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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 (198)
September 14, 2014
@Ya'cov It is not necessarily the case, and it is not usually the case that raising them better does not count. I only said, it does not guarantee an outcome- my personal biggest disappointment in Hashem. I did not make free choice and I did not add mj to the equation. And I did not decree from Heaven that free choice trumps us as parents. Hashem did gave us hemp and free choice. And yes, we do agree on decriminalization! I do not think that mj is being added as a sin, and I certainly am not responsible for the choices of others. Mj is already here whether one views it as a sin or not, as is alcohol. I am not a stoner, and I have been around stoners all of my life. I was raised by an alcoholic mother, and I'd take a stoner any day over an alcoholic. My main problem is with the Prison Industrial Complex but there are not enough character spaces in one post to mention the many problems therein. I am not trying to pick a fight either, just posting my views.
Emily Jefferies
SC
September 12, 2014
@Rose
I became religious 6 years ago and went to Yeshivah I gradually gave up more and more material things and as I did I noticed an increase in G-d Consciousness. I even avoided looking at billboards. Until you really refine yourself and get rid of all the outside influences, its hard to tell another person who has not experienced that what it was like. I am not saying everyone has to do this, but if a person really wants to get a real high G-d consciousness, I highly recommend the extreme. Smoking pot gave me an increase in self consciousness. I am not saying we all need to become puritans, but pot severely disconnects a person and even though he feels this great Euphoria, the pleasure is not coming from the essence of G-d.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 12, 2014
Yaakov Mark, you try to debate issues using extremes. Did I ever say that people should eat, drink, have sex, etc. "all the time"? Sheesh!
Rose
Mercer Island
September 12, 2014
@ Anonymous to . I refer you to the 01/02/2014 Washington Post for the first legal recreational usage of jm.

Also, as far as Med Mj Torah law trumps US law as it is a life saving treatment.
Eric Holder has stated that the Feds will not interfere in CA or CO. One good thing about Obama, finally. 21 states are now onboard for Med Marijuana. Of course, big pharma is against this. They'd rather make money and kill us with side effects, generally speaking. However, 90% of the time this is the truth.
Emily Jefferies
September 11, 2014
@Emily I already said Pot ought to be decriminalized. I have first hand experience of someone who had the book thrown at them for pot back in the 90s. It wasn't right and I agree with you that its a problem our jails are filled with pot users. We ought to take jail out of the equation for both possession and sales under an ounce. But I still don't think we need another "sin" to make legal. Now we have alcohol and it has caused many problems. You want to add pot to the equation? We have not discussed getting rid of alcohol and legalizing pot instead. So therefore what you want legal is alcohol plus pot. Double the problems.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 11, 2014
@Emily that is terrible news Emily. No matter how I raise my children they will become pot smoking drug addicts? I beg to differ. I may not have children, but I have been in many houses of families that have 9 kids or more and that know how to raise children. And I have been in houses of families that don't know how to raise children and I have seen what happens. I watch closely and I have learned that if you sacrifice 100% for your children and you spend time with them and show them lots of love, they will rebel much less and they will do much of what there parents advise. When we become less of an example, the kids listen alot less. They cant stand hypocrisy and will lose respect fast. Our kids have emotional needs, and if we can be supportive of those needs, they won't need drugs.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 11, 2014
@Yaakov, please do a Nation comparison between Norway where mj is illegal and the US where it is not. I guarantee you from personal experience, no matter how you raise them free will trumps it. Then what if they choose to smoke pot, we make criminals out of them?
Emily
SC
September 11, 2014
@juris If dizziness is "proof of poison," why do children the world over spin around to make themselves dizzy? The answer:: They enjoy the experience. The way Andrew Weil put it was that humans have an innate drive to experience altered states of consciousness.

Spending a lot of time high is never a good idea, though, regardless of the nature of the intoxicant, and alcohol abuse in Chabad circles is rampant. When did Simchas Torah turn into Simchas Mashkeh? Purim, too. On Shabbos Mevorchim, get plastered and go wandering home after your family has already made kiddush and eaten. Then collapse on the sofa, unable to crack a sefer for the rest of Shabbos. And how about the development of the odious "Kiddush club," wherein a few friends chip in to buy a $60 bottle of aged single malt to drop off at shul before Shabbos, and then drink the whole thing in "their" corner of the table, without sharing the precious stuff with non-"members." People should think about this before sermonizing.
Shmuel
Chicago
September 10, 2014
My last comment was meant for a different article on pot. Sorry.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
September 10, 2014
Let it Go!
So what happens next time you lose your job or life throws rough deals in your path? You are already involved in addiction by “casually” smoking MJ—as you say! Don’t expect anyone to support your habit as an excuse for it! Either you do or you don’t! no exception excuses! Let’s face it. You are an addict and until you acknowledge it, you will not entirely recover from it or from past addictions. Let it go! Let it go! Let it go.
Feigele
Boca Raton FL
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