Jewish women and marijuana: Yay or nay?
If you listen closely, you may hear people wishing one another a "Happy 4/20" today. Why? Well, "420" is code for cannabis, and today is unofficial "Smoke Marijuana Day." According to Wikipedia, the use of the term "420" dates back to 1971 and a group of teenagers in San Rafael, CA, who were on a mission to discover an abandon cannabis crop; 4:20 pm was their meeting time. Though they never found the plants, 4:20 became a code-word for smoking pot that has evolved into a worldwide counter-culture holiday. Today, April 20 is a common day for marijuana and medical marijuana advocates to organize for legalization or decriminalization. Also on tap for today is the release of a new hemp-seed vodka and the premiere of a documentary on Bob Marley.
With all this counter-culture wafting in the air, I had to know: Where do Jewish women stand on mary jane? There's no mention of marijuana in JWA's Encyclopedia of Jewish women, although that seems reasonable considering its historical focus. It turns out that there are a number of Jewish organizations in support of medical marijuana, ranging from small, progressive groups like the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, to Orthodox rabbis like Rabbi Sholom Kamenetsky and Rabbi Moshe Tendler, to the Union for Reform Judaism, which passed a resolution supporting medical marijuana in 2003. The URJ-affiliated Women for Reform Judaism published a "Medical Marijuana as Mitzvah" study guide. Their guide ends with the following statement:
WRJ calls upon its North American Sisterhoods to:
Become informed about the medicinal use of marijuana and its constituent compounds,
Call for further medical research on marijuana and its constituent compounds with the goal of developing reliable and safe cannabinoid drugs for management of debilitating conditions,
In the interim, strongly urge elected officials to support legislation to reclassify marijuana as a prescribed controlled substance so that it can be used to conduct research and prescribed for critically ill patients with intractable pain and other conditions.
As I delved deeper into my Google search, I discovered Ramona Rubin, who along with Eliezer “Sticky” Green and Daniel Kosmal, founded a Jewishly-inspired medical-marijuana collective. Rubin, Green, and Kosmal--all Orthodox Jews--believe that cannabis was one of the ingredients in the holy anointing oil described in the Torah.
But it appears there is at least Jewish woman advocating for marijuana legalization outside of medical purposes. Allison Margolin, aka "L.A.'s dopest attorney," is a graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law (and Temple Emanuel Academy Day School). She is an increasingly high-profile criminal defense attorney in marijuana cases. According to the LA Times, legalization was the subject of her Harvard Law admissions essay and the title of her law school thesis was "The Right to Get High." Margolin is gaining notoriety along with her success; as a young woman, some prosecutors "see me, and they like underestimate me and they don't prepare," Margolin told the LA Times. Her father, Bruce Margolin, also championed efforts to decriminalize marijuana as a defense attorney.
I'm curious. What is your position on marijuana, as medicine or as recreation? Is your opinion rooted in a Jewish context?
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Jewish women and marijuana: Yay or nay?." 20 April 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 28, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/jewish-women-and-marijuana-yay-or-nay>.