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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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Discussion (245)
June 22, 2016
Ask your doctor if marijuana is right for you.
Shmuel
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.
Anonymous
United Kingdom
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!)
Shmuel
Chicago
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?
Anonymous
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
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
January 20, 2016
Response to a Casual Marijuana User
Good Discussion - thank you.
Carlos Richard
Arizona
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.
Anonymous
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.
Frank
Las Vegas
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.
Leo
England
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.
Shmuel
Chicago