By Grace Ostuni
Franciscan University’s graduate students and faculty held a panel on April 19 discussing the morality of marijuana from a variety of scientific, theological and philosophical views.
Stephen Sammut, a psychology professor, started the talk with the scientific facts surrounding marijuana and its use. Sammut said marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug, with 22.2 million people having used it in the past month. He added that its primary effects are on the spinal cord and on the brain.
“Just because its natural doesn’t mean it’s safe,” said Sammut.
Medically, marijuana has only been approved by the FDA for two reasons, Sammut said. It has been shown to help treat two severe childhood seizure disorders and it also has the potential to lessen the nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy, according to Sammut
The theological view on the issue of marijuana use was argued by Adam Boyle, a graduate assistant. He only spoke on the casual use of marijuana, not the medical uses. The main question Boyle tackled was whether it is immoral to alter your brain for fun.
“It’s a mistake to focus only on the material substance in question. What determines their morality is how they’re used,” said Boyle.
The Catholic Church has not officially declared an opinion on this topic. Boyle said he used Catholic social teaching to find an answer. He concluded that because recreational marijuana cannot help Christians save souls, which is their goal as Christians. Therefore, it should not be used.
“Don’t settle for hallucinatory pleasure. You were made for more,” concluded Boyle.
Aidan Gavin, a graduate student, argued on the philosophical view of the issue. His argument surrounded the idea that people all have a responsibility to choose good and avoid bad choices.
Gavin said that prudence is the virtue that helps people make these decisions. Because marijuana reduces the capacity to make moral decisions well and make them quickly, Gavin argues, it should not be used.
“Men have a responsibility for readiness, for moral action. By getting high, you are not ready for what Christ is calling you to do,” said Gavin.
The last speaker was Sr. Eliana Day, T.O.R. She provided her own testimony of using marijuana recreationally. She said she smoked daily during her sophomore year of college, believing it to be a spiritual experience. However, once she hit rock bottom and found Christ, she realized only He could provide a true spiritual experience.
“People who smoke up…are searching for something, are coping with something and need something,” said Day.