to numb it away. It is terrible to be neglected by parents who are baked all the time, like my 12 year old friend’s entire life has been. He has plenty of reason to numb away reality. The type of ache and pain that results from that sort of neglect goes as deep as anything can go. Getting baked yourself is the only thing that seems logical.
I want my friends who I care about very much to know that this isn’t really living, and there is an alternative.
I didn’t grow up getting baked. I grew up with John 10:10 as my life verse. It’s Jesus speaking:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
I grew up experiencing life to the full in Jesus. Life. The life we were designed by God to live. Lives we don’t deserve, but purchased for us when Jesus died on the cross in our place. A life that gives and receives love. I just want my friends to know that this type of life can exist for them. That the Ultimate Source of love exists in Jesus Christ and he longs for you to receive his love.
In a “regular world” sense, I want my friends to know it’s not normal to smoke weed all the time and to not have a job, or education, or food, etc. That’s weird and strange and sad and needs an intervention, even by secular world standards. I wish you could get out of your subculture to see that, and to see that the money you are spending on marijuana and the apathy the marijuana creates is a primary factor you are living under the clamps of poverty. But bigger and much more important than that, it’s not the way God designed you to live and God wants to fill you up with what weed can never give you. If life stinks, has it really gotten any better from all the weed you’ve smoked? Has the weed made you feel loved?
You can love weed with all your heart, but it will never love you back.
1 John 3:16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.
1 John 4:19 We love because he first loved us.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Jesus doesn’t just want to “forgive you of your sins” so you can do whatever you want. He wants to love you, and you wants your love in return. He wants you to trust him by obeying him and walking with him. He wants to bring you true life. I know I can’t convince you of this, but I do invite you to it and offer it to you as someone who cares deeply about you.
And as someone who cares deeply about your 2-year-old who is watching your every move.
Romans 8:1-2 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.
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