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What is the Jewish stance on marijuana?

What is the Jewish stance on marijuana?

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Question:

I am asking this question in all seriousness, as it troubles me to not know what the Jewish belief is regarding marijuana. 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 taking 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 1960's 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 is the Jewish standpoint on this issue?

Answer:

I don't think we can say that there is a "Jewish stance" on marijuana. It's much more a social issue than anything else. That's because the issue is not the drug itself, but how it is used--and how it is used depends principally on social issues.

For example, as I'm sure you know, alcohol is a far more dangerous drug than marijuana. 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. 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 so much 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--myself included--are very sensitive to stimulants. Meaning that if I or one of my kids eats enough dark chocolate after 4PM, there's no way we're going to be sleeping until after 2AM.

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

a) buy it when there are no kids shopping with me

b) sneak it into the house

c) hide it where they don't suspect

d) take it out and consume it when none of them are around

e) 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. Then go work out at the gym for 20 minutes. You'll get high, higher than you could imagine.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org

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.
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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Discussion (63)
June 29, 2014
Missing the point
@Pieter, I think you and many miss the point. There was a guy who came to shul who was really tight and nervous yesterday, because everyone needed an Allyah and he was one of the Baal Korahs. He was excessively nervous and someone told him he ought to take a shot to calm down. I thought about this. Why does he need a shot? He could sit down for a minute and breathe. He could meditate. he could study a shtickel of Chossidus. If all he does is drink a shot everytime he is nervous, he will need that shot, but even more tragically, he will fail to grow and learn tools for calming his anxiety. His friend was suggesting to use alcohol medically, really. And in this case, taking the medicine is delaying the cure. If his problem was so chronic that he had no choice but to medicate, then so be it. However, when a person medicates and its not necessary, then you have a real problem. Read the end of the article above, and youll see Tzvi Freeman's better medicine.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
June 29, 2014
but the point is, some people do things that are much more harmful than Marijuana. The fact that someone has to sneak it, is not the marijuana but the laws which are wrong. The bottom line, the person asking the question, is using Marijuana in a medical fashion. If not for his Marijuana consumption, he will be using hard drugs. It's not so much about 'getting high' but the Marijuana euphoric properties, I cannot get as well in other ways, including learning Torah. Learning Torah is fine, but I can only do so much. Often, the class is not stimulating. I still go 2x a week. But sometimes, I am not enjoying the class at all for all sorts of reasons. The fact of sneaking MJ is a problem, but for me, it's the way I can get on with life, the hardships of working at 3 jobs. The answer is always, do something else instead of MJ. I already work out a lot. At the end of the day, there is not a thing wrong with MJ for me and many people.
Pieter
June 27, 2014
The Rebbe's Letter
I've copied below a letter from the Rebbe written in 1965 to a student in Cambridge, MA, when LSD and other hallucinogenic narcotics were beginning to be of interest to many people. Basically, the Rebbe's point is: Better to achieve a high through learning Chassidut.

I am in receipt of your letter of _____, which you write in the name of your friends and in your own behalf, and ask my opinion regarding the new drug called L.S.D. which is said to have the property of mental stimulation, etc.

Biochemistry is not my field, and I cannot express an opinion on the drug you mention, especially as it is still new. However what I can say is that the claim that the said drug can stimulate mystical insight, etc. is not the proper way to attain mystical inspiration, even if it had such a property.

The Jewish way is to go from strength to strength, not by means of drugs and other artificial stimulants, which have a place only if they are necessary for the physical health, in accordance with the Mitzvah to take care of one's health. I hope that everyone will agree that before any drugs are taken one should first utilize all one's natural capacities, and when this is done truly and fully, I do not think there will be a need to look for artificial stimulants.

I trust that you and your group, in view of your Yeshiva background, have regular appointed times for the study of Torah, and the inner aspects of the Torah, namely the teachings of Chassidus, and that such study is in accordance with the principle of our Sages, namely "The essential thing is the deed," i.e. the actual conduct of the daily life in accordance with the Torah and Mitzvoth, prayer, Tefillin, Kashruth, etc., etc. This is only a matter of will and determination, for nothing stands in the way of the will.

I trust that you are also using your good influence throughout your environment.

With blessing,

[the Rebbe's signature]
Anonymous
June 27, 2014
The Rebbe Wrote a letter on LSD & other substances for spiritual purposes
As I recall, he said to get your high from your relationship to HaShem
Anonymous
NJ
June 26, 2014
Agree w Rabbi's emphasis on the 'social baggage' probs of using marijuana
Rabbi Freeman,
I agree with your reasons stated for addictions, no matter how seemingly harmless, not being good for the whole individual much less the wholesome family. I used marijuana habitually as a young adult and continued after having children; at that time I saw nothing negative in it. However, as my children grew past the stage of innocent little children, I started to realize the hipocracy of being one mommy some of the time ("straight") and one mommy some of the time ("high"). My children's father and I don't agree on much, but one thing he said that was golden, is: don't think children don't notice and understand what parents are doing with altering their consciousness. As the children grew, leading a family became more complicated, and more crucial. I did not trust my own soundness of discernment and judgement while "high." So I quit. It was rough, but I got over it. The challenges of parenting are still keen, but I feel myself a more wholesome person of integrity.
Anonymous
Belize
March 9, 2014
further to addiction...
Daniel or Simon, or Bro' =) , read my Mar 3 comment "re: addiction and withdrawal."

Continuing the coke story. I was 31 when I did my first lined. I almost threw up, got used to that pretty quick, had another line and slept for 2 hours. Did it a few times and hated it and myself, I still had a small amt. Got home and into bed at 0200. Not 20 min. later, my wife's water broke 5 wks early, Grabbed ready bag, camera, sped to the hospital, had a boy at about 0600. Went home by 10, called relatives, watched The Fridge score his first TD. An historic day, B"H. =)

I was so overcome with emotions after seeing my firstborn ,I flushed the coke down the toilet and never even thought about it ever. That was 11/3/86.

Speed (meth) kills, coke too, heroin (incl..its opioids), benzos, and alcohol kill. Marijuana, on the other hand, gives you the munchies, a dry mouth, and the only thing IT kills is pain, both mental and physical.

A miracle! I told a full story with 5 characters to spare! :)
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
March 9, 2014
addiction and
Drugs are NOT addicting the first time. For example, you can't high the first time you smoke pot.

However, after snorting your first line of coke, you suddenly and very shortly after the first "head" levels out, you want some more (betcha can't snort just one). After a few small lines, you're licking the table or mirror or whatever you made your line on. Sometimes a user will run a finger across a tiny flake/crystal/crumb on the carpet, and the next thing you know the n00b user starts coughing up hairballs. A person still has time to quit, and surely the act of self-control must be there in some form to intercede; otherwise you're hooked.

Once you've taken that first step into addiction, you love the coke but you hate it because you feel like dreck when it wears off (in a few minutes), and then you hate yourself because you've just spent the rent. Trust me, enough of my friends took that route.

More on that in my next comment. Hey, admins, I'd really love to do an op-ed on this.
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
March 4, 2014
What does the Maker like?
If drugs are addicting why doesn't every one who tries them get addicted?

Maybe drugs are not addicting. Maybe people in chronic pain chronically take pain relievers. That actually makes sense.

Note I distinguish addiction from habituation. We can cure habituation through detox. There is no known cure for "addiction" because we do not wish to deal with the underlying pain. War and child abuse mostly.

There is absolutely no proof that drugs cause addiction. To cover this up the "addictive personality" was invented. No one can describe it. Because it doesn't exist. But child abuse is real enough. PTSD from war is confirmed.
M. Simon
Rockford, Illinois
March 4, 2014
What does the Maker like?
Daniel mosbacher
Carson City

Do you get drunk on Purim? Do you think the Maker likes that? Pot users live longer. You can look it up. Does the maker oppose that? You body produces pot analogs. The regulate the immune system. If the body needs a boost should we prevent it? On moral grounds?

And the "body" addiction is not addiction. It is habituation. Addiction is when the body craving is gone and the brain craving remains. This is usually caused by pain. Not the punch in the nose kind of pain but something subtler. PTSD.
M. Simon
Rockford, Illinois
March 3, 2014
further note
@Yaakov - As a native Brooklynite, and as a writer, I'm physically unable to limit comments to 1000 characters, I can barely stay within 1000 words. but I'd like to continue the conversationon my blog, since we're off topic with the original article, and moreso because neither of us is talking to a schmuck. :-D If the moderators will kindly permit me to post this, you can reach me at firstname dot lastname at live dot com. Anyone else who's off topic in the direction we are - the pros and cons of pot, its effects, and legislation regarding same, are invited as well. I can create a page just for this topic within my blog on WordPress. (You don't need to be a rocket surgeon to find it, srsly.)


May the blessins of teh Ceiling Cat be upown u, srsly.
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
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