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The Why: Questions, Answers & The In-Between

In mid-November of 2018, I sent the email that started it all to a group of friends, Christian influencers and family members regarding a domain name I had recently purchased this very website…

I’m a fast mover – a quick-start – and ideas about what “Christian Cannabis” could become filled my mind as quickly as the name, itself. But I’ve also learned to temper my pace, and perhaps especially in this case, I knew that I needed to garner feedback, and allow for questions and concerns early on, before I got ahead of myself.

So, I crafted an email, hit “send” and did exactly that. I included the “why” behind the “what” and even went so far as to explain my own story, holding nothing back when it came to the last few years of experiencing the benefits of marijuana consumption, personally.

In an effort to respect your time, though, here is my summary:

After years of experiencing debilitating health issues that left me hospitalized in multiple states throughout the country – resulting in maxed-out insurance claims and hefty medical bills – with zero answers from doctors and specialists and no end in sight, I happened across a CNN special airing of Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s documentary, Weed.

As both a boy who grew up in a conservatively religious home, and a man who has spent the entirety of his adult life in pastoral ministry, marijuana – or “mind-altering” substances of any kind, for that matter – was never of any interest to me. Had it been, I likely wouldn’t have touched it, anyway. I’ve smoked maybe ten cigarettes in my life, been drunk once, and never gone anywhere near “the devil’s lettuce” – thanks, in large part, to that very connotation, and the taboo that has long surrounded this controversial plant. Christian consensus, it seems, has been to demonize cannabis outright, as though the flower were inherently sinful in and of itself.

This documentary, though, intrigued me, and after countless hospital visits and never-ending diagnoses about how no one knew what to do with me or the excruciating headaches that were paralyzing my life, I was desperate.

The next day, I submitted for and received my state-issued medical marijuana card (things happen fast here in California), and in the years between that decision and now, my life has drastically changed for the better…

But it has been a complicated road

My initial experiences with cannabis were underwhelming, at best. In large part, that was due to the absurdity of a system that offered “medical help” and “counsel” right before it threw me into a world of pot paraphernalia in what felt like a seedy drug den. The first dispensary I was directed to offered no signage – just a door, like a guessing game, behind some 76 gas station – and the interior continued to reaffirm the fears that my upbringing had long instilled in my psyche.

Truth be told, that religious condemnation was the worst part. While the years following my first, less-than-helpful experience were filled with life-giving, cannabis-assisted help that slowly built my confidence in my chosen medicine, existential guilt weighed heavy on my conscience thanks to forty years’ worth of being told that this avenue was off limits for Christians like me, and I didn’t tell anyone about it until – one day – a more powerful conviction overwhelmed my silence:

I needed to tell the truth.

I have dedicated the majority of my life to encouraging transparency and openness in other people, and I began to feel as though I was not leading by example. I needed to tell others about my experience… the way that marijuana had literally contributed to the transformation of my health, my life and my relationships – even my relationship with the Lord.

At some point during the interim between receiving my medical card and the summer of 2018, I discovered a brand of cannabis-infused mints – something that looked and tasted exactly like an Altoid. Each mint contained a small dose – 5 mg – of THC, and they ran about twenty bucks for one-hundred of them. This “microdose” was the perfect amount for me, and that little can of mints ended up changing my life.

Shortly after my discovery, in January 2017, I flew to Las Vegas for the annual AVN show that our ministry, XXXchurch, attends every year. There – in the midst of a break from the convention at the Cosmopolitan hotel – the Lord met me in ways more powerful than I have ever known in my forty-two years on this earth.

My head stopped spinning and I heard His voice.

I got clarity. I got direction. I got out of my head, and I let God into my heart in a lasting, visceral way.

I had begun to connect the dots between the headaches that were hospitalizing me, and exactly why cannabis had proven to be such a miraculous answer to my family’s prayers: my life is busy.

Too busy. Marriage, two kids, insane work schedules, directing a non-profit, managing side-business projects, and each and every idea that I am constantly moving on.

Some days, I forget to eat. I don’t stop working for long enough to go to the bathroom. Sadly, I realized that entire days would go by without lifting my head for air out of whatever project was in front of me.

I could have been sitting in a room with my kids, or my wife, or you… but it’d always be clear that I was somewhere else.

I was there, but I wasn’t there.

This helps me be there.

And I specifically felt as though the Lord told me to tell my family – and now, you – about how I have come to hear His voice now more than ever…

Those damn mints.

I believe marijuana can be hugely, medicinally beneficial.

It certainly has been for me. My health has never been better. Beyond that – and you might think I’ve gone crazy here – I also believe that I have benefitted spiritually thanks to the mental and physical wellness that I have experienced.

I’ve become a better dad, husband, lover (sorry to gross you out, kids, but it’s the truth), boss, business partner and overall human being because of it.

So for now, I will not be ashamed of something that has done this much good in my life. Something that has brought me so close to the Lord. Something that I believe He, Himself, revealed to me.

Maybe weed could be a good thing – something that God uses to get our attention. It’s certainly how he got mine.

Resorting to drugs? Using drugs? If the pharmacist at Walgreens was filling them, I wouldn’t even consider the possibility of shame… so why the abashment just because I happened to fill mine at a store with a green cross over its entryway?

Call me crazy, but that little green cross pointed my eyes toward the real Cross, and I finally saw it.

I think that Christians have more freedom in this arena than we’ve traditionally allowed for.  

And I think that, as of now, we have an opportunity to be on the front end of a movement that is on its way toward drastically changing the way that this country – and our culture, particularly – functions when it comes to the eventual, national and federal legalization of cannabis throughout the United States.

Christians are always late to the party.

We’re the last ones to change, and yet we serve a creator God whose work is the epitome of innovation (a dramatic understatement for the One who created life out of nothing).

We are too afraid of the unknown.  

What if believers were to entertain the idea that legality is not the equivalent of licentiousness, but neither must we demonize and condemn every single thing that we don’t quite understand? What if the Christian community were to begin to understand how something like cannabis could be used in beneficial ways that supports their lives? Their health?

What if – rather than trading our feelings for platitudes and “should-bes” – we were to begin to better understand them?

What if cannabis proved to enhance mental clarity, diminish anxiety, and lend itself toward physical healing and integrative wellness?

What if cannabis proved to dissolve the self constantly getting in the way, enabling one to better prioritize others and the qualities and relationships that make for a full and vibrant life?

That has been, in part, my experience… all from a plant.

Which brings us back to the present.
I want to create Christian Cannabis.

Personally, my excitement about the whole idea comes from potential engagement with the world beyond “our own” – this whole world that has been created, and in which we have been commissioned to go and engage – much like the opportunities that have come from my work with XXXchurch.

As a kid, all I knew were the black and white worlds of what was “secular” and what was “Christian,” but the Jesus I now know came to end exclusion, and preached a different message than the ones I heard growing up… He speaks of God’s inclusive kingdom. While I don’t want to shoehorn my own agenda into his narrative, I think that we have an opportunity to partner together for the good of people who could stand to benefit from what cannabis has to offer them.

Last year, a large review from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine assessed more than 10,000 scientific studies on the medical benefits and adverse effects of marijuana.

Some of the diagnoses that cannabis has been proven to relieve are:

  • Chronic Pain 
  • Alcoholism and drug addiction 
  • Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and social anxiety 
  • Cancer 
  • Multiple sclerosis 
  • Epilepsy 

I haven’t surveyed 10,000 Christians, but I can say that after having used cannabis frequently throughout the past five years of my life, my wellness – be it mental, physical and/or emotional – has improved exponentially. I would even go so far as to say that these benefits have led to spiritual growth, enlightenment, the dissolving of my pride and pragmatic life change. My wife would attest to this truth.

I am of the opinion that being on this side of the cannabis conversation will prove to be a good thing. Most religious folks want to only speak up once the debate is over, but I don’t see this issue resolving in all states and countries anytime soon.

If we wait for that day, we will be too late.  

And I am tired of being too late.  

I am tired of Christians reacting instead of influencing.  

I am tired of Christians following instead of leading. 

I am willing to risk this one. 

I think it’s worth the risk because I know that the reward has been nothing short of finding myself. It has been the gift of the breathing room and silence necessary to experience God on this journey.

Here goes nothing.  

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Craig Gross 

Founder, Christian Cannabis

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