'It is permissible to smoke medical marijuana on Shabbat'

Rabbi of Ichilov Hospital rules that certain situations permit a patient to smoke marijuana on the Sabbath.

Uzi Baruch ,

Marijuana in Israel
Marijuana in Israel
Abir Sultan/Flash 90

It is permissible to use medical cannabis on Shabbat, according to Rabbi Avraham Reznikov, the Rabbi of the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv, in an article published by Machon Tzomet.

The cannabis plant, Sativa, from which the cannabis drug is produced, is also known as marijuana and hashish, and Israeli law prohibits its consumption, cultivation, and trade in Israel, despite the fact that it is legal in other countries.

Rabbi Reznikov emphasized that he doesn’t permit the use of drugs without a medical reason, and cited leading halakhic arbitrator Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who ruled against addiction and dependence, which he said entails a prohibition from the Torah. Similarly, another leading arbitrator, Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach wrote that taking drugs damages a person’s body - which is a complete prohibition.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Reznikov said that those halakhic decisions referred to the use of drugs for recreational use and are not relevant insofar as medical use is concerned, as in this case the use of the drug subdues the symptoms of the sickness and improves the quality of life of the sick person, and that research has shown that cannabis can be seen as a ”narcotic medicine” rather than a drug.

Medical cannabis on Shabbat is preferable inside of food, without the need for it to be smoked. There is a possibility to include it as an ingredient in cakes or butter and oil, and in these ways it is permissible on Shabbat because it can be considered “food.” In addition, taking pills including active compound THC is permissible on Shabbat. Rabbi Reznikov wrote that it is also permitted to take the material by means of a vaporizer that pumps hot air over the cannabis and that this device can be adjusted during the Sabbath day using a “Shabbat clock.”

However, Rabbi Reznikov also permitted smoking medical cannabis if there is no other option, and relied on the “Beiur Halakha” halakhic work, which states that “Regarding something for which there is fear that its prevention will weaken and cause a burden on the sick person, the Sabbath is desecrated over it...and according to [rabbinic arbitrator] the Meiri...if those actions which desecrate the Sabbath also strengthen the organs of the sick person, they should not be withheld from him, because he is in a dangerous situation.”