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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 (58)
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
March 3, 2014
re: addiction and withdrawal
@Yaakov - I agree with you 100% on recreational pot. And I know the differences of addiction and withdrawal. I had my knee replaced near end last Aug. I limited my oxycontin to one a day and refused the 2nd; and I vaped or ate MMJ to help sleep. (Opioids not only prevent you from REM sleep, they cork up your tuchis worse than matzoh. Guttenyu!) I stopped the oxy on a Saturday. When I got up the next day to watch the NFL pre-game shows: 0900-PST. Showered, put on Manning jersey. All of a sudden I felt like I was standing naked in a blizzard. There was nothing I could do to warm up. I've had 2 heart attacks, I thought this was the big one, GF. 911, ambulance, ER, CVU. Doctors were puzzled; as all my tests were negative. Next morning I felt just fine; my PCP and two cardiologists met in my room and decided it was drug withdrawal. After less than 3 weeks, at 1/2 dose a day, I wasn't addicted, but no way I would take another pill. Hence I wasn't addicted, but my body was. 1 note follows.
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
March 2, 2014
Drunk au Natural
@Warren Levine You make good points regarding medical marijuana and its uses. They are coming out with many good uses for it. My argument is with recreational use. You confuse the word addiction(1.a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble)2. an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something) with the word withdrawal(the syndrome of often painful physical and psychological symptoms that follows discontinuance of an addicting drug).

Marijuana has some withdrawal, but not much. But it is highly addicting. One of the reasons it is so addicting is people do not see the negative effects for many years. All they see is the good. And it feels so great that people tend to do it alot. They have a bad day, they run to it because they "need" it.

Now some people might not think the effects are so bad. For me, the types of effects it has are horrible. Just my opinion. I can explain further later.
Yaakov Mark
Los angeles
March 2, 2014
You contradicted yourself pretty badly
If G-D is perfect, how could He have created anything by accident?
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
February 28, 2014
Time and Place
If you are actively pursuing Him you should be pure because he is pure. Even highly organized communities struggle with temptation, if you don't have a minion- good luck.
I guess it was His mistake to accidently create a substance that would effect us in such a manor. It is a diversion for those staying at home.
Mark McKinney
February 26, 2014
Putting it simply
1. If we're supposed to be straight and level-headed, why the alcohol-fest on Purim? So you get drunk enough to confuse "Long live Mordechai" and "Down with Haman"?? That's real good when you have to get drunk to read liturgy.
2. Marijuana is safer than ___________
Fill in the blank with anything you ingest. It will make for a true statement.
Warren S Levine
Bellingham, Washington
centreforjudaism.ca
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