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 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 is the Jewish standpoint on this issue?
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—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. 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