If I told you that doctors in Israel had begun giving marijuana to kids, what would be your first response? Anger? Curiosity? For many of those children’s parents, their first response was joy. Studies around the world continue on the possible medical benefits of marijuana on issues from pain management to PTSD and beyond, but one particularly interesting bit of research is currently ongoing in Israel. There doctors seek a better understanding of the degree to which cannabis oil, largely separated from the THC component of marijuana that makes people high, might help children suffering from autism.
As USA Today‘s Yardena Schwartz writes, there has long been anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana could help people with autism function at a higher level, but it’s never been studied in a way that could satisfy the scientific community. Given that autism now affects one in sixty-eight children in the United States, for example, just providing parents with hope for a better alternative to the antipsychotic drugs most commonly prescribed today is a welcome change. As one parent described, such medications turned her daughter into “a zombie. She would just sit there with her mouth wide open, not moving.” No parent wants to see a child in that state, but the alternatives of life without medication are often equally unbearable.
So far, the early results seem promising. Cannabis has already been proven to help with seizures, a symptom that afflicts roughly thirty percent of autistic children, and some parents have reported that their kids have been calmer and more responsive since beginning the trial. As the study doesn’t end until 2018 and parents aren’t told whether their children are in the placebo group or the group getting the cannabis oil, it’s difficult to know exactly how much of an impact the drug is really having at this time. That said, the possibility that it could help in a way no other medications have is encouraging.
The positive early results also serve as a good reminder that there’s nothing God created that he can’t use for good. Of course, that these possible benefits could be so easily obscured by the potentially harmful effects of recreational marijuana use also demonstrates that there’s nothing God has created that Satan can’t twist through our sin to use for evil. The same plant can serve both ends. What determines its benevolence or malevolence is how we choose to use it.
In truth, most things in life are like that. There is very little around us that is innately either good or bad. That truth should both encourage and challenge us today, as it means that God has given us a great deal of power to decide the state of our world. I think that’s why, throughout Scripture, he places such a large emphasis on teaching us to live responsibly.
From the very beginning, the Lord tasked us with stewarding his creation (Genesis 2:15) and it’s vital that we remember our lives are part of that creation as well. Far too often we fall into the trap of thinking that our time on this earth is ours to do with as we please when the reality is quite different. We are stewards of our lives, but they ultimately still belong to God. And, like the rest of his creation, each of us was created with the innate capacity to be used for good or evil, and our decisions will ultimately decide which end our lives will serve.
Joshua’s call to the Israelites remains ours today: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). What will your answer be?