Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Legalizing Marijuana: If You Will It, It Is No Dream

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 26 at 8:00pm is the panel discussion in Kresge Town Hall entitled "Legalize it? Pros, Cons, and the Jewish Perspective." What do you guys think?

It's funny, I heard when they were trying to find people to be on this panel, they couldn't find a single person in opposition to the legalization of marijuana in some form. That's Santa Cruz for you. No, but seriously.

Truth be told, one of my first experiences being at Santa Cruz all those four years ago had to do with pot, during the first week of school. It was September 17th, 2002, and word had been spreading around the Merrill dorms that the Santa Cruz City Council was going to be giving away free medicinal marijuana from the steps of City Hall in protest to the federal government's bust of a small medical marijuana farm.

Of course I showed up. Not to receive any pot, mind you, but because I was absolutely incredulous that such rumors could be true. So first I had to find the place, which wasn't too hard seeing as how there was a huge crowd and news vans and live music (Santa Cruz, what do you expect?). So everyone was milling around before the pot-giving would take place. I soon found out that only card-holding patients would be receiving the goods, but yes indeed, free pot would be given out. It was worth milling around just to see it happen--City Council giving out free pot in public from the steps of City Hall, with police protection. What a trip.

At one point, I noticed someone darting in and out of the crowd, leaning in to people as he passed them, holding a basket of something. I realized it was a basket of cookies, and he was distributing to whomever wanted one. Now, I don't want to say this guy looked like a stoner, but he had a certain glimmer in his eye, a certain jolly, almost nymph-like mischievous look on his face. As he approached me, he leaned in and with a furtive grin, whispered, "Pot cookies." Now, this was a particular situation that I was completely not ready for. A situation like this didn't exist in my reality at the time. I made a number of quick assumptions to make up for my extreme confusion, took a cookie, nodded and gave a small smile of 'thanks,' as he moved along leaning in and offering his cookies to others in the crowd.

I stood in slight shock, trying to figure out what was going on. I reasoned that, first of all, no one would give away a real pot cookie. They would sell it for sure. And anyway, who would be brash enough to go around in public offering, indiscriminately to give away pot cookies? What if there were undercover police, or narks, or something (remember, I was a freshman)? So, I figured it wouldn't hurt to eat the cookie, and so I did. Well, I'm not going to write what happened after that here. You'll have to ask me yourself for that. But just so you know it all really happened, check out the pics
here and read an article about it here.

And come to the event to find out what Judaism has to say about it.

3 Comments:

Blogger JewSlug said...

I am really not going to say at this moment whether I believe marijuana should be legal or not...there are many factors that need to be considered in order to make that decision, including economic, social, and political ones, which I do not purport to know much about. However, I do know that smoking marijuana can be extremely beneficial, whether one has a serious illness or not. I'm excited to hear what will be said at the discussion tomorrow night.

Wed Jan 25, 11:44:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Fedora Black said...

In the debate over whether marijuana should be legalized or not, marijuana is often compared to alcohol in terms of its effects and use. Proponents of legalizing marijuana will argue that if a mild recreational drug such as alcohol is freely available, then marijuana should be freely available too. This argument is powerful in secular terms, but I don't think that marijuana and alcohol can be so readily compared when one views the matter from a Jewish perspective.

Alcohol plays an important part in Jewish rituals. We sanctify Shabbos and Yom Tov over a cup of wine, we drink on Purim until we no longer can tell the difference between "blessed is Mordechai" and "cursed is Haman", and we lift a glass and shout "L'Chaim" in times of joy. The wedding blessings are said over a cup of wine, and this is in a sense the first meal the couple shares together, as they drink from the same cup. A baby boy is given a few drops of wine after his bris. And we drink four cups of wine to celebrate our freedom on Pesach. Even non-wine alcohol have a place in Judaism, with beverages such as vodka being a regular part of farbrengens, a Rebbe's tish, and simchas. As one Chassidic rabbi told me, "Why do Jews drink vodka? Because it symbolizes the Jewish people: it won't freeze when the area around it is dead and cold. It remains fluid and mobile."

It is doubtful that marijuana could ever take the place of alcohol in any of theses situations, despite the fact that the plant and its properties have been known for thousands of years. Rabbi Arye Kaplan, of blessed memory, has even suggested in his "Living Torah" that one of the herbs mentioned in the Torah is cannabis.

Furthermore, when we drink wine, enjoy a beer, or down a shot of vodka, we say a blessing and invoke G-d's name in acknowledgment that we are deriving benefit and pleasure from His creations. Drinking or eating something actually gives us a moment to connect to G-d. There is, however, no blessing said on smoking pot, or anything else for that matter, and if one were to eat the pot, one would still not say a blessing because of its lack of a pleasant taste. Even if one eats ganja cookies or pot brownies, which would seem to require a blessing, one is really just saying a blessing over the cookie or brownie part, not the pot.

Of course, alcohol can be abused just as marijuana can, and sadly is, even by our fellow Jews. According to halacha, one may not drink on Purim if one knows that one cannot control oneself. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov often writes about the evils of alcohol consumption that is not done for the purpose of G-dliness, and I have been told that the Lubavitcher Rebbe placed a limit to how much his Chassidim could drink at farbrengens and simchas.
Yet while both can be abused, only alcohol can also be readily sanctified.

Thu Jan 26, 10:38:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow, fedora, well said. seriously.

Fri Jan 27, 01:51:00 PM 2006  

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