Cannabis for Catholics, Joints for Jews and Pot for Protestants

Recently I was having a discussion with a friend and colleague  who happens to share my opinion that cannabis should be legalized on all levels. I mentioned the effort in the U.S. territories. Her response during our conversation initiated some research on my part. She said that very religious states or in this case, territories are hard nuts to crack when it comes to legalization. Here is some of what I discovered during my research this past week to look at cannabis and religion

Judaism

“Also, one will beautify [Shabbat candle lighting] when the wick is made from cotton, flax or cannabis…” Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law).

Dr. Yosef Glassman, M.D. specializing in geriatrics found the above statement while on a quest for spiritual awakening many years ago. It piqued his interest. Increasing legalization has led him to investigate more fully the role of cannabis in Jewish culture and tradition. He states, Marijuana usage, is an aspect of Jewish law and tradition that had long been buried, and one that deserves “resurfacing and exploration.” He found numerous mention of cannabis in spiritual texts including the Talmud.

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.

The book, Le’Or Cannabis Passover Seder Haggadah prescribes the use of cannabis at the seder (Jewish ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt).

When it comes time to lament the Ten Plagues inflicted on Egypt, guests are meant to recite ten plagues of the failed drug war, running from “one, the criminalization of nature”to “ten, the perpetuation of violence by those sworn to protect us. I’ve been invited to seder before and I’m waiting for an invitation to one of these. If you would like a copy of the book, it can be downloaded at http://jews-and-weed.myshopify.com/ 

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993, the government is required to show a ‘compelling interest’ in order to ‘substantially burden’ a legitimate religious practice. Cannabis is a part of the Rastafarian religion. If hallucinogens like peyote (used by Native Americans) can be legal under this standard, why should more mild drugs like marijuana be any different?

Catholicism 

What about the Catholic Church? The Pontifical Council for Health Pastoral Care reported in its handbook “Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction” that consumption of the various forms of the cannabis plant cause euphoria, confusion, desire to laugh and drowsiness. Strong doses cause lethargy and upset in the perception of time, visual precision and loss of short-term memory. With high and repeated use, pot can cause palpitation, swelling of blood vessels, bronchial illnesses and psychic dependency. (Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/to-puff-or-not-to-puff/#ixzz46180MSLP). This sounds like cannabis is verboten but even the Church isn’t making a case against euphoria, laughing and drowsiness. So, we’re still confused on the moral issue of cannabis for Catholics. This reminds me of more fundamentalists beliefs that consuming alcohol is a sin. I often ask people of such beliefs why then did Jesus turn water into wine? I never get an answer to that.

If we look at the stance of the New Testament and law, Jesus was pretty clear. Give unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. In other words abide by the law. So if your state law allows cannabis, well.

To make matters even harder the handbook, Church: Drugs and Drug Addiction isn't the only commentary within the Church. Professor Hille Haker of Loyola University Chicago, is a Christian ethicist. She notes that she doesn’t wish her children to engage in drug dealing and extends that to hoping no one is influenced to be a drug pusher. I can understand that stance but a legally licensed dispensary can hardly be accused of pushing drugs. She goes on to say that alcohol, that may have similar if not worse health risks is legal then why should cannabis not be legal. Good question and again no clear understanding of the morality of cannabis use or indictment against the use because of health reasons. Bottom line? The Pope’s not producing an encyclical on pot, or at least not yet.

Protestantism 

It’s very hard to sum up the broad category of “protestants”. According to a 2013 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute, 58 percent of white mainline Protestants and 54 percent of black Protestants favor legalizing the use of cannabis. The story is a little different among white Evangelicals, almost seven-in-10 (69 percent) of white evangelical Protestants oppose it. Rev. Samuel Rodriguez,President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference is emphatically against cannabis use.

However not all Protestants are pot protestors. Mark DeMoss is a prominent spokesperson for the Evangelicals including Hobby Lobby founder, Steve Green. He is not advocating use but he is protesting mass incarceration of non-violent drug offenders. He also draws a line between marijuana use and alcohol. Alcohol is a more serious health and social problem according to Mr. De Moss.

The bottom line? My research to date is that there is no consensus. The Old Testament Christian bible has a recipe requiring six pounds of cannabis, 6.5 quarts of olive oil and an assortment of fragrant spices to be used in anointing. The Gnostic Christians through texts found in the Dead Sea scrolls believed that the anointing (actually a drenching) with this precious substance should take place prior to baptism by water. I wondered if the baptismal washing was needed to remove the residue after being covered in cannabis infused olive oil. Makes sense.

So message to our readers. Follow your own conscious and the law in your state.

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