Matzav Shmooze: Is Weed Addiction Going To Be The New Crisis?

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Dear Matzav Shmooze,

This conversation has been a long time coming. It started with little whispers here and there, a joke made by the shul kiddush, a knowing smile shared between two glazed faces in middle of a wedding. Personally, this new reality hit home for me when I walked outside my shul on Simchas Torah and had smoke blown in my face. I’m talking, of course, about the prevalence of marijuana in America and its slow creeping crawl into the mainstream of our communities.

For years, marijuana was placed into the same category as other classically dangerous drugs; it was something done by lowlifes, the dregs of society. But as the years went by, the lines have blurred. Suddenly marijuana, also known as weed, has become legal in many States. This week, Canada became the second country to completely legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey ran his campaign on a promise to legalize the drug in his first 100 days in office.

As for our own community, weed has always been associated with the OTD faction of the community. But more and more, I’m finding regular frum people, generally the younger crowd, who are comfortable with the idea. Some will admit to having tried it themselves!

I am by no means an expert on this matter. A lifelong teetotaler, this is beyond my understanding. That being said, we as a community should be having a discussion about what this all means. Are we going to let this newfangled substance slip into our midst without at least knowing the consequences? Should we not take a stance now before it’s already accepted as normal? Watching the world’s perspective shift on this issue I think there are a few questions we should be asking.

Is marijuana just a way to relax, similar to alcohol? Is it on its way to acceptance in the frum community? What’s the Torah approach to such things? Is there a way to keep it out of our neighborhoods? Will marijuana addiction become a new crisis? Do I have to worry about my children being exposed to these dangerous toxins?

And these are just a few of the questions. While the subject hasn’t gained much traction yet in the Jewish community, as legalization becomes more and more widespread and the industry continues its record growth, the questions will keep on coming. This might be the perfect time to start the conversation.

A Concerned Member of the Community

17 COMMENTS

  1. This letter is really on point! Very accurate.

    I want to just address one of the many relevant questions you asked. “What’s the Torah’s approach to such things?”

    Answer: Rav Moshe Feinstein, in Igross Moshe Y.D. Vol. 3 Siman 35, says that it is absolutely 100% Assur.

    • Legalizeing it doesn’t make it Right.
      Or legalize everything thing if fairness matters.
      The end will be horrible.
      R’ Moshe is so right-avoid marijuana like trying to avoid Aids. Both are bad.

  2. Thank you ‘Concerned Member’ for bringing up this issue. Of course we, the frum community, can immediately recognize the further decline and continued decadence of the liberal / permissive / (prog)[reg]ressive society we live in.
    Nevertheless, can someone please help me understand something?
    The government worked so hard to educate the public of the danger of smoking. After tremendous efforts for many years, to a large degree the campaign was/is very successful. And now they are ENCOURAGING people to smoke marijuana? Forget about the dangerous effects of the drug, what happened to “DON’T SMOKE, it’s hazardous to your health”?

  3. I think an expression of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is relevant here, namely “defining deviancy down”.

    Something that was viewed as chazer treif suddenly becoming ‘kosher’?!

    Permissiveness run amok.

    Perhaps for certain cholim the situation might be different, but in general, שומר נפשו ירחק ממנו.

  4. I support legalization. I don’t think anyone suggests it is a healthy habit, but those who use it should be able to purchase a product under quality control and should pay taxes. Besides, we can find for sale a number of products and services which are 100% assur and much more so than recreational marijuana, they are none of our business and that’s it.
    On the other hand I am worried by your depiction of frum young people smoking it openly. And definitely we all should talk to our children about it.

  5. I would not be as nervous about marijuana as I am about smoking, drinking, or hard drugs. Marijuana, while harmful for younger people whose brains are still developing, is for sure not worse than drinking, and does not contain most of the toxins cigarettes do. Marijuana is not addictive and research on it being a “gateway drug” is mixed at best. It is not toxic, as the article claims, and although I am not a rav, I would venture a guess that had R’ Moshe seen the evidence available today when we know that marijuana is not as dangerous as they thought it was then, maybe he would say it is mutar (similar to how we say psakim endorsing cigarettes don’t apply today when we know how dangerous it is). Would I smoke it or let my kids? No, because of the type of people it is associated with. But I don’t think it is such a major deal. However, the author is right, we do need to have a discussion about it before it becomes widely legal. And when I say we, I don’t mean the Matzav comment section- I mean rabonim and health professionals, people who know what they are talking about.

  6. A total nothing burger.
    We don’t need to concoct a new “crises” every week. I know it’s Marcheshvon and there is nothing going on and the oilam is bored. Just wait. Before you can say boo, it will be Chanukah so we’ll have plenty to talk about.

  7. What evidence? Evidence available today that smoking pot is not dangerous?

    For starters how about this headline today: Car crashes are up in states where pot is legal

    NBCNEWS: Legalized marijuana linked to a sharp rise in car crashes – https://www.nbcnews.com/business/consumer/legalized-marijuana-linked-sharp-rise-car-crashes-n921511

    USNEWS: Study: Car Crashes Up Where Marijuana Is Legal – https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2018-10-18/study-car-crashes-up-in-states-where-marijuana-is-legal

    How about more info on Marijuana from the National Institute for Drug Abuse – https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana#ref

    Smoking pot is dangerous to your health physically and mentally. It is very unfortunate how people today will bend everything so they can indulge in the pleasure of the moment, cmpletely ignoring the terrible consequences of their actions. Sad, very sad.

  8. Dear “ NYOB” if you “ are not a Rav” , then DON’T comment on the Rav Moshe ESPECIALLY when you clearly didn’t see the teshuva.

    His reasons for assuring go BEYOND the health risks and those other issues have certainly not changed!!!!

  9. Just for starters, there is evidence suggesting that marijuana can trigger psychotic episodes.
    But the real issue, to my mind, is one that has been infiltrating for a long time already, namely that of tuning out of life and choosing to “space out” instead of facing up to issues, problems, distress.
    We do that in all kinds of ways (including reading inane internet “news” articles). Marijuana makes it that much more easy to do so.
    It’s a symptom of the way many of us approach life or should I rather write, avoid approaching life.

  10. Contrary to the common refrain what is the difference between smoking pot and smoking cigarettes
    I would retort Pot is smelly slovenly , disheveled
    Leans arguably more similar to one urinating in public

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