Freedom Fighters Claim Right To Religious Cannabis

Soft Secrets
01 Apr 2014

If Jesus - a potentially fictional character from a book - actually existed (or agreed to appear in a sequel and came back for more adventures), what would be his choice for a Holy Smoke? Healing hemp or Big Tobacco?

If Jesus - a potentially fictional character from a book - actually existed (or agreed to appear in a sequel and came back for more adventures), what would be his choice for a Holy Smoke? Healing hemp or Big Tobacco?

If Jesus - a potentially fictional character from a book – actually existed (or agreed to appear in a sequel and came back for more adventures), what would be his choice for a Holy Smoke?  Healing hemp or Big Tobacco?

New album from Game: “Jesus Piece”
Australian woman Pieta Michelle Morgan, 37, believes marijuana has been provided to mankind by God. This is what she told a Maroochydore magistrate in 2013. Morgan said in a court-room that her drug charges were illegal, unconstitutional and in conflict with the words of the Holy Bible. She even refused to stand up as she was spoken to. Morgan was appearing on charges of drug possession and production, as well as possession of a used pipe.

She is not alone. People everywhere express their opposition to the system by exercising our Constitutional rights like freedom of/from religion. In 2008 the Italian Supreme Court agreed with the argument of a member of the Rastafari religious movement that Cannabis was used by him for religious and meditative purposes. Court ruled that smoking or possessing cannabis was not a criminal offence but a religious act when it involved a Rastafarian. Italy’s Court of Cassation has said Rastafarians use marijuana “not only as a medical but also as a meditative herb and, as such [it is] a possible bearer of the psychophysical state to contemplation and prayer”. Rastafarians use marijuana, said the court, “with the memory and in the belief that the sacred plant grew on the tomb of King Solomon.”

This first such ruling in Europe created a lot of enthusiasm, but it also provoked anger: an Italian politician complained that “if today we let a Rasta free to go around with drugs, tomorrow somebody belonging to a religion which permits the eating of children would also be free from prison”. Sadly, such rhetoric is typical of the drug war debates; many people have fallen victim to it. 

The Incense Still Burning

In the recent years, many news organizations have repeated, following the leads of the magazines “High Times” and “Cannabis Culture”, that Jesus, his disciples, and many Biblical characters widely used Cannabis, e.g. “Jesus ‘healed using Cannabis’” (“The Guardian”, 06.01.2003) or “Cannabis linked to Biblical healing” (BBC News, 2003). 

Jesus was almost certainly a cannabis user and an early proponent of the medicinal properties of the drug, according to studies of scriptural texts. Researchers continue to pursue Dr Sula Benet’s work from the year 1936 – this Polish anthropologist was the first scientist to show that the word “hemp” in the Old Testament had been translated incorrectly. Benet’s striking disclosure was later confirmed by other etymologists and experts in other fields, including scholars from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1980. They confirm her work, noting that kaneh-bosm was mistranslated in the King James version of the Old Testament as calamus. Anthropologist Weston La Barre also agrees with Benet, noting that “the term kaneh-bosm occurs as early as both the Aramaic and the Hebrew versions of the Old Testament, hemp being used for rope in Solomon’s temple and in priestly robes, as well as carried in Biblical caravans.” In 1980, the respected British magazine “New Scientist” wrote that linguistic evidence indicates that in the original Hebrew and Aramaic texts of the Old Testament the ‘holy oil’ which God directed Moses to make (Exodus 30:23) was composed of myrrh, cinnamon, cannabis and cassia. 

Use of hemp as sacrament/medicine in ancient times has also been documented by archaeological and scripture studies. In India, it dates back to 1400-2000 BC. In Europe, a 5,000-year-old ritual object with traces of hemp seeds was found in Romania. In China, the tomb of an ancient shaman, at least 2,700 years old, has been discovered – the cannabis among his belongings was clearly used for its psychoactive or medicinal properties. A similar discovery of a mummified shaman/king from a hemp-using culture was made in Russia. Archeological research in Bet Shemesh near Jerusalem has confirmed cannabis was still in use in the area around 400 AD. In 1993, the first physical evidence that marijuana was used as a medicine in the ancient Mideast was reported by Israeli scientists who found residues of the drug in the skeleton of a girl who apparently died in childbirth 1,600 years ago. Researchers from Hebrew University, the Israel Antiquities Authority, and the National Police Headquarters forensic division note that references to marijuana as a medicine are seen as far back as 1,600 B.C. in Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek and Roman writings. However, until now, the researchers wrote in a letter to the journal “Nature”, “physical evidence of cannabis (marijuana) use in the ancient Middle East has not yet been obtained.”

Christ heals the two blind men on the road to Jericho, anonymous fresque (1179 – 1182), Cathedral of Monreale, Italy
Carl Ruck, Professor of Classical Studies at Boston University and author of many books on the subject, including “The Apples of Apollo: Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist”, states that there can be little doubt about the role of cannabis in the Judaic religion.  He makes clear, referring to the existence of cannabis in anointing oils used in ceremonies, that the easy availability and long-established tradition of cannabis in early Judaism would inevitably have included it in early Christian measures. It was at the beginning of religious experience, that cannabis and mushroom-like substances were first consumed as part of the “mystical communion,” Professor Ruck explains. Additionally, Jesus was called the ‘Christ,’ which means he was anointed. The chrism of his anointment would have been the one described above for the Jewish ordination, which is to say, Jesus would have to have experienced the effects of cannabis. According to Prof. Ruck, even the wine used in such ceremonies was likely far more psychoactive than mere table wine as “ancient wines were always fortified, like the ‘strong wine’ of the Old Testament, with various herbal additives.”

For a long time researchers tried to draw people’s attention to various important clues demonstrating hemp use in the Bible. In the 19th century the French novelist G. de Nerval was one of the first people in the West to notice them. In 1860, at the annual meeting of the Ohio Medical Society, physicians and a group of Biblical Scholars reached the conclusion that “the gall and vinegar or myrrhed wine…was a preparation of Indian Hemp.” In the early 20th century the British physician C. Creighton discovered other references to hemp in the Holy Scripture. Linguistic proof was provided by Sula Benet (aka Sara Benetowa) in 1936.  The word “kana”, often occurring in the Bible, sometimes means just “stalk”, but Benet shows that in certain Biblical passages it specifically refers to cannabis. The term kaneh bosm was mistranslated in the oldest Greek translation, the error was repeated in later translations, including Martin Luther’s, and as mentioned earlier remained in the King James bible.

The Cannabis Miracles: When Religion Was Science

Researcher Chris Bennett, author of many books and articles on the subject of hemp in world religion, speculates that Jesus was called the Christ (the anointed One) because he violated the taboo on cannabis regulations restricting its use, and distributed it freely for initiation rites and to heal the sick. Bennett claims that Christ as a healer (Jesus is often called, as is Buddha, the Supreme Healer or the Great Physician) must have used cannabis, e.g. to treat epilepsy (at the time considered a “demonic possession”), as well as eye or skin diseases. The medical evidence for this hypothesis is overwhelming. Modern studies confirm the plant’s healing properties; for example, glaucoma. Bennett wonders at the current situation where almost no modern-day Christians are aware that the name of their faith makes reference to a psychoactive topical ointment that was rich in cannabis, or that many early Christians used it to achieve spiritual ecstasy. 

Prior to Sula Benet’s discoveries similar remarks were made by the Hungarian rabbi and scholar Dr Immanuel Löw who in his Die Flora der Juden (1924) identifies ancient Hebrew references to cannabis, e.g. in a recipe for a Passover wine and incense. Löw’s fame as a scholar is based primarily on his pioneering work in the field of Talmudic lexicography and in the study of plant names. This special interest is apparent in his doctoral thesis Aramäische Pflanzennamen (Aramaic Plant Names) in 1879. Löw explored the basics of plant terminology in different periods of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages. By mastering the latest scientific methods in his field, he made himself familiar with the literary sources of plant names, making careful use of manuscript material. With the help of the Semitic languages, especially Syriac, he clarified many etymologies. He had great influence on future scholars and is considered one of the greatest scholars of Jewish botany. 

Sula Benet explains that “in the original Hebrew text of the Old Testament there are references to hemp, both as incense, which was an integral part of religious celebration, and as an intoxicant,” also  “another piece of evidence regarding the use of word kaneh in the sense of hemp rather than reed or calamus is the religious requirement  that the dead be buried in kaneh shirts.” Recent research has unveiled more fragments in both the Old and New Testament most probably referring to hemp use, as well as in the Dead Sea Scrolls, gnostic scriptures not officially recognized by mainstream Christian church authorities.  The interested reader will find many relevant quotes from the Bible with commentaries in Chris Bennett’s books and articles. 

Chris Bennett is a hemp historian and one of the foremost authorities on cannabis use in ancient and modern religions. He is also a hemp activist, a freedom fighter and a member of the Church of the Universe, a group formed in 1969 that recognizes cannabis as the Tree of Life. Bennett states boldly in his writings and in courtrooms that there is more healing power for the body, spirit, and the world in the cannabis plant than in all the churches of the world. His findings suggest that it is unchristian to persecute people who use cannabis: government prohibition of this plant could be interpreted as placing the laws of man above the laws of creation, to prevent true cannabis-using Christians from practicing their faith, going so far as to confiscate their possessions, send them to prison, and perhaps even kill them. Bennett concludes:  “If cannabis was one of the main ingredients of the ancient Christian anointing oil, as history indicates, and receiving this oil is what made Jesus the Christ and his followers Christians, then persecuting those who use cannabis could be considered anti-Christ”.

Bob Marley sings in “Cornerstone” (lyrics based on Psalm 118): 

“The stone that the builder refuse, 

Will always be the head cornerstone”.

Soft Secrets