I get the question fairly often: how do Baha’is feel about drug use?

I know many people whose own encounter with drugs, either personally, through a loved one, or professionally, will forever influence their opinion that mind-altering substances should never be legalized. Conversely, many others feel that it makes sense to do so. Opinions come down hard on both sides of the question.

The con rationale insists that legalization will increase “gateway” use, thus opening the user to more dangerous drugs. Legalization opponents argue that use of mind-altering substances will increase crime, decrease public and workplace safety, negatively impact health, and affect work performance. The net result, they claim, will cost society both in productivity and dollars.

The pro rationale argues that legalizing drugs could be economically beneficial. One libertarian study estimates that legalizing drugs could save about $41.3 billion annually in enforcement costs alone, and produce another $46.7 billion in higher tax revenues. The study claims that state, local and the federal government would all benefit financially, balancing budgets and erasing massive fiscal deficits.

Legalize Marijuana Protest

Many of the pro and con arguments revolve around the issue of money, which means the ultimate decision for legalization may depend on what drug policies can save or generate the most income.

Material arguments predominate in the press, with spiritual considerations left to our houses of worship. The all-too-visible human wreckage seems to lack, for many, the power to prevent use. Without specific and clear spiritual education, however, some people view the consequences of use through the eyes of “now, without considering an eternal future.

The Baha’i Faith offers a clear and consistent vision on this subject. For Baha’is, the question isn’t a legal one—instead, it centers on the life of the human spirit. Baha’is simply avoid mind-altering chemicals, including alcohol and other drugs. Baha’u’llah begins:

Beware of using any substance that induceth sluggishness and torpor in the human temple and inflicteth harm upon the body. We, verily, desire for you naught save what shall profit you… – Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 75.

Abdu’l-Baha, writing about the use of hashish and the opiates, adds:

Regarding hashish . . . Gracious God! This is the worst of all intoxicants, and its prohibition is explicitly revealed. Its use causeth the disintegration of thought and the complete torpor of the soul. How could anyone seek the fruit of the infernal tree, and by partaking of it, be led to exemplify the qualities of a monster? How could one use this forbidden drug, and thus deprive himself of the blessings of the All-Merciful? Alcohol consumeth the mind and causeth man to commit acts of absurdity, but this opium, this foul fruit of the infernal tree, and this wicked hashish extinguish the mind, freeze the spirit, petrify the soul, waste the body and leave man frustrated and lost. – The Most Holy Book, Notes, p. 239.

Baha’is believe that drug and alcohol use can have serious health implications – but that the spiritual impact is potentially much greater. Abdu’l-Baha cautions us:

As to opium, it is foul and accursed. God protect us from the punishment He inflicteth on the user. According to the explicit Text of the Most Holy Book, it is forbidden, and its use is utterly condemned. Reason showeth that smoking opium is a kind of insanity, and experience attesteth that the user is completely cut off from the human kingdom. May God protect all against the perpetration of an act so hideous as this, an act which layeth in ruins the very foundation of what it is to be human, and which causeth the user to be dispossessed for ever and ever. For opium fasteneth on the soul so that the user’s conscience dieth, his mind is blotted away, his perceptions are eroded. It turneth the living into the dead. It quencheth the natural heat. No greater harm can be conceived than that which opium inflicteth. Fortunate are they who never even speak the name of it; then think how wretched is the user.” – The Most Holy Book, Notes, p. 238.

He reminds us that the use of the opiates is not the only pitfall when he says “the user, the buyer and the seller are all deprived of the bounty and grace of God.”

The heated legalization debate continues for now and for the immediate future. However, wisdom dictates that we factor a new voice, the voice of Baha’u’llah, into our personal decision making. His instruction raises a very important question: When we consider the use of a mind-altering chemical that has the ability to “petrify the soul,” can money ever be the only issue?

How much is your soul worth? Would there ever be enough money to buy it? If you follow the guidance of the Baha’i writings on the use of mind-altering substances, you may never have to ask yourself those hard questions.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of BahaiTeachings.org or any institution of the Baha’i Faith.

39 Comments

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  • Naghmeh Khorrami Merck
    May 14, 2017
    As a social worker and a Baha'i the title and narrow scope of the article concern me. An article such as this must include medicinal use. In this age and time, an article on this subject that does not include the breadth of the writings can only lead to feelings of alienation and a misunderstanding of our faith.
  • Gelimer Pharas
    Apr 18, 2017
    I have severe pain from a progressive fatal neuropathy, without the pain relief I obtain from cannabis I would be driven to deny all by the extremity of my torture. I have entirely stopped using opiates as a result of the availability of oral cannabis extract. How one can perceive the Grace of G-d from a burning bed of pain?. From this it appears that your prophet apparently wants sick people to die in pain. How is hospice handled by your faith under these conditions? My great aunt, who suffered as I did, lay screaming for 22 days until ...she finally succumbed from exhaustion-that is the intensity of this pain during an attack, and no other medication I have tried touches it. If your faith thinks that sort of suffering is laudable?
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  • Rachel Dell
    Apr 08, 2017
    Plus weed helps children with epilepsy... MS...cancer.... so many uses
  • Rachel Dell
    Apr 08, 2017
    Every time i pray about using weed i get good vibes about it. I have a health condition that it is believed inhalation of weed kills tumor growth. But if asa bahai im not supposed to i won't. But i haven't got that message yet. And it's only a gateway for week people. I've never wanted to use strong drugs.
  • Taavi Yusuf
    Mar 06, 2017
    Allow it for medical purposes, for surely God does not wish for us to suffer-- as in the case of our fast, people with illness or medical conditions are excused. Doctors that feel their Bahai patient needed medical marijuana to help treat PTSD, the patient should not feel ashamed if for some reason this became public knowledge within the Bahai community.
  • Smyrna Jaunbocus
    Oct 18, 2016
    Hi, what if the use of marijuana was for medical purposes. Hash / Hashish in the middle east refers to a deviate of Opium not from the Hemp plant !!
  • Emily Goldberg
    Jul 21, 2016
    But when Abdul'-Baha says Hashish, he is referring to opium not marijuana. In many countries in the middle east Hash or hashish is a drug made from opiates where as in the western world hash and hashish refer to marijuana. So is anyone able to clarify what drug Abdul'-Baha is really referring to?
  • Dec 04, 2015
    Thought provoking quotations of Bahaullah and Abdul Baha, an eye opening account , much impressive
  • Jan 11, 2015
    I would not recommend it, nor use it, for recreational purposes, but I Wonder what the Faith would have to say about its medical applications, especially in alleviating chronic pain. So, to me, I would not condemn marijuana completely. As for other drugs, they are DRUGS and probably each one has therapeutic virtues. Therefore, they can, in due context be considered, prescribed and used as medicines. And limited to that, stricktly. Unless there are other virtues or applications I don't know of. So, it is not a black-and-white thing. It needs nuances. And maturity.