In my quest to help elevate the cannabis industry to the place of what I call, "Conscious Cannabis", I can think of no more important conversation to have than the morality of this plant and the religious imperative to utilize it as a force for good within the world.
To be clear, I do not invoke the Bible, religious precepts or moral and ethical issues to promote recreational use of cannabis. However, everything that follows certainly justifies the use of cannabis for recreational purposes and defends one's right to utilize cannabis to these ends. Cannabis, if done in the right way, by the right person in the right context, even for mere recreational purposes, is not only legal in many states (and should be in all states) but acceptable from a religious point of view. The use of responsible recreational cannabis is a marked improvement upon the use of recreational alcohol, recreational sugar and 1000 other unhealthy recreational things we ingest or activities we engage.
This, however, is simply not my passion, cause or concern. Humanity has plenty of recreational escapes and doesn't need this rabbi to promote yet one more - as benign as this plant happens to be.
What is a concern is that preconceptions and misconceptions around cannabis impedes the path to it becoming the life saving, earth sustaining, society changing agent it has the potential to become. This is about health and wellness, overcoming the opioid epidemic, community betterment, social justice, racial equality, prison reform, environmental stewardship and so many other critical issues at the center of our world and our lives today.
Clergy, the religious community and faith focused individuals have been misinformed, led astray, or outright duped regarding cannabis, and it is crucial that the facts surrounding this plant be made known and the half-truths, misinformation and outright lies go up in smoke.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blogs, support this work and promote this cause. Please share this with whomever you think my benefit from a little Holy Smoke, and everyone whom can help us advance the cause of Conscious Cannabis. If you are clergy, would love to engage you in a movement which I'l soon be initiating called C-Change: Clergy for Conscious Cannabis.
HOLY SMOKES: The Biblical Case For Cannabis
Here is a recent conversation I had with a fellow clergyman (a conversation I have on a regular basis).
“Rabbi, how can you promote cannabis and simultaneously promote God. It is irresponsible. It is unethical. It is antithetical to everything the Judeo-Christian ethic stands for.”
And here is what I shared.
Bible Based Bud
Knowing my colleague is steeped in the Bible I began at the beginning, or “In the beginning,” to be exact.
And God said, Let the earth sprout vegetation, seed yielding herbs and fruit trees producing fruit according to its kind in which its seed is found, on the earth, and it was so. And the earth gave forth vegetation, seed yielding herbs according to its kind, and trees producing fruit, in which its seed is found, according to its kind, and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12)
God doesn’t qualify plants. There are no asterisks next to these verses singling out cannabis as the exception to the rule. EVERY seed yielding herb. EVERY fruit producing vegetation. EVERY aspect of this plant is blessed by God. It is all good!
And God said, "Behold, I have given you every seed bearing herb, which is upon the surface of the entire earth, and every tree that has seed bearing fruit; it will be yours to consume.” (Genesis 1:29)
You can use it. You can eat it. You can even smoke it, too!
If you’re gonna read the Bible literally, then read it literally. You don’t just get to pick and choose the verses that work for you and discard those which you don’t like. Although there are many passages in the Bible which are ambiguous, this is not one which leaves any room for doubt.
High Upon The Temple Mount
Still, my clergy friend wanted more. So, we turned to the Book of Exodus and read about the “High” Priest - where all misconceptions of cannabis go up in smoke (cannabis is also referenced in other places in the Hebrew Bible):
God spoke to Moses, saying: ’Take thou also unto thee the chief spices, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty, and of kaneh-bosem two hundred and fifty…it shall be a holy anointing oil. (Exodus 30:22-25)
Although most English translations render kaneh-bosem as Sweet Myrtle or Sweet Cane or Calamus or a whole host of other translations, they are wrong. These are mis-translations which obscure the straightforward text. Kaneh-bosem. Kanebos. Cannabis. It doesn’t take a linguistic scholar, or Hebrew speaker, to hear that the simple translation is the clear translation. The Bible mentions cannabis explicitly and this is supported by numerous Biblical commentators through out the ages.
Praying With Plants
Plus, put it into context.
Long before clergy were preaching from pretty pulpits, or parishioners were worshipping in plush pews, the ancient Israelites were praying to God in far more gritty, raw and real ways than today’s typical House of Worship. The ancient Temple Mount was not for the squeamish or faint of heart. It was a place where animals were slaughtered, flesh was burnt, and sacrifices were made as the ultimate form of prayer. Our ancestor’s world was messy. Their mission was clear - to draw close to God through any means necessary and they were certainly not hung up by a harmless plant.
Lastly, there are a whole host of texts, as well as archeological evidence, pointing to the use of cannabis for numerous aspects within the ancient Israelites lives. It is mentioned in the Talmud regarding how to grow it, how to weave it into the wick of Shabbat candles, permitting it for the use of clothing, for making a tallit (prayer shawls) and tzitzit (fringes on the corners of garments symbolizing the commandments of God) and schach (the Sukkah roof used during the holiday of Sukkot - the Feast of Tabernacles).
Famous rabbis condoned it. Giants such as Maimonides, the most revered rabbi in history, and a renowned physician, prescribed it to patients. Today, even the ultra-orthodox Jewish community not only utilizes cannabis for medical purposes, but offers a rabbinic stamp of approval certifying it is “kosher” for medical use. This is because if something can be utilized to alleviate suffering, heal or save lives, it is a commandment, a divine decree, and our God given duty to partake.
Feelings, Facts & Cannabis
Feelings are feelings and rabbis, pastors or priests, along with your average Joe or Jane in the pews, have many feelings about this plant. However, feelings, though always true to the feeler, doesn’t make those feelings true. The truth is that cannabis has been around for thousands of years, has been part and parcel of every era of human history, and has even had a place within religious life. Cannabis is not only defensible from a religious perspective, but when utilized by the right person, at the right times and for the right reasons, can even achieve the status of holiness.
Those, my friends, are the facts. And that, my fellow clergymen, is what can transform this wholly misunderstood plant into Holy Smokes!