It’s high time we took a fresh look at cannabis law reform. Last month in Michigan the first ID cards were sent to those approved to use cannabis for medical reasons. Now it looks like Ohio is catching the ‘yellow fever’ and following suit. The evidence seems to suggest that controlled use of cannabis minimizes the symptoms and pain of Alzheimer’s, Lung, Breast and Brain cancer, and HIV/Aids. It may not be a silver bullet, but it seems to help.
So how do we balance marijuana's effectiveness with any potential moral issues? Leaving aside the issue of whether individuals have a right to buy/ sell and use ‘wacky terbacky’, the central question is whether regulated doses of ‘giggle weed’ can put a little giggle back into the lives of suffering people.
This is a spiritual issue as it gets to the heart of what is essential; being right or treating people right. It is usually debated as a matter of right and wrong as prescribed in the Bible. Yet the Bible says nothing clear about the use of ‘hippie lettuce’.
Presumably hemp was among the ‘useful herbs’ created on the third day and deemed good, but you would have to be stoned to use Genesis 1 as evidence for or against cannabis use. Presumably when Isaiah saw the Lord ‘high and lifted up’, he wasn’t referring to God in a purple haze. Its possible that Ezekiel was referring to cannabis as his ‘special plant’, “I will raise up for them a plant of renown, and they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land.” But whether the Israelites got the munchies or not doesn’t seem particularly relevant to today’s conversation about cannabis reform.
Broadening out the discussion across many traditions, it seems that cannabis has a long and divine history. Indra’s favorite drink was made from hemp. Shiva commanded that the word “bhangi” must be chanted repeatedly during sowing, weeding and harvesting of the holy plant. Some suggest that the early Christians used hemp oil for medicinal, baptismal and ritual purposes. Mystics of many stripes have used cannabis to deepen their spiritual consciousness.
Cannabis may have some spiritual benefit in terms of heightened experience of the mysteries of life. Personally, I have no health reason to use cannabis, and I prefer inner forms of spiritual awareness to drug induced mysticism. But this is also beyond the discussion about medicinal marijuana.
The spiritual issue is one of principle rather than precedent. It’s less relevant whether religious people have used cannabis in the past, and more relevant to respond with compassion in the present context.
Where does compassion reside in the balance between prohibition and regulation? Where is the compassionate balance between zero tolerance and harm minimization? The spiritual journey asks you to consider if you expect the world to be perfect, and how flexible you are in the face of imperfection. The Christian story of God becoming flesh and blood is a powerful affirmation of the fallible human journey. The story of Jesus is full of instances where he opted for harm minimization over zero tolerance.
For instance, think of the woman caught in adultery and Jesus turning the tables on her judges who wanted her stoned.
There is something more important than being right, and that is treating people right. There is a standard more satisfying than perfection, and that is loving what is unfolding. There is something more liberating than adhering to impossible standards of perfection and harsh judgment, and that is forgiveness. There is something more compassionate and realistic in the case of medical marijuana than zero tolerance and that is harm minimization.
What do you think? Should you be able to smoke a joint to ease the pain in your joints without ending up in the joint? Should you be able to ‘puff the magic dragon’ to quench the inner dragons without ending up in a land called “now you’re not free”?