Culture

Cannabis in Church: Sacrament or Sham?

By Ngaio Bealum Aug 20, 2020
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Ngaio Bealum is a writer, comedian, cannabis enthusiast, a decent juggler and a really good cribbage player. Follow him on the social medias(@ngaio420 on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram) ...
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Ngaio Bealum is a writer, comedian, cannabis enthusiast, a decent juggler and a really good cribbage player. Follow him on the social medias(@ngaio420 on Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram) and find him at your favorite weed fests when this pandemic is over.
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If you go to Instagram and search “cannabis church”, you’ll find hundreds of profiles, from Hawaii to Puerto Rico. Some of these “churches” seem like thinly veiled attempts to sell cannabis in places where sales are illegal — that’s awesome, I feel that cannabis should be legal everywhere — others definitely look like they are building community and fellowship , with the cannabis plant as a sacrament. While some churches practice a form of “Cantheism”, wherein the plant is revered, others use the plant as a tool to reach a higher (my bad) understanding of the divine. 

Cannabis has been used as a spiritual sacrament for hundreds of years. The Rastafarians are well known for using cannabis, but Rastafarianism has only been around for about 90 years. Hindus have used cannabis in their observances for hundreds if not thousands of years, especially when it comes to celebrating Lord Shiva (Shiva is credited with loving weed and creating yoga, so those stoner yoga classes you read about may be more than just cultural appropriation). The Sufis, an offshoot of traditional Islam, often use hashish as part of their ritual to create an altered state that brings them closer to the Divine. 

When it comes to Christianity and cannabis, it depends on the sect to which you belong. The Mormons don’t want anyone doing any drugs at all. Not even coffee. The Catholic Church says MED use is okay, and REC use isn’t a sin, perhaps, but it’s probably better to refrain. There are some hard-core Evangelicals who believe smoking weed is a sin and no one should ever use pot ever. The folks on the “cannabis is a sacrament” side point to Genesis 1:29 (“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.”) as their primary reason for using cannabis. 

Some historians believe the holy anointing oils used in the bible contained “kaneh bosm” , or “cannabis”, so if Jesus was into cannabis infused topicals, its okay for other folks to do it. The folks against weed say things like, well I’m not sure what parts of the Bible they use to justify their anti-pot stance, other than “Its a sin!” and “It goes against God’s will”. You know how the Bible thumpers are. 

I talked to Madison Margolin. She’s a journalist, the co-founder of Double Blind Magazine (a WeedWeek advertiser), and she practices Judaisim. She said that “Cannabis is kosher” and that Judaism often makes space for people to commune with the divine while in an altered state: “Tbh I don’t smoke that much weed at all – relegated to evenings or Shabbat Friday night but I guess you could say that when I smoke weed on Shabbat, I use it to demarcate a distinction between Shabbat and the rest of the week. And being able to step into a different mental space helps me settle into shabbos mode and a more elevated awareness of g-d’s presence outside the regular notions of space and time felt throughout the work week.”  

She also told me that cannabis has been found in an ancient Judaic shrine at Tel-Arad, near Jerusalem, and yes, she mentioned Kaneh bosm being used in the oils. She also told me that observing the Sabbath means you aren’t supposed to light fires, so edibles are really nice to have around. 

It boils down to this: People want to feel connected. Heck, if you have ever gotten high, alone or with the homies, and have felt at peace, happy, and content with the present moment, you have definitely touched the divine if even for a brief moment. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Ngaio Bealum
Culture columnist