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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 much more 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, 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. 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 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—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.
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.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (216)
September 23, 2014
Two (or more) wrongs don't make a right!
No questions about it! It is and has been done for thousand years and everywhere on earth. But that doesn’t make it right! I don’t know what and if the Bible says anything about it. If I believe some of the Bible guidances, I certainly don’t know it all--same for everyone else. What I really believe is that the bible advises to not hurt anyone or yourself voluntarily by any means, unless you are in danger, and taking drug is, unless used for medical reasons. Of course, I’m sure it relaxes you so much that you are more opened to communication but is it really rational one? Or is it induced by the drug, which in normal times might not be the person’s real intent at all. It is not a natural state of mind. I am not criticizing anyone for doing so, I’m just expressing my views on this subject.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
September 22, 2014
Feigele, people have been getting high for 5000 years plus. if you look at other cultures, people get high. In Yemen, they chew the Ghat leaves, in the Pacific islands, they have one form or another of the Betel nut, South America, India, everywhere people do get high. The question is what does Judaism say, is it a good idea to 'just get high', assuming that there is no medical need. I would say, that if someone was going to learn Torah or do some community or other Mitzvah, and then consumed some Cannabis, and decided to watch Tv, then I agree that is trashy, from Judaism perspective. But for some cases Cannabis helps in Judaism. And also, not all cannabis consumers means that they don't want to converse and hang out with you. In some cases, the opposite, for many people cannabis helps to stimulate conversation and closeness. It all depends. We are seeing that not everyone who tries cannabis ends up with it throughout their lives, it's not everyone's cup of tea.
Adamster
Glen Rock
September 22, 2014
Adamster I think that is probably what will end up happening. That medical is legalized federally and that it will be more controlled as medicine. Hopefully they will allow us the medical technology from places like Israel in relation to Cannabis.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 22, 2014
Leave me alone, dont bother me!
Of course it has to do everything with drug why this kid was killed. Stone or not, he knew he had possession of an illegal drug in his pocket and he panicked, and that’s the reason he flew from the cops, otherwise no other reasons to run. But, there were no reasons for the cops to shoot at him and kill him. Why don’t they ever shoot in the legs if they have to? We need more medicines, if no cures, for lots of diseases and suffering and if extracting CBD from Cannabis can help, then be it, I’m sure G-d would give his blessing to alleviate people’s pain. But where I don’t agree, is taking drugs for pleasure only when you can find other ways to enjoy yourself without getting high and in the clouds, while people around you cannot reach you. It is a very selfish way to tell people, I’m not here for you so leave me alone, don't bother me.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
September 22, 2014
Med/Mj and Adult Recreational Use is Already Here
Well, medical mj use is here as is Adult Recreational Use. DC and 20 states have some form of legalized mj usage. Within 5 years the market will increase by two more medical mj states and 8 more adult recreational use states. The Feds have stated that bc CO has implemented the proper regulatory system, they will respect the state's sovereignty. The legal markets are at 1.44 B - the illegal market is at 30 B. We want to see the 30 billion move over to the legal markets. CO has in place a Revenue Department for Marijuana and the industry is exploding. People will make their choices and live with expected or unexpected consequences of their choices, which is their right under the Constitution, and in the Torah. We can far better place controls on dosage and quality of mj within the legal community. It is what it is, whether one likes it or not. It is here.
Emily Jefferies
September 19, 2014
I wish to correct one thing, when I say pretty much whoever wants it can get it, this is not true at all. I just this week communicated with an 80 year old woman, suffering from arthritis, she mentioned that she tried Cannabis recently for first time and it was very helpful, but she has no supply method. Many older, and also not everyone is willing to take the risk for sure. For the sake of medical efficacy alone, Jewish tradition would support legalization. Because many states will not do medical, or in the case of NJ, make it fake and fraudulent. Or states are now doing 'CBD oil only', also a sham. So we need to have federal legalization. But we don't get that but we can vote and decide as a state. But yes, it should be done on a Federal, global level so that sick people do not have to suffer, end of story. And most usage is medical over a certain age for certain.
adamster
glen rock
September 19, 2014
Glen, I am sorry that kid died, but that had nothing to do with marijuana, did it? That had to do with him running from the cops. How did they even know what he had on him, and moreover, maybe if he wasnt stoned, maybe then he wouldnt of run from the cops.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 18, 2014
Yaacov Mark, You realize that illegality causes more problems than it solves?
there are people who have been killed in trying to procure this. A kid in Brooklyn 2 years ago, had some on him, was being followed by police and ran, eventually they shot him dead. This is not the only wasted death. Decrim does not solve the black market problem, many deaths and violence. If I find that it gives me an improved quality of life, what is it your business, that is the part I don't get. Who are you to lecture me? You decide to be very G-d centered in your way, and I in mine. Maybe try to just accept people that do something you don't like. More people consuming is your main fear it seems. Well, if its alchohol users we are better off. Pretty much, your regular users are already here. we aren't talking about that many more. pretty much, anyone can get this. And the medical benefits are well known. If it helps people, is less harmful than alchohol, tobacco, and gambling, I can't understand ur issue
adams
glen rock
September 18, 2014
@Yaacov Mark. what danger? there is betterment for society. In states with strong medical MJ programs, and legality, opioid overdoes deaths are seeing a drop. this is for legitimate patients. Less road fatalities in Colorado. less crime in Colorad0, 10000 jobs there. whatever danger you report, is there ever a point where the good outweighs the bad? please list the danger.
adams
glen roc
September 18, 2014
@Yaakov
No, I'm not equating the "highs." But to insist that judicious use of psychedelics can't yield lasting spiritual benefits flies in the face of reality. Set and setting are crucial, of course, and one who uses these substances merely to "party" is wasting them, as well as his own time. (If you found no benefit in them, it might be due to the way you used them.) As to their use being a "sin," please spare me the puritanism.

In a liquor store, I can find a dangerous and addictive drug in hundreds, if not thousands, of forms, flavors, and concentrations. It's a drug that's commonplace at farbrengens and kiddushes, despite the fact that (in my experience, anyway) it yields no spiritual benefit whatsoever. A person's p'nimius does come out -- when he barfs it onto the floor.

As for the kollel welfare system, public support to learn used to be the province of exceptional talmidei chachomim. Now every mediocre guy feels entitled to it. The system has been perverted.
Shmuel
Chicago
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