Spiritually Speaking

QUESTION: “The times they are a-changing.” Several states have passed laws making the use of marijuana legal. I’m very uncomfortable with this if even only from the damage marijuana causes to the physical body, including shrinking the brain (Stanford Research Study) and liver damage. Recently, there was a news article about law enforcement having to learn to recognize drivers who are under the influence of illegal drugs.
What is this world coming to?
~ Uncomfortable Citizen

Dear Uncomfortable,
While I’m generally very conservative when it comes to theology, the subject of cannabis use is not directly addressed in the Bible and so I must weigh the information available and not “go beyond what is written” (1Co 4:6). God created this plant for some good reason, so I’ll go from there.

It appears to me that, medically speaking, people are benefiting from its use as it mitigates pain and nausea, stimulates appetite and circulation, and may have other claimed benefits. I don’t know the Stanford study of which you speak, but I did read a Stanford study that suggested the active ingredient could help with Parkinson’s disease, although smoking was not encouraged.

As for recreational use, I would imagine that when consumed infrequently, it’s a fairly harmless diversion, like social drinking. Chronic use would likely create the harmful side effects you mentioned, just as excessive drinking or any other undisciplined habit might.

Should we worry that the roads are rife with DUI marijuana users? There are probably a lot fewer than drunk drivers, and still we expect that the vast majority of drivers are safely navigating the roads chemically unimpaired. I would not worry as much as you seem to be. There are far more ominous things to garner our concern. Still, trust God. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1Pe 5:7 NIV).

Brien Griem web
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church

Dear Uncomfortable,
A March 8 article in the L.A. Times reported how L.A. Councilmember Bill Rosendahl is able to enjoy a much better quality of life after numerous 
cancer treatments due to medical marijuana. There are no credible reports of death due to marijuana overdose while numerous studies show 
the dangers of alcohol and tobacco. There have been studies showing 
marijuana’s harm to developing brains yet underage people can more readily get marijuana than the latter two substances, due to legal controls. Young people looking for a euphoric feeling have died from sniffing glue or other chemicals and even the “choking game” – oxygen deprivation. Behavior is the problem, not any particular substance.

Pharmaceutical corporations do most of the drug research in this country looking for substances that can increase their profits. Why would they fund studies of something that grows like a weed?
As you note, the states of Colorado and Washington have made its 
recreational use legal. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, many for non-violent drug use. In 2007, the Washington Examiner estimated the cost to U.S. taxpayers at $1 billion per year to keep marijuana users in jail.

I think we would be much wiser to decriminalize marijuana use for adults and handle it like tobacco and 
alcohol. Taxes on marijuana and savings from reducing the prison population could fund programs to teach teens and adults responsible behavior and increase distracted and impaired driving enforcement.

What’s the world coming to? Perhaps its senses.
Sharon Weisman WEB 0505
Sharon Weisman

Atheist/Agnostic/Secular humanist/Free thinker

QUESTION: I am a widow and have a dear friend who is also a widow. We do many things together like travel, bowl, movies, etc. My challenge with her is she is a hypochondriac. Most of the time we get along great until she launches into her latest, greatest worry. If she had everything she thought she had, she would no longer be among the living.

Mutual friends ask me to not bring her along when I’m invited to group functions because she inevitably corners one or two of them and describes her latest imagined malady.

Is there some gentle way I can talk to her and perhaps help her understand how she is coming across to others? I also want to add that in the 30-plus years I’ve known her, she’s experienced nothing more serious than colds/flu and appendicitis.
~ Concerned Friend

Dear Concerned Friend,
Your dear friend of 30-plus years may be more receptive to your carefully chosen words than you might expect. A friendship that has spanned more than three decades must surely have forged a fairly deep connection. I would trust in that. Rather than to let her know others have been speaking negatively about her, specifically about her preoccupation with unfounded health concerns, I would discuss only my experience and not try to speak for others. A supportive honest discussion, one-on-one and without the qualifying statements of others, would be more effective and far less awkward in bringing awareness to her behavior.
The discussion may also allow you an opportunity to share your personal philosophy on living well, as well as your thoughts on how attitude affects life, health and those around you.

Coming from a place of love, your intention can’t miss. Self-preoccupation and unnecessary worry over one’s health often stems from a need for attention. You can be attentive to her needs by sharing your observations over the years of her general good health, highlighting all the excursions and activities you have enjoyed together and with others. This gently illustrates an energetic level of health truly sick people rarely enjoy. Discussing specifically her obvious vitality could be the very thing she needs to feel reassured and allow her to move forward in a more positive frame of mind. Perhaps you could end the discussion in planning for future activities.

Focusing outside ones’ self will help her recognize her many blessings, among them good health and very good friends.
Kim Winders WEB
Kim Winders, RScP

Center for Spiritual Living –
La Crescenta

Dear Good Friend,
I want to commend you on your commitment to this friendship – even though it is evident that it is not an easy one to maintain. I’m even more impressed with your loyalty to this person even though she is being shunned by others and you are being pressured to do the same.

That said, hypochondria is a mental illness and can range from mild to extreme. From my experience, I believe that no matter what you tell her it probably won’t change her. Furthermore, a hypochondriac often suffers from various other psychological conditions such as anxiety, depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder. All of this is too much for you to deal with if you are not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist.

Although you may feel the urge to “straighten her out,” I strongly suggest that you don’t do so. No matter how gentle and understanding you may be, your conversations will probably not change her much – if at all – and may even jeopardize your friendship which at this point is critical to her well-being.

Instead, I advise you to tenderly advise your friend to seek professional help. If you are able to convince her to do seek medical treatment, you will be doing her the greatest favor and will positively change her life.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you much luck and may God bless you for being such a special person and caring for those need it most.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center

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