Essay: Kabbalah and Kush – How Cannabis Led Me on a Spiritual Journey of a Lifetime

I want to talk about kosher weed.

I have lived in the beautiful Pacific Northwest for four years, and recent out of state travel has reminded me how fortunate we are to have a recreational cannabis economy here. It is absolutely incredible to watch this legal market evolve and grow. Another interesting evolution that I have experienced over the last four years here is the acceptance of kosher cannabis in all sects of Judaism, from Orthodox to the “Jew-ish.”

Now that it is legal and we are not breaking any laws by consuming, it is becoming far more prevalent in our West Coast Jewish Communities. One of the things that I noticed at my local “Gin and Jews” community meet up, besides the inherited paranoia that comes with our culture, is that we had more in common with each other over ganja than gin.

After much inquiry, on my part, and storytelling from my peers, I began to learn that many of us have been carrying around emotions of shame and isolation, especially concerning issues related to cannabis. When we really look at it, there are very few areas of social injustice that cannabis does not relate to. From racism, to poverty, physical or mental illness, mass incarcerations, addictions and families torn apart, it’s easy to see the domino effect of the war on drugs on society.

In 2016, we arrested 574,641 of our citizens for marijuana related incidences. Each of those citizens is a mother, father, brother, a sister, or a child of someone. If we consider the average family size, and multiply that number by the number of arrested citizens, that is well over 2 million people that year, affected by the war on drugs from marijuana arrests.

How did we get here?

A few facts about Cannabis and Judaism:

1. Ancient Jews used cannabis in childbirth, and medicinally for many ailments. Ancient Jews used hemp for clothing, coverings, wicks for candles, and oils. They cooked with it as an herbal ingredient like you would use basil, and stuffed their loved ones post mortem with its flowers.

2. Did you know that cannabis is considered kosher? In Aramaic, our ancient language, it is known as Kene Busma, and there were very strict laws for the plants preparation. You could have been sentenced to death for misusing this plant.

Sure gives a whole new meaning to the “High Priest” during the “High Holy Days.”

3. In Israel there is a cannabis organization leading the world in medical cannabis research. With the largest patient database on earth, they are rightfully named Tikun Olam, meaning to repair the world.  

I am prepared to bring that type of healing mentality all the way here to the USA.

Connecting with my cultural roots, truly made me realize that my life’s work, here on earth, is healing the damage done by the war on cannabis, and the consequent war on our citizens.

All of this is inspired by my own lifetime of pain and hardship, and my journey as a Jewish woman. I will cover many of these stories in my future writings.

Being part Native American and part Jewish, I believe my inherited spiritual healing instincts have helped me develop a very close relationship with the Divine, and creation. I believe that plants are vehicles to consciousness, and cannabis, she is very special. This plant chose me for this work and she tested me throughout my life. Comforting me, she has been my source of pleasure as well as brought about earth shattering negative consequences to my life, that changed me forever.

She brought about a force so strong – but what I realize now is that I needed a force like her to break me away from the life that I was born into, and ultimately led me to be the warrior and advocate I am today. I have passed her tests. Like her, I am strong, resilient and potent, and now she has chosen me to celebrate her with the world.

(Image: tabletmag.com)

Like many, I have felt like I have been carrying the weight of shame my whole life, too ashamed to talk about it with anyone for fear of being judged. It’s a funny thing about shame, we don’t realize how much it prevents us from succeeding, until the yoke of oppression is lifted off of our backs. There is one solution to shame, self-realization through connection, community, and self love.

You could say that my whole life was carved out by the war on drugs. I am a 36 year old orphan, left to figure out a way in this world on my own, stop the cycle, and heal generations of damage.  From losing my father as a child to a 30 year sentence, he was arrested for minor drug charge in Texas, to being labeled a drug user as a teenager when I was caught smoking… as well in my adult years, cannabis being used against me as tool to separate me from my children, and even my own subsequent cannabis arrest. I have been through more than most could imagine surviving.

There were times when I was so mad at God. How could He take so much? What did I do to deserve this? “I will be criminalized my entire life now” I used to often think. I am just like my father, in trouble for drugs, separated from my children.

However, I kept my focus on my faith and I began to learn as much about Kabbalah and Judaism as I could. Kabbalah is the mystical Judaic teachings of the art of “receiving.” (More on this later.)

Following this path, I was able to rise above it all, and become who I am today.

At the last Gin and Jews meet up I attended, Rabbi Brian and I decided maybe we should have a Kabbalah and Kush meet-up instead of our typical Gin and Jews monthly, to really support our community that needs to connect over this experience.

The solution to shame is connection and belonging. We can heal shame, and create stronger communities from shame, and that makes me proud to be Jewish. Shame, isolation, fear, healing and rebirth. We, as Jews, are familiar with all these hardships and struggles.

I would like to make these problems we have with cannabis, the solution to our societal needs and healing.

I’m here to share my story, and let other women who have experienced similar situations know that they’re not alone. “Tikun Olam.” Now let’s go repair the world.

Author: Cleopatra Cohen 

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