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Shemini: Getting High: The Jewish View

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We just came from the holiday of Purim, when one is obligated to reach such a state of intoxication that one cannot differentiate between a blessing and a curse. 

One of the hot topics in today’s news is the legalization of marijuana – another agent of intoxication. And we have to ask – is this a blessing or a curse? 

Colorado, Washington, and other states are legalizing the sale of cannabis. Its consumption has been rampant for a while; its legalization will likely increase its usage. Is this good or bad? 

We know that legalizing weed will remove the criminal element from the chain of production and distribution, and that it will be good for the tax bottom line, but what about for the human being’s bottom line? Is getting high an elevating experience or one of descent? Does marijuana make us better or worse? 

What is the Torah’s take on this and other controlled substances? Should they or should they not be legally available for consumption? And is there a difference between alcohol and marijuana? 

Finally, what lessons can we learn from all this? 

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