The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. — Genesis 1:12 (ESV)
Some interpret the Bible as a guide to life. Others see it as a historical document that offers insights into the journey of one people. Yet others use the Bible for inspiration.
Because the Bible can be quite vague in places, and because much has been lost in translation over the course of countless centuries, however, many folks also simply take the Bible to be some kind of divination tool. Just like tarot cards, the Bible can be interpreted in almost any way that happens to suit you. If you wanted to, you could use the Bible to condemn or justify almost anything — and many people do exactly that.
What does the Bible say about cannabis? The cannabis-loving corners of the web are filled with articles that appear to point to passages that show that the Bible — and therewith, perhaps God himself — approves of this herb. We could just rehash those same articles, but where’s the fun in that?
What Bible Passages Do People Use to Justify Enjoying Weed?
There are quite a few. Among them are:
- “Every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit, you shall have them for food.” (Genesis 1:29)
- “Your plants are an orchard of pomegranates with choice fruits, with henna and nard, nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with every kind of incense tree, with myrrh and aloes and all the finest spices.” (Song of Songs 4:14)
- “You have not bought any fragrant calamus for me, or lavished on me the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses.” (Isaiah 43:24)
- “Take the following fine spices: 500 shekels of liquid myrrh, half as much (that is, 250 shekels) of fragrant cinnamon, 250 shekels of fragrant calamus.” (Exodus 30:23)
What’s the problem with this? Only the first passage — and the one we kicked off with, which is funnily enough not usually used to offer a Biblical justification for the enjoyment of weed — is general in nature. The others assume that a plant called “calamus”, or in the King James Version, “sweet cane” is, in fact, cannabis. Although some scholars (and cannabis lovers everywhere) believe that “calamus” is cannabis, there’s no concrete recorded evidence to support this idea.
In fact, when you translate it from Hebrew, “cane” or “reed” would be more accurate — and as a cannabis enthusiast, you well know that weed is neither. It’s just as likely that the Biblical “calamus” is sweet flag. Scientifically known as Acorus calamus, sweet flag is indeed a flagrant reed that also has psychoactive properties, though that’s a discussion for another day.
Once any reasonable doubt is cast on the idea that “calamus” is indeed marijuana, most of the arguments in favor of the idea that the Bible approves of weed use go right out the window. Sorry about that!
Back to the Roots: What Do Jewish Scholars Say About Cannabis?
It’s interesting to note that most of the Bible passages that some weed lovers take to mean that the Christian God and cannabis are perfectly compatible stem from the Old Testament. Whenever we’re talking about the Old Testament and try to understand it better, it’s always good to go back to the source — the Jewish Torah, and also the Talmud.
Even the most conservative of modern Jewish scholars, like Rabbi Yosef Glassman of the Orthodox Union (who also happens to be a medical doctor) acknowledges that the “green herb” was “native to the Sinai”. The ancient Israelites used cannabis as a bronchodilator (useful for folks with asthma) and as pain relief during childbirth, he says.
Where is Hemp Mentioned in the Bible?
Those spies in Jericho might well have hidden behind a marijuana plant, Rabbi Glassman adds, and he also says that it’s perfectly cool to make candle wicks and clothes out of hemp.
The former chief Rabbi of Egypt, commonly called the Radbaz, said that consuming cannabis offers joy and happiness. It doesn’t get more convincing than that, no?
From a similar angle, the fact that cannabinoid receptors are found pretty much all over the body can be interpreted to mean that God basically made the herb for us to enjoy and heal.
It is thanks to these and other religious interpretations that the modern Jewish state — Israel — has led the way in the legalization of cannabis for medicinal purposes, including among children who suffer from conditions that cannabis could help with.
It is the Talmud, which serves as a kind of living historic document as as well as guide to life, that has made this possible, though. The Torah, or Old Testament, has fairly little to do with these interpretations.
What About Cannabis in the New Testament?
The New Testament does report that Jesus healed a broad variety of ailments with a special ointment. Matthew 4:24 tells us that “News about Him spread all over Syria and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.”
It’s a bit of a stretch to say that cannabis can heal paralysis, but it can definitely help with chronic pain, and might help with epilepsy, too. The skin conditions Jesus is said to have healed can be relieved with cannabis, as well. It’s possible, in other words, that Jesus used cannabis to help people. There’s no definite proof either way, of course.
Herb CEO Final Thoughts
If you want to find support for the idea that the Christian Bible or the Jewish Torah approve of using cannabis, you can. If you’re on your own spiritual road of discovery, we’d suggest you read both for yourself, the entire way through. If you’re already religious or spiritual, we’d suspect that you’re more liberal in your interpretation of the Bible. In this case, you’ll be able to judge for yourself what God approves and disapproves of.
We quite like Rabbi Glassman’s version, in which he notes that cannabis is safer than most pharmaceuticals currently on the market — including the innocent Tylenol — and much safer than alcohol, too. God would want us to be safe, right?
It’s hard for folks who believe in a loving and compassionate God to think that that God would create cannabis for anything other than healing, enjoyment, and spiritual enlightenment. You don’t have to wreck your brain as you ponder whether “calamus” was weed or another plant to come to this conclusion. If God made you and God made cannabis, he surely made it exactly for you?