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cannabis religions 300


"Cannabis & Five Major World Religions"

We know that cannabis has been around for time immemorial – by which I mean our knowledge of cannabis extends beyond the reach of memory, record, or tradition. According to the DEA museum, the first written record of cannabis was from 2727 B.C.E when a Chinese Emperor wrote about it. Cannabis was also consumed in Ancient Greek and Roman times, and in the Middle East (including the Islamic empire and North Africa). The DEA notes that cannabis came to the new world with the Spanish, where it was used for its fiber; in North American early Americans used cannabis for rope, paper, and clothing creation. Because cannabis is a hardy crop, it has and does grow wild in many parts of the world, in both its hemp and marijuana forms. Marijuana was given the name cannabis sativa by Carl Linnaeus, the Father of Taxonomy; he spent years identifying, naming, and classifying the world’s living organisms including plants, animals, bacteria, and fungi. Over thousands of years, marijuana and hemp have been used in many religious ceremonies, for healing, and to alleviate both pain and grief. This article will look at cannabis through the ages in five of the world’s major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Cannabis & Hinduism

Hinduism may be the religion most closely tied to cannabis consumption and use in the history of the world. According to Psychology Today, one of the earliest mention of cannabis in the world was found in the Vedas, sacred Hindu texts. We believe the Vedas may have been created as early as 2000 or 1400 B.C.; essentially people began recording information about cannabis about 10,000 years back. The Vedas names cannabis as one of five sacred plants, and Hindu people believed that a guardian angel lived in its leaves. In the Vedas, cannabis is also known as the joy-giver, the liberator, and a source of happiness that was given to people from the gods. The Hindu gods wanted people to use cannabis to be delighted in the world and to lose their fear. This might sound familiar…cannabis is known to relieve anxiety, and make many experiences more tactile and enjoyable, from eating to listening to music. Cannabis is called bhang in India, and is associated with the powerful god Shiva in the Hindu pantheon. There is a legend about how Shiva discovered the cannabis plant: he got in a family disagreement and wandered off to be alone in the hills. When fell asleep under a leafy cannabis plant, and sampled some upon awakening. The plant rejuvenated him, and he made it his favorite food. Shiva is also known as the Lord of Bhang. People in India oftern drink cannabis drinks with boiled milk and other ingredients like nuts, spice, and sugar. Bhang is also rolled into small balls and eaten. Charas is a preparation made from the flower of the cannabis plant, and contains resin like hash. Charas and hash are consumed from a chillum (and earthenware pipe). Today, Shaivite yogis, ascetics, and sadhus often consume cannabis for enlightenment.

Cannabis & Buddhism

Buddhism is a religion that focuses on purity, balance, and reality. Buddhism helps develop awareness, kindness, and wisdom through practices like meditation, eventually leading to Enlightenment in which reality is seen clearly and life is lived to the fullest. Buddhism has principles of training that are generally followed by religious believers, which include the Five Precepts. These precepts are a basic ethical code that followers adhere to. The Precepts prohibit harming living things, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and intoxication. The Fifth Precept is abstaining from drink and drugs that cloud the mind, which allows for mindfulness and awareness. Some would argue that cannabis can extend mindfulness and awareness in humanity, however, and so there are many Buddhists who might abstain from alcohol and still consume cannabis on occasion. There is no doubt that hemp was used prolifically in China by emperor Shen Nung, and I found mention of its use in combination with ginseng to “set forward time in order to reveal future events.” I don’t know if cannabis can help you tell the future, but you may feel like it can at times!

Cannabis & Judaism

A renowned doctor in Boston, one Yosef Glassman, found this is the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) while he was studying one day:

Also, one will beautify [Shabbat candle lighting] when the wick is made from cotton, flax, or cannabis…

Following this discovery, he set out on a quest to find out when and if cannabis was used in ancient Jewish times for medicinal purposes. During his research, the good doctor discovered that cannabis was used for several rituals, clothing (according to the Talmud), and for making roof coverings. Glassman also found that cannabis was not consumed during Passover, although hemp seeds were since they are not intoxicating. Glassman’s curiosity has turned into a lecture series, and he says “The goal is to educate practitioners on the rich cultural history behind the use of cannabis as a medicine, explain its mechanism of action, and dispel myths about its safety profile.” Glassman found mention of cannabis in the Book of Numbers 17:12-13 where a High Priest and Aaron most likely burned cannabis as an incense offering; directions from God to Moses to “take for yourself herbs b’samim” meaning medicinal herbs; and in Exodus where ‘keneh bosem’ is mentioned and may refer to cannabis. The Song of Songs, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel also have mentions of this plant. An archaeological find 1,623 years old consisted of a 14-year-old girl in Israel with hashish in her stomach, possibly for childbirth pain.

Cannabis & Christianity

Christianity and Judaism are inextricably linked, and so the mentions of cannabis in the Bible also apply to Christianity. Christianity is one of the major religions in the United States, where the wave of cannabis legalization is allowing Christians and people of all religions to re-evaluate their beliefs surrounding the medicinal plant. Short of out-dated and outlandish classifications of cannabis as “the demon weed,” acceptance of cannabis as a healing plant is happening more and more often. I found this interesting article about a clergyman and one of his congregation, and the clash over legal medicinal marijuana, the law, and the teachings of Christianity. As the author, one Ben Tertin notes, “If you’re a Washington or Colorado pastor, you can already legally fire up a reefer at your next staff retreat.” Tertin even asks, “Would Jesus smoke?” Good question, Tertin. Chris Bennett, a High Times writer, found evidence that Jesus may have used kaneh-bosem in his holy anointing oil – there’s actually a recipe in Exodus which calls for six pounds of the “sweet cane.” Bennett determined that “respected etymologists, linguists, anthropologists, botanists, and other researchers” believe that sweet cane is actually cannabis. (If you say the two versions of the word out loud, you can even hear the similarity! Try it with me, now, “kaneh-bosum” and “cannabis”! Extraordinary.) Professor Carl P. Ruck of Boston University teaches classical mythology, and believes that cannabis, peyote, and psilocybin were all instrumental in the origins of nearly every major world religion, including Christianity.

Cannabis & Islam

The Islamic faith refers to the Quran for questions about cannabis use, and Sayyid Ali Khamenei (the head of the Islamic Republic of Iran) noted that marijuana and hashish are haram, meaning they are religiously forbidden for consumption or any business dealings. As many of us know, marijuana and hashish are considered intoxicants by many of the world’s religions, including Islam, and forbidden for this reason. But what about medicinal use, or non-psychoactive use, as in the case of hemp CBD oil and hemp fibers used for clothing and textiles? Surely if the cannabis is not psychoactive, then it should be allowed, right? When asked if cannabis could be used for the treatment of diseases, Sayyid Khamenei replied that “there is no objection to is provided that the treatment and the eventual recovery are dependent on its use” and it’s prescribed by a “trustworthy physician.”

In an article in The Arab American, the author noted that “marijuana smoking is a recreational activity for many local Arab and Muslim Americans in Dearborn, Michigan. Cannabis smokers are often called “hashash” which means dope fiend or high person – this title can bring shame and humiliation to Muslims. In the article, a devoted Muslim who prays five times a day hides her cannabis consumption from friends and family due to judgment. She uses it to relieve pain and anxiety, and notes that smoking a hookah, something accepted in her community is much worse than a marijuana smoking. There is no specific mention of cannabis in the Quran. But Islam itself does not approve of cannabis use as an intoxicant, and many of its followers condemn it as well, but, as in the other four religions mentioned here, medical cannabis is often a different story.

Well – there you have it! Quick rundown of the history of cannabis and religion – if you do a little (real) research, you may find more mentions of cannabis in spiritual texts and historical archives; there is no doubt that a prolific and medicinal plant such as cannabis was used in many, many religious rituals and just for basic living needs, like clothing, healing, shelter creation, and textiles. Why should it be any different today?

Julie K Godard

About Julie Godard:

Julie, a guest blogger of Green Lotus Hemp Products, is a strong advocate of cannabis, both in medical and recreational forms, for expanding our knowledge of medicine, culture, and the reality of our planet. She is an experienced freelance writer, content strategist, and cannabis industry researcher with a deep concern for social welfare and love of scientific discovery.


 Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All of GLH products are sold as nutritional supplements, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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