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.

51 Comments

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  • Judy Cobb
    Mar 16, 2018
    Because we are all human, Baha'i or not, none of us are perfect and each have our own souls to refine with whatever issues we are dealing with and then try to be as we are created - NOBLE. This nobility comes when we can honestly answer for ourselves what is feeding or starving our souls?
  • Judy Cobb
    Mar 16, 2018
    Everything I offer is not authoritative, but what I as an individual believer have come to understand. For me, I believe God does not want us to unnecessarily suffer physically if there are remedies for it. However, each one of us is blessed to be able to deepen on the guidance of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha. We can pray, and use our rational minds to determine whether whatever we do (drug related or not) is advancing our relationship with God, refining our souls, deepening our spiritual understanding, benefiting our physical health and our relationships with others, or not. ...
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  • Judy Cobb
    Mar 16, 2018
    The purpose of the essay was not to shame anyone, as it is completely counterproductive and does not provide a loving solution. However, when reading about Marijuana usage, the public arguments for and against are material in nature: how much tax revenue will we raise, how we will save money in prosecution and incarceration, etc. These arguments are completely devoid of a spiritual perspective, and this is what I wanted to provide. We cannot think of this subject as casually as we consider taking an aspirin. I wanted to share the spiritual guidance provided to help ...make better decisions for ourselves. (continued)
    Our spiritual journey is the best thing we will ever do.
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  • Judy Cobb
    Mar 16, 2018
    My apologies, my reply is tardy due to a posting issue with the Website. I do appreciate the variety of responses received.
    First, there seems to be confusion about the very subject we are addressing, so I want to clarify. Hashish and marijuana originate from the female cannabis plant and contain the same active substance. What is different about each is how the plant is processed. Hashish, the strongest, is the compacted resin of the plant. Marijuana is derived from the dried plant leaves and flowers. Strength can vary depending on whether ...the upper or middle part of the plant is used. Opium, morphine, heroin, and codeine are produced from a completely different plant, the opium poppy. (continued)
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  • Trish Main
    Mar 13, 2018
    For the love of God friends, please educate yourselves on the realities of the world that God has created for us. The Tablet of the Physician that Baha'u'llah wrote states, "Treat disease first of all through diet, and refrain from medicine. If you can find what you need for healing in a single herb do not use a compound medicine. Leave off medicine when the health is good, and use it in case of necessity." Shame, judgment, and ridcule are not the paths to cultivate compassion, peace, and understanding. We, Baha'i in recovery (from drugs and alcohol), need you (the ..."functional" friends) to embrace us, see us and please be patient because we are trying... it would helpful if you would try too.
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  • River Nuri
    Nov 21, 2017
    What about the bit where it's ok to take things that a "qualified physician" has prescribed? Where does medical marijuana fall into the scheme of things? What about states where it would clearly be prescribed but it's not yet legal?
  • Jack Bullion
    Oct 05, 2017
    I use pot for the chronic neuropathy pain caused by chemotherapy . Research is denied because of its class one classification . Nixon classified pot as a class one drug equal to opiates. This came about as a political gesture and no research whatsoever. There are many medicinal uses already confirmed the lease is pots ability to wean the opiate user of the addiction. I would much prefer pots use over alcohol for its recreational value.
    • Trish Main
      Mar 13, 2018
      Many of diagnosis, conditions and symptoms I endure are best served with this treatment so (since I am no longer pursuing felonious behavior) I am a registered medical marijuana patient in my state. Confirmations of this herbs ability to kill live active cancer cells is well known, studied and documented. There are more restorative properties. I think the challenge that we MMJ patients face is the stigma between those who are self-medicating to reach a state of euphoria vs the patients who are dosing to treat their conditions conscientiously and with the guidance and oversight of qualified health professionals. ...Thankfully, I'm only still responsible for just me. Whew.
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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.
    • Trish Main
      Mar 13, 2018
      Thank you
  • 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