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I’ve got to be honest, if you clicked on this link because you thought you’d find a handful of Bible verses about cannabis, you’re probably going to be very disappointed.
Now, I can’t blame you for thinking that this was what you were about to read about. It’s right there in the title, for goodness sake. But, the truth is, the Bible really doesn’t say much of anything about cannabis.
Well, wait a minute. Hang on. I guess there are a few verses in the Bible that sort of do apply to cannabis.
The first one is found in Genesis chapter 1 where God says:
‘Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.’ And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” v.11-12
Did you see it? Right where it says: “seed-bearing plants” and “plants bearing seed”? Yeah. That qualifies as a reference to cannabis because cannabis is an herb and it bears seed.
We also have another reference in the Bible that may – or may not – be a reference to cannabis. It’s found in Exodus 30:22-25:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “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, 500 shekels of cassia—all according to the sanctuary shekel—and a hin of olive oil. Make these into a sacred anointing oil, a fragrant blend, the work of a perfumer. It will be the sacred anointing oil.
I know. You probably don’t see it here in this verse either. But that’s because the English translation of “fragrant calamus” here is actually the word: “kaneh bosem” which many Old Testament scholars today believe should more accurately have been translated as “cannabis” rather than “calamus.”
No, I’m serious.
Just read the word out loud to yourself: “kaneh bosem.” Notice how it sounds oddly similar to the word “cannabis”?
It gets weirder. Turns out that a 20th century polish anthropologist, Dr. Sula Benet, who specialized in Jewish customs and traditions, discovered that the term kaneh bosem was most likely referring to hemp.
Why? Well, because not only does the root word “kan” have a double-meaning – it can mean both “hemp” and “reed”) – it’s also possible that at the translators of the Septuagint may have not realized this when they sat down to create a Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures. Dr. Benet surmises that an error must have crept into the text sometime in the third century B.C. If so, this error was repeated by every other translator who came after and was only discovered in modern times.
Now, not all scholars accept this, of course. Some reject the notion completely and stand by the “sweet calamus” translation.
Like this article published by the Christian Research Institute on the topic which explicitly refutes the notion that kaneh bosem is a reference to cannabis saying:
Such is not the case. The Hebrew qenêh-ḇōśem in Exodus 30:23 is the “sweet cane” of Scripture, probably the Andropogon calamus aromatics, native to India. Qaneh refers to a “water-plant” or “stalk of grain”and bosem refers to “sweet” or a “sweet odor.” Even if one could demonstrate that the etymology of the word traced back to the Hebrew qenêh-ḇōśem was cannabis, there is no evidence that the priests ingested or smoked it.
Still, this hardly closes the case. Scholars disagree on all sorts of things, especially on how to translate certain words in the Bible.
What we’re left with, in the end, is a vague reference to “herbs” and “seed-bearing plants” that God created for us to enjoy, and a possible – if highly-contested – reference to what might be cannabis as an ingredient in the most holy anointing oil used by Hebrew priests.
So, what are we to make of this?
Well, first of all, we can see that the Bible really doesn’t seem to have a very strong opinion about cannabis, and if it does, the only references we can find appear to be positive:
… and God saw that it was good.
In contrast, there are plenty of verses in the Bible that talk about alcohol. Some of them are in favor of drinking, and even getting a little tipsy once in a while, and others seem to prohibit drunkenness, or at least want to discourage that as much as possible.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18
He [God] makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:
wine that gladdens human hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread that sustains their hearts.
Also, let’s not forget that Jesus’s first miracle was to turn water into the “best wine” at a wedding party where the guests were already way over the legal breathalyzer limit. So, clearly, it’s ok to let down your hair and relax and enjoy yourself now and then.
Maybe that’s the entire point? Maybe we shouldn’t be looking to the Bible for a list of “Do’s and Don’t’s” in the first place? I mean, the Apostle Paul seems to want us to get over that and move on to higher things. As he says:
For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving… 1 Timothy 4:4
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. Colossians 2:20–23
I think our problem is, we’re still learning what it means to come out of that old way of living where religion is about right and wrong, good and bad.
Jesus, I believe, wants us to stop thinking this way. It’s very much like the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” we’re living from if we continue to act like this.
Instead, Jesus reminds us of something more profound:
It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man. Matt. 15:11
If we can stop living from the Tree of Good and Evil and move on to Christ who is the Tree of Life, we can discover a more abundant life where the yoke is easy, and the burden is light.
But we also need to understand something about cannabis: Some products created using cannabis won’t get you high. In fact, they could also help to heal your depression, anxiety, insomnia, and opioid addictions.
I’m serious. It’s called “cannabidiol” or CBD for short. This amazing compound has even been approved by the FDA for the treatment of epileptic seizures.
So, in the case of CBD, I believe we can safely say that Christians have nothing to worry about. Using it will not only not give you a buzz, it may also heal you of a variety of ailments.
That, to quote Almighty God, is “very good.”
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