Most of my friends are Jewish. Not all of them, but a lot of the time I’m the only goyim. It came as no surprise to me then when I read this article by the Jewish Daily Forward. It gives a nice run down of the rabbinical view on marijuana; especially pot in American society, where in most cases it’s still illegal. There are two sides to the argument, so there isn’t a mandate one way or the other, which is confusing just to write, so imagine what it’s like for any orthodox potheads out there? Oye! We try to piece it together after the jump.
From what I understand these are the two sides to the argument:
1) Jewish law teaches you to do what you can to alleviate human suffering:
In November, Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a rosh yeshiva, or dean, at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and professor of Jewish medical ethics at the college, told the Yeshiva University student newspaper, The Observer, that Jewish law permits the use of medical marijuana in certain circumstances. Another prominent Orthodox rabbi, Sholom Kamenetsky of the Talmudical Yeshiva of Philadelphia, provided “halachic overview” to a paper posted on the Website jlaw.com that concluded that “there probably are select cases in which [Judaism] would permit the distribution of medical marijuana.”
2) On the other side of the argument is a Jewish law against self-harm, which can be thought to argue against medical marijuana since it’s a carcinogen producing plant when smoked. Jewish law also stipulates that since the Jewish people have been forced to flee into other countries in order to escape persecution, they are beholden to the laws of that new land, which includes marijuana being illegal:
Halachic questions about medical marijuana usually hinge on the Jewish prohibition against self-harm, as well as on the commentator Rashbam’s instructions in the Talmud to avoid any medication “unless there is no alternative available.” In states where medical marijuana is illegal, there is also the principle of dina d’malkhuta dina, or “the law of the land is the law”: Jews living in the Diaspora must be good citizens of the country in which they live.
So where does that leave the debate? They sum it up for us nicely in the article.
“Any evaluation of our literature would say relieving their pain would take precedence,” Tendler said. “Therefore, if indeed marijuana is the only solution to their problem, to relieve them of their pain, then it certainly would be permitted.
I think America can learn a lot from the informed debate going on in the Jewish community, and re-evaluate the laws we have imposed that imprison medical marijuana offenders. I guess there’s an implicit reason I have a lot of Jewish friends, they have a better read on the world than my fellow Christians do sometimes.
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