In 1970, the US federal government classified Cannabis as a Schedule I substance, meaning that it has a high potential for abuse and no established medical use. Since 1998, medical marijuana has become legal in twenty-four states and four additional states have legalized recreational use. Israel has established itself as the world leader in medical cannabis research. Currently, over 20,000 Israelis are prescribed cannabis for medical purposes.
Which leads to our question, "Are Jews allowed to inhale?"
Semitic etymologist Sula Benet, of the Institute of Anthropological Sciences in Warsaw, has indicated the origin to be the Hebrew word קַנַּבּוֹס (qannabbôs) kaneh bosm. "The astonishing resemblance between the Semitic kanbos and the Scythian cannabis lead me to suppose that the Scythian word was of Semitic origin. These etymological discussions run parallel to arguments drawn from history. The Iranian Scythians were probably related to the Medes, who were neighbors of the Semites and could easily have assimilated the word for hemp. The Semites could also have spread the word during their migrations through Asia Minor."---- Sara Bentowa 1936
Forward Interview With Dr. Yosef Glassman MD in Newton MA
(also a mohel and former IDF lieutenant)
Marijuana usage is an aspect of Jewish law and tradition that has long been buried, and one that deserves resurfacing and exploration. There is no question that the plant has a holy source, God himself, and is thus mentioned for several ritualistic purposes. It is clear that using cannabis for clothing and accessories was very common, according to the Talmud, it was used for making tallit and tzitzit, as well as schach (Sukkah roof).” Glassman also found that cannabis fit into the category of kitniyot on Passover, meaning that Ashkenazi Jews were prohibited from using it on the holiday. “One thus might assume that it was also consumed, perhaps as food, during the remainder of the year,” he said, noting that hemp seeds are a non-intoxicating form of protein...
Glassman’s research revealed that cannabis may have been used as an anesthetic during childbirth in ancient Israel; he described an archaeological discovery of hashish in the stomach of the 1,623-year-old remains of a 14-year-old girl in Beit Shemesh. Maimonides was also an advocate of using cannabis oil for ailments such as colds and ear problems. “There are complex laws of plant mixing and hybridizing from the Talmud, which Maimonides comments on,” said Glassman. “Cannabis specifically was taken especially seriously in terms of mixing … and could, in fact, incur the death penalty. This shows me that apparently, cannabis was treated quite seriously.” http://forward.com/articles/188881/doctor-cannabis/
Incense Rituals of Nomadic "Scythian" Tribes - Mediterranean and Eurasia
"After burial of the dead, those engaged in it have to purify themselves, which they do in the following way. First they soap and wash their heads; then, in order to cleanse their bodies: they make a booth by fixing in the ground three sticks inclined towards one another, and stretching around them woollen felts, which they arrange so as to fit as close as possible: inside the booth a dish is placed upon the ground, into which they put a number of red-hot stones, and then add some hemp-seed.
Hemp grows in Scythia: it is very like flax; only that it is a much coarser and taller plant: some grows wild about the country, some is produced by cultivation: the Thracians make garments of it which closely resemble linen...
The Scythians take some of this hemp-seed, and, creeping under the felt coverings, throw it upon the red-hot stones; immediately it smokes, and gives out such a vapor as no Grecian vapor-bath can exceed; the Scyths, delighted, shout for joy...”
- The History of Herodotus 440 B.C.E, written during the 2nd Temple Period
“Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye said before his departure that he asked God to credit him for all the Torah and mitzvot of his entire life, with the same value he gave to the great Baal Shem Tov's heavenly thoughts (yichudim) when he smoked his pipe.”
- Ibn Mardachya,
“One day Rabbi David, head of the Ostrow Jewish Court was shown by the Baal Shem Tov the new heavens that had been created by his thoughts while smoking. Rabbi David fell into a faint from the awe and fear that the sight inspired in him."
- Ibn Mardachya
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein Teshuvah on Marijuana
“It is obviously forbidden to smoke marijuana, as this violates many basic laws of our Torah. First of all, it physically injures the person. Even if there are people who are not physically affected by this, it mentally affects the person as it destroys his mind, and prevents him from understanding things properly.
This is a terrible thing, since not only can the individual not properly study Torah, he also can not pray and properly perform Mitzvos (commandments), since doing them mindlessly is considered as if they were not done at all.
Furthermore, he is creating within himself a very strong desire (addiction?), which is much stronger than the desire to eat, etc. which are necessary for a person to live.
There are many that can not control and withstand this desire.
This is a very grave prohibition, as we find that a Ben Sorer U’Moreh [is killed] (See Deut. 21:18) for creating within himself a very strong desire, even though it is to eat Kosher food! How much more so it is forbidden for a person to bring upon himself an even greater desire, especially for something that a person does not need at all…
this is one of the grave prohibitions, and everyone must try with all of their strength to remove this impurity (Tuma’ah) from all Children of Israel.”
(Igros Moshe, Yoreh De’ah Vol. 3, Siman 35)
Forward Interview With Dr. Yosef Glassman MD in Newton MA
In Israel medical marijuana has been legal since the early 1990s. International cannabis research today is largely based on the 1960s research of Jerusalem-based professors Raphael Mechoulam and Yechiel Gaoni, who isolated the active ingredient of hashish and its psychoactive component, tetrahydrocannabinol, as well as the natural human analog to THC, anandamide, which the body produces. In the past decade, Israeli scientists developed a strain of marijuana without THC. According to Glassman, the Israeli government funds the research on medical marijuana, which today benefits some 12,000 Israeli patients and is grown on eight farms for a state-run medical cannabis distribution center.
“I think that cannabis is a wonderful solution for someone to control pain without the addictive nature of painkillers, and with a much better safety profile. Science aside, the greatest of medications allow the Infinite to penetrate the inner workings of the body and soul,” Dr. Glassman explained. “This is likely the overriding benefit that cannabis provides, and probably why it has so many different healing properties.”
"You know, it's a funny thing, Every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob? What is the matter with them? I suppose it is because most of them are psychiatrists."
—President Richard Milhous Nixon
Because of marijuana’s clear medical benefits, the Orthodox Union, which has rejected kosher certification requests from cigarette and e-cigarette manufacturers on health grounds, “would not have a problem certifying” medical marijuana, Elefant said.
Marijuana is a plant and therefore kosher certification is not necessary for the cannabis itself. But in New York State, where companies are vying for up to five licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana, patients will not be allowed to smoke pot, so they will have to ingest it in other ways — such as capsules, food or drinks, which will require kosher certification for Orthodox patients. http://forward.com/news/215113/medical-marijuana-may-soon-get-kosher-stamp-of-app/#ixzz3dlQC4vbe
Le’Or, founded about a year ago with seed funding from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap Company, wants to convince American Jews that ending marijuana prohibition belongs on the progressive Jewish communal agenda alongside marriage equality and immigration reform.
“Our goal is to erode the stigma, so that the Jewish community at large can see that supporting marijuana legalization is not just the right thing to do, it’s the Jewish thing to do,” said Roy Kaufmann, who founded Le’Or with his wife, Claire.
The Oregon governor’s speechwriter by day, the Israeli-born Kaufmann, 36, is a staunch opponent of America’s decades-long War on Drugs. Launched by Nixon in the 1970s and expanded during the Reagan era, the ongoing drug war has resulted in an unprecedented number of U.S. citizens — and a disproportionate number of African-American males — being sent to prison for drug-related offenses.
Rabbi Simon Jacobson:
1. “The Torah doesn’t tackle legalization of substances, but the Torah does one simple thing: It shares with us the deepest, highest, most intoxicating and powerful substance out there – the soul (and the mitzvahs that guide its journey in this world). The Torah tells each one of us: “You, you, and you are the most beautiful, handcrafted-by-God, living machine out there. Operate it and drive it as it was meant to be operated and driven. By connecting to the highest, you will become high yourself. Best of all, you can get this drug over the counter. No prescription necessary. You have the deepest deep, the highest high; do not spoil it by getting artificially high or deep… But then, you might ask: What about the mitzvah of drinking on Purim or Passover, or other holidays? ... As Jews we can get high whether or not marijuana is legal. As Jews we can get high by connecting to the highest thing, and by ingesting the most intoxicating substance out there – our own soul, a literal spark of the Divine flame that is God.”
2. “The essential problem with inducing a (spiritual) high through foreign substances is threefold: 1) It is driven by personal desire, and therefore 2) you have not earned your right of entry, and 3) it will not be integrated into daily life. It will be an escape.
And this is precisely the reason why foreign substances are addictive and take control of your life. As their name implies, they and the altered states of consciousness they induce are foreign substances – a “strange fire” – which don’t belong to you. For a brief, but temporary moment they have the power to transport you to another place. But you don’t belong there and you have not earned your way. Having not paid your fare, the “strange fire” will come back to collect the debt: It will take control of your life until it consumes you.
3. “Spirituality, the spiritual high, is a permanent state of being that lies beneath the surface of existence. The “container” can be artificially forced open with a “strange fire” (foreign substances), but only temporarily. No single act can be done to access the spiritual truths within; no magic can open up your soul. When you selflessly dedicate your life to a higher cause, when you transcend your ego and strip away the forces of material self-interest that impedes access to your soul within, then the spiritual will emerge. The operative word is emerge. You don’t create it, you don’t induce it, you don’t import it; you eliminate the weeds and the flower emerges.”
4. “Even when using healthy and natural methods and means to achieve spiritual highs, the key lies in your actual attitude and drive: If transcendence becomes another extension of yourself, and is driven by your need or desire to get high, then even if you use healthy methods, ultimately transcendence will elude you. Only when you realize that you have to let go – let go of your drives, needs and even hunger – then the spiritual high will emerge. And then, its will also be an integrative experience instead of an escape. It will open you up to spiritual freedom, instead of becoming an addictive monkey on your back.”