Is smoking marijuana a sin?
effeminate, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor
drunkards...will possess the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:10).
Drunkenness is a deliberate excess in the use of intoxicating drink or
drugs to the point of forcibly depriving oneself of the use of reason
for the sake of gratifying an inordinate desire for such drink and not
for the sake of promoting health. This is contrary to the virtue of
temperance, and specifically sobriety. Sobriety regulates man’s desire
and use of intoxicants, and is vitally necessary for an upright moral
life. The evil of intoxication lies in the violence committed against
one’s nature by depriving it of the use of reason. He deprives himself
of that which makes him specifically human - his ability to think. The
drunk, or in this case the drug user, desires this loss of reason
because of the feeling of liberation which accompanies it precisely
from this lack of control of the will over the reason. It is
unnatural, contrary to sleep, which also deprives one of the use of
reason but in a natural manner.
Drug use gives
an illicit means of escape. Besides being a sin, it also manifests an
immaturity on the part of the user. Through an act of violence against
himself, he escapes from the responsibility of decision making and
control in his life. When this deprivation is complete, e.g.,
actions totally contrary to normal behavior, incapability of
distinguishing between good and evil, etc., it is a grave sin.
“In vino veritas,” said the Romans, not without reason. Any
state short of complete drunkenness, without sufficient reason, is of
itself venially sinful, but even in this case it may be a mortal sin
if it causes scandal, injury to health, harm to one’s family, etc.
It is important also to note that a man is responsible for all the
sinful actions committed while intoxicated which he had, or ought to
Jone-Adelman in Moral Theology, the use of drugs in small
quantities and only occasionally is a venial sin if done without
sufficient reason. This could be the case, for example, with sleeping
pills. Obviously, deprivation of the use of reason through narcotics
is to be judged as alcohol. The use of most drugs is complicated by
the fact that they are illegal. This also signifies the will of the
user to break the law, an offense against social justice. This
compounds the sin. The speed with which a drug alters one’s
consciousness also aggravates its use. This rapidity risks a greater
potential to deprive oneself of the use of reason and thus to pass on
to stronger intoxicants for increased effect. Therefore, adding to the
violation of the virtue of justice, the grave scandal caused, the
grave danger of addiction, and the stronger consciousness-altering
ability of marijuana, it is difficult to excuse one of mortal sin.
Moreover, experience tells us that its use is frequently an occasion
of mortal sin, especially sins of the flesh and the use of narcotic
drugs. But to willingly and knowingly place oneself in an unnecessary
proximate occasion of mortal sin is to commit a mortal sin.
Doran, September 1993
Is it a mortal sin to use drugs?
The old text
books [on moral theology] do not speak of this new problem of the modern world. However,
the immorality of drug abuse can be clearly deduced from the
principles which allow an evaluation of the malice of alcohol abuse.
The distinction is made between imperfect drunkenness, the fact of
making oneself tipsy deliberately, which can only be a venial sin, and
perfect drunkenness, which is drinking until one is drunk. This is a
mortal sin because a drunken person loses the use of reason. This is
St. Thomas Aquinas’s response to the objection that the quantity of
wine drunk is but a circumstance, which cannot make a venial sin into
a mortal sin:
With regard to
drunkenness we reply that it is a mortal sin by reason of its genus:
for that a man, without necessity, and through the mere lust of
wine, makes himself unable to use his reason, whereby he is directed
to God and avoids committing many sins, is expressly contrary to
virtue. That it be a venial sin is due to some sort of ignorance or
weakness, as when a man is ignorant of the strength of the wine, or
of his own unfitness, so that he has no thought of getting drunk,
for in that case the drunkenness is not imputed to him as a sin, but
only the excessive drink…. (ST, I-II, q. 88, art. 5, ad1)
of illegal drugs, even those called soft drugs, is comparable not to
becoming tipsy on a little wine but to perfect drunkenness. For these
drugs have their effect by causing a “high,” that is, an emotional
experience when a person escapes from the demands of reality. For a
brief period he lives in an unreal, euphoric world. All the other
effects, such as relaxation, come as a consequence of this “high,” or
unreal euphoria. If this state does not always prohibit all use of
reason, it most certainly does always impede the most important use of
reason, which St. Thomas just explained to us “whereby he is
directed to God and avoids committing many sins.” All drugs deaden
the conscience, and obscure the practical judgment as to right and
wrong and what we must do. With respect to morality, their effect is
consequently equivalent to the removal of the use of reason, and is a
practical refusal to direct all of man’s acts to God through reason.
Drug abuse is
consequently much worse than the pure seeking of pleasure or
relaxation that some claim it to be. It is a denial of the natural and
supernatural order, according to which God has created us in His image
and likeness that our acts might be ordered to His honor and glory.
Moreover, it goes without saying that the abuse of drugs is directly
opposed to the Catholic spirit, which spirit of sacrifice, the
practical application of the spirit of the cross, is essential to the
living of our faith.
mentioned, the principal evil of drug abuse is the destruction of
moral conscience. It follows that the atrocious consequences of drug
abuse are inseparable from it, and are willed together with the drugs
themselves. This includes the breaking of the law in the consumption
of drugs; and in the means of obtaining them, such as theft; and in
the effort to sell them in turn to others, often minors or children.
Other consequences include the incredible self-indulgence which
accompanies the almost insatiable desire for always more titillating
experiences, sins of blasphemy, the often satanic rock music, and the
sins against purity and chastity, which are the consequence of the
loss of shame and conscience. Sins against charity and justice abound,
such as disobedience to parents and refusal to do one’s duty at school
or work, not to mention the bad company-keeping which is the breeding
ground of all vices. Long term results are also willed in their cause,
and they include such things as emotional and physical addiction, the
passage from soft to hard drugs, the damage done to the body and to
general health by prolonged drug use, culminating in the “fried”
brains of the person who cannot even reason clearly, let alone make a
moral judgment. It is a mortal sin to place one’s physical and
spiritual health in such proximate danger, even if a person is to
pretend that he is immune from this danger and that “it could not
happen to me.”
Even the often
liberal and ambiguous
Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in 1994
in application of the principles of Vatican II, acknowledges this:
The use of drugs
inflicts very grave damage on human health and life. Their use,
except on strictly therapeutic grounds, is a grave offense.
Clandestine production of and trafficking in drugs are scandalous
practices. They constitute direct co-operation in evil, since they
encourage people to practices gravely contrary to the moral law.
This does not,
however, exclude the use of narcotic drugs for therapeutic reasons.
Their use, under medical supervision, is justified by a sufficiently
grave and proportionate reason, even if they do deprive a person
temporarily of the use of reason. (Cf. Merkelbach, Summa
Theologiae Moralis, II, 925). For it is not the loss of reason
which is willed. It is only an indirect consequence, so that there is
not necessarily a disorder with respect to the final end of man. The
typical example is pain control.
therefore, the use of marijuana, like any hard or soft drug, must be
considered a mortal sin. If on occasion some people might be in
ignorance as to the gravity of this sin, it is clearly evident that
the matter is objectively serious. Consequently, it must be confessed
as a mortal sin, and a person is obliged to confess drug abuse under
pain of a bad or sacrilegious confession. If he forgot to confess the
sin, he must then confess it at the first possible opportunity that he
has. The priest who claimed that this was not a mortal sin has fallen
into the trap of laxity.
Fr. Peter Scott,