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Response to a Casual Marijuana User

Response to a Casual Marijuana User

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Question:

A while back, I was struggling with hard drugs and going downhill fast academically and socially. Since then I have experienced a series of ups and downs, but today I have a good job and live happily for the most part.

Now, here is my dilemma. I smoke marijuana on a casual basis, and do not see it having a negative effect on my life. I have strayed far away from the hard drugs I once took, and feel that marijuana is a safe way for me to indulge myself from time to time. I am a musician, artist and thinker, and hopeful I’m not sounding like a 1960s cliché when I say I have a somewhat more profound, surreal and exciting experience when I do this.

I suppose my question is this: What are your thoughts on my occasional, casual use of mj?

Answer:

What complicates this question is that it’s not just the substance, but also the social issue. In other words, the issue is not just the drug itself, but how it is used—and how it is used depends principally on its social context.

For example, as I’m sure you know, even though marijuana is not without its fair package of damage, alcohol is really a more dangerous drug. However, Jews have created a social ambience for it that greatly limits the dangers involved. If you had lived in Baghdad 100 years ago, there may have been something similar for the use of hashish.

Marijuana today brings with it a lot of social baggage. It also doesn’t come with that traditional context of kiddush and l’chaim—and quite the contrary. Right now, that may not affect you. But what will happen when you decide to start a family? You have to buy it, hide it, explain it …more and more problems.

Bottom line, it’s not only the chemical effect of the marijuana on you—it’s everything that goes along with it.

I’ll give an example from a very different but similar situation:

Chocolate is one of my greatest weaknesses. Problem is, once I start eating dark chocolate, I get strong cravings for it. But dark chocolate is a stimulant, and most of my family—me included—are very sensitive to stimulants. Meaning that if I or one of my kids eats enough dark chocolate after 4 PM, there’s no way we’re going to be sleeping until after 2 AM.

So, in order for me to eat chocolate, I need to…

  • buy it when there are no kids shopping with me
  • sneak it into the house
  • hide it where they don’t suspect
  • take it out and consume it when none of them are around
  • wash out my mouth afterwards—they’re so good at detecting these things.

Nevertheless, my compulsion for dark chocolate was so great, I tried anyways. Needless to say, I was eventually discovered.

But what really shook me up was what my children learned from this. It wasn’t just that they said, “Hey, Daddy’s got chocolate and he’s hiding it from us!” That’s bad enough. What’s worse is that they emulated my behavior: They snuck the chocolate from my hiding place, hid it and ate it at night.

I like chocolate, but I don’t want my children to learn to steal, lie or cheat. Today, there are no dark chocolate bars hiding in my secret place.

That’s chocolate. With Mary Jane and all she brings with her—the implications for kids, the social milieu, the parties, the dealers, the street—okay, you’re intelligent, you can work it all out.

It’s not fair unless I provide an alternative: Attend a Torah class at your local Chabad House. The teachings of the chassidic masters and the kabbalists are great meditation material. Throw your mind into something deep and mind-altering—only that in this case, you are the one altering your own mind. And you can also go work out at the gym for 30 minutes. You’ll get high, higher than you could imagine.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription. FaceBook @RabbiTzviFreeman Periscope @Tzvi_Freeman .
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
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Shmuel June 22, 2016

Ask your doctor if marijuana is right for you. Reply

Anonymous United Kingdom June 20, 2016

Personal Experience I'm a thinker and Marijuana only made me think deeper. At first, the insight I gained from Marijuana was enlightening, and that's what pulled me in. But, two years experience and bounds of research later, I realize the truth. The brain is divided into 40% white matter and 60% gray matter. The white matter is fibres that makes connections between the gray matter, which is content. From confirmed research studies, Marijuana does indeed increase the connectivity between gray matter (content), as proven by in increase in white matter in recreational Marijuana users. This provides 'enlightenment.' However, gray matter (content), which is already a scarcer brain resource shrinks with MJ use. The tradeoff may seem not to be a big deal for some, however my experience shows otherwise. When I'm high, my thinking is skewed, my actions are slow, and I am forced to stand as an aware bystander unable to implement any change. I write this after a night high, as the lesson continues to repeat itself. Reply

Shmuel Chicago February 29, 2016

Pot and Purim I can't really speak to useage in today's legal climate, as I stopped using the stuff about 35 years ago, when I recognized that it had simply ceased to be a positive experience for me. But because we're already in Adar Alef, I'll offer this:

We're told that on Purim “chayav odom l’vsumei.” This is usually rendedred as “a person is obligated to get intoxicated,“ although a more precise translation would be “to get spiced.“ Now, there's a gemara (sorry, I don't remember where, but I am not making this up) that mentions a practice of lending a scent to clothing by wafting incense beneath it, and it uses a word of the same root as the aforementioned “l’vsumei.“ One might conclude from this that a more m’hudar (enhanced) way of getting intoxicated on Purim would involve the use of some kind of smoke. (If you use this vort, make sure you say it b’shem omro!) Reply

Anonymous February 23, 2016

I'm curious to your thoughts about useage, such as my own, where I don't obtain it through criminal means, I don't have to hide it (and if I ever did I would just cease to buy it), justify it, etc? Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL January 21, 2016

MJ vs Meat! Start eating more meat and have a glass of wine once in a while and stop taking MJ (bad for health) unless as medication
What kind of reasoning is that? Children learn first from their parents then from their peers then back from their parents attitude Reply

Carlos Richard Arizona January 20, 2016

Response to a Casual Marijuana User Good Discussion - thank you. Reply

Anonymous January 18, 2016

So I'm a father of 2 Young kids and I live in Montréal, a city about to legalize MJ. I been smoking MJ on a recreational basis for ages. I did hide it from my parents at the time and I'm still discrete about it now out of respect cause they grew up in a time were MJ was demonized in ways we have read here (Gateway drug...).
Now I'm questioning my usage cause of the exposition to my kids. I've though it over and over and I'm confortable with it that it wont be "dark chocolate". I never drink alchool (bad for health), I eat meat once a week only otherwise vegan. Our society is evolving and our kids will be expose to MJ wether you want it or not. If you live in a community were it is legal, you'll be exposed probably in a lot less dangerous way then me and you might have been exposed in our youth. I've been to Amsterdam many time and I seen the major positive difference on youth usage decrease. Kids want to be rebels, if your allowed then there is no point as a teen. Time will tell. Reply

Frank Las Vegas January 13, 2016

It has to be Kosher it comes from a third day creation. Vegetation is always Kosher. Plus a little incensing would be nice. Reply

Leo England January 13, 2016

Really interesting discussion. Technical, social and emotional/spiritual factors all mentioned. The latest research into medication for chronic pain shows that cannabis contains one or more chemicals that block such pain without causing addiction or "tolerance" (which would require an ever-increasing dosage). For people with conditions such as MS or arthritis or back injury, new medications based on cannabinoids will transform their life. Reply

Shmuel Chicago December 21, 2015

Yaakov Mark - You are incorrect. Eating non-kosher food to save your life isn't a heter. It's a mitzvah. You are obligated to do it. Reply

yitzchakchaim December 5, 2015

where's my burning bush? I currently live in colorado. Marijuana is legal and that makes it very easy to use marijuana in a more honest, open way. I also pray before I smoke just as if I were eating. Everything that exists can be transformed into a blessing to Hashem. Our fears and doubts are what make us weak. Our joy and faith make us strong.
For me, marijuana use with mitzvot, meditation, and prayer makes my relationship with Gd strong. It's important to realize how far our world is from heaven. Our souls are craving a burning bush experience like Moses had to become intimate with Gd. Good deeds and prayer elevate our world and fulfill our purpose as jews through action. We need to strive to see Gd in our hearts too. Sometimes, we do mitzvot but don't take the time to relish in the love that those mitzvot reveal.
Lies and shame are defiantly against Hashem but the things that people lie about exist by the will of Gd. Reply

Yaakov Mark Los Angeles April 20, 2015

That does not mean it is Kosher That means you got a heter to eat non kosher food. That also means that it has the same negative spiritual effects. So yes you could eat pork to save your life, but that doesn't mean that its the same as Kosher food. Reply

Anonymous burbank, ca April 20, 2015

marijuana kosher? Thyroid medication made from porcine thyroid glands, i.e., Armour brand, is kosher. So if marijuana is medicinal to save a life, yes, it is kosher. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL April 14, 2015

Vodka made with Fruits or Sugar Traditionally, vodka is made by the distillation of fermented cereal grains or potatoes, though some modern brands use other substances, such as fruits or sugar - grains are plants too... Reply

Yaakov Mark Los Angeles March 18, 2015

Kane Bosim like other scientific names has many similar sounding species and related plants that sound like it. The odds of Kane Bosim and Kannabis being the same thing are low. If your smoking Kane Bosim, you might be smoking something as potent as oak leaves and so I would go back to the drug dealer and ask for your money back. It might just make you cough alot. Reply

Shmuel Chicago March 18, 2015

Vodka Vodka is generally made from grain or potatoes. Despite a widespread misconception, physiologically alcohol not only doesn't warm a person up, but further depresses a central nervous system already depressed by body temperature. What it does do, though, is help a person care less about freezing to death.

You're right that making kiddush on mashkeh is not a general practice among chassidim. Even among Lubavitchers it is usually reserved for "special" occasions like, say, a Shabbos M'vorchim kiddush in shul. And of course, it's only a minority who will do it. After all, the Rebbe זי"ע said not to do it. He also said people should limit themselves to three l'chaims (and he was talking about the typical little plastic l'chaim cup). If you point this out to somebody making kiddush on hard liquor, or about to pour his eighth l'chaim, he will likely just give you a little smile, as if to say, "Yes, the Rebbe said that, but he didn't mean it for real chassidim like me." Reply

Josh Hobart March 17, 2015

Don't smoke on Shabbes. Kne-Bosim is the only good drug...that includes alcohol and especially tobacco, cigarettes are toxic with deadly chemical added. Reply

Feigele Boca Raton FL March 17, 2015

Ha Ha Ha! Very funny, Sorry! Where does vodka comes from? Isn’t from fruits too or vegetables like any other wines? All I know is usually the kiddush is done over wine. I suppose some people go to the extreme using something a bit stronger. Is this a general tradition? I don’t think so. Don’t pour all the Chassidishe in one cup! Vodka was customary for Russian, Polish and people living in the bitter icy cold of Siberia to warm up their heart and soul and stay alive. It was handed down from generation to generation but might have stopped with the new ones. Although I do not believe in alcohol, I do have a certain respect for these people as our ancestors. But I would not encourage anyone to follow on their trail today. Reply

Shmuel Chicago March 16, 2015

To Feigele I thought it was evident that when I spoke of alcohol abuse in chassidishe circles, I wasn't talking about wine. "Brown" and "white" are not wines. Have you ever seen the result of people making kiddush on vodka? I have. On occasion, I've also had to avoid stepping in said result. Reply

Anonymous Hobart March 15, 2015

discussion This discussion no longer goes according to sechel. Chabad don't openly support medical cannabis, because there are enough good people already in jail for this.
This has nothing to do with Juidaism, and all to do with living in a opressed state, Mitzrayim! Reply