Menu Close

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Marijuana is a Gateway Drug by Paul Chappell

paul chappell

Even when initially used with a medical prescription, marijuana is a gateway drug. As a pastor, I often counsel people who have had major life difficulties because of drug use that began with marijuana. Even recently, I have counseled someone who began using medical marijuana that was prescribed by a questionable doctor in Los Angeles. This man became deeply addicted and relationally incapacitated toward his family. For the past year, his life has been out of control. His story is one of many similar I could give.


The greatest concern for our city should be the effect that our making marijuana more accessible would have on the next generation. The damaging effects of marijuana are not theoretical only, nor are they simple “community percentages.” They are life altering to the young people who become addicted.

Adolescent user addiction rates are high—as high as 50 percent. (That exceeds the rate of cocaine addiction.) Additionally, the risk of psychotic episodes is 40 percent greater for marijuana users than for non users, and the risk of schizophrenia is higher among teens who smoke it than those who do not. One study reported that “adolescents who used marijuana regularly were significantly less likely than their non-using peers to finish high school or obtain a degree. They also had a much higher chance of later developing dependence, using other drugs, and attempting suicide.”

Although I am aware that the current topic of discussion for our city relates to cultivating medical marijuana, I believe it is naïve to suggest that even if the conversation regarding marijuana licenses were to stop here, there would be no immediate effect on the young people of our community. Again, in my recent conversation with Sheriff McDonnell, he told me how medical marijuana wrappings have been found in middle schools. People are absolutely buying medical marijuana and reselling for profit—including to teens. I prefer that our city have nothing to do with underage people gaining access to marijuana, even if it’s by our second-hand association through this industry.

While I commend the city for proposing distance requirements prohibiting cultivation facilities within one thousand feet of schools, it is unrealistic to think that this alone will keep marijuana out of the hands of minors. The reality is that licensing cultivation will make marijuana more accessible to young people. And it makes me question, beyond the financial concerns to our city, what moral liability comes to us by entering into this trade?

I am, of course, a pastor, and so I am taking the liberty to share biblical principles related to this issue as well.

The Bible references the use of drugs in Revelation 9:21 as it speaks of people involved in “sorceries.” Interestingly the word translated from Greek (the original language of the New Testament) is pharmakeia and relates to “the use or administering of drugs.” In our biblical opinion, people who take recreational drugs are opening their minds to wickedness and the occult. (And I think police reports could substantiate that concern, by volume if not by verbiage.)

Another Scripture verse passes judgment on those who aid in the dissemination of intoxicating substance: “Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also…” (Habakkuk 2:15). Basically, the Bible is saying that when we encourage someone to partake in a substance that brings them under intoxicating influence, we become responsible for what happens in that person’s life as a result of the substance they consume. I believe Governor Jerry Brown and the liberal leadership of our state will be held accountable for their decisions on matters ranging from abortion to releasing violent criminals to legalizing marijuana. I prefer that our city not posture itself similarly by joining in these decisions.


Our city has been willing in the past to take a stand against prevalent culture where it was harmful to our residents. I am deeply grateful for the way, in the 2000s, our city stood against gangs and gang-related drug dealing. I remember in the 1990s when our city council passed ordinances against “sex shops.” More recently, our city stood to protect the right to open city council meetings in prayer, including praying in Jesus’ name. God has blessed us since we have taken these stands, and I believe He will bless again for choosing to stand against opening our community to marijuana cultivation.


Over the years, there have been other government-passed decisions that our ministry has opposed when these related to moral issues and opposed biblical principles. Should the city pass this ordinance and enter the marijuana trade, our church will continue to teach against using mind-altering substances and will stand against the distribution of such substance outside of a legitimate prescription and medicinal use of truly needed pain medicine. (While there may be a legitimate medical use, I have no assurance that there is a safe and proven process for legal distribution to and through legitimate medical outlets at this time. I think we should also remember that medical marijuana is still not approved by the FDA. Insufficient research and inability for quality control are among their reasons.)

— Paul Chappell, The Pastor’s Perspective, The Marijuana Mistake, February 11, 2017


Paul Chappell is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Chappell pastors Lancaster Baptist Church, a megachurch located in Lancaster, California.


  1. Avatar

    I know someone whose pain is greatly relieved by marijuana, so I know it can help.

    Yet only last weekend I read this article about a young student who’d committed suicide under the influence. If you’re a teen and you begin using it, you may be one of the group of unfortunate people that responds very strongly to it and it may increase the chances of psychosis. And with that psychosis induced suicide as well. It was a heart breaking article about a young man who didn’t know (for decades) what had killed his brother: did he fall or did he jump? He wasn’t unhappy or suicidal either, but he was acting strangely before he fell. He mostly likely suffered from a psychosis and jumped as a result.

    But yeah, the gateway drug to letting the Devil in…. that’s just nonsense. I remember I said something similar as a teen to my friends and was really upset they might actually let the devil in that way. Years later I felt so ashamed that I’d preached all that nonsense…. It’s once more an indication to myself that I took it all so seriously – and it also reminds me of my frustration that nobody else did! They just laughed and said I was being melodramatic: as if they weren’t afraid of the Devil! But perhaps they weren’t…..

    • Avatar

      Melody, you are wise to caution about drug use and the very real possibility of psychosis. Drug-induced psychosis is every bit as deadly as the kind that comes around in plain and simple mental illness and it remains a major caution in any use of drugs, prescription or not. That being said, this preacher is in lah-lah land. I see no wisdom in his shallow words. His biblical principles are designed to harm innocent people. His religion is a gateway drug but he has no clue about how potent it is, how much damage he does with his words. By listening to him, normal folks are opening their minds to woo occult, to gang-related evangelicalism.

      • Avatar

        Yes, religion is it’s own kind of drugs. It makes you believe weird funny things too and makes you think you might see or at least communicate with invisible beings. Not that different from tripping on drugs.

  2. Avatar

    Bloody hell (pardon the French!), I’ve just opened the link to this guy’s church! I know I get told about the money in US religion and in the IFB movement, but the building is incredible. Enormous, modern office block type structure, that I’d have assumed was a bank HQ. Lists of services as though it were a commercial company, and all based on superstitious nonsense being peddled to the gullible.

    Something isn’t right.

  3. Avatar
    J.D. Matthews

    You know what makes people want to use drugs? Unhappiness. If you want to talk about gateways, how about poverty? Unemployment. Clinical depression. RELIGION.

    The problem is that these pearl clutchers don’t want to address the problems in society that ACTUALLY contribute to drug use. They don’t want people to have living wages, affordable health care, upward mobility, etc. because they’re so jealous and afraid that somebody might benefit from one cent that they think belongs to them and them alone.

    So instead, they decide that they must deny people the one thing that lets them have even a moment’s temporary relief from the mental onslaughts of life. They can’t allow them to feel good, even for a second. That would be wrong, somehow.

    • Avatar

      When you are brought up in a religious gulag and cannot escape, you naturally seek relief, even momentary relief. I have very fond memories of being a teen and smoking marijuana (leaves! not bud) and enjoying listening to the music of the day. Hours could pass on these musical journeys and I felt relief from the burden of my life in the gulag. The excessive use of any substance is not a wise choice but addicts are not stupid people. They carry great pain that needs to be dealt with and they escape using drugs. Give people reasons to be whole, to be productive and healthy and they will have a choice to turn from excess but just condemning and outlawing everything only adds to misery. Christianity of the IFB variety is designed to add to misery, not assist a person in becoming whole. One is required to admit they are horrible and of no good use without magic Jesus. This foundational woo, is the beginning of self-destruction, the confirmation of self-hatred necessary to support the church.

  4. Avatar

    I have the same response as JR, but from the opposite end of the Bible. “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” Genesis 1:29 KJV. I’ve known that one since the late 70’s.

    Bruce, I know you don’t need my advice about anything, especially medicine. I also know that you are experiencing a particularly difficult stretch these days with your fibromyalgia and other health concerns. I have friends who moved to Michigan specifically because using marijuana medicinally was the only thing that let the husband continue working (he suffers from undefined neuropathy). It’s been 5 years and he’s still able work full time; when he was here, he could only manage to work as a carpenter a few days a month. Since Ohio legalized medical marijuana in September, it might be worth a try. It’s more likely to do some good than any prayer I might offer, no matter how much I believe in that Something More.

    *The nature of the Divine is more and more of a mystery to me, though I still believe there is Something. I do know that the Something More is NOT some genie from Aladdin’s lamp there to grant me unlimited wishes, no matter how much I might wish it otherwise. Nonetheless, you do have my best thoughts and yes those unhelpful prayers too, though they likely help me feel not so powerless much more than they are of any good to you.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away! If You Are a First Time Commenter, Please Read the Comment Policy Located at the Top of the Page.

Discover more from The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading

Bruce Gerencser