Rabbi permits wounded veteran to use medical cannabis on Shabbat

Ruling applies only to specific case in question where painkillers are ineffective and veteran suffers unbearable pain.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Rabbi Benzion Hacohen Kook
Rabbi Benzion Hacohen Kook
Beit Hora'ah

Rabbi Benzion Hacohen Kook, head of the Jerusalem institute for Jewish law (Beit Hora’ah Haklali), has ruled that a wounded IDF veteran who suffers from chronic and severe pain is permitted to smoke medical cannabis on Shabbat, Yediot Aharonot reports.

The ruling is surprising given that the veteran’s need is not strictly defined as life-saving, which is the usual criterion for permission to desecrate Shabbat.

The question was referred to Rabbi Kook by the soldier’s family, who described their relative’s plight, due to injuries he sustained in Operation Guardian of the Walls. They told Rabbi Kook that the soldier suffered such severe pain that he said it was better to die than to continue to suffer, and that painkilling medicine did not help him at all, whereas medical cannabis did ease his pains somewhat.

Rabbi Kook was formerly a close disciple of the Lithuanian-haredi leader and halachic authority Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv ztz”l, and is himself a halachic authority of extremely wide renown.

In his responsum, which was published in the “Shoalin u’Dorshin” newsletter, Rabbi Kook wrote that although from a medical perspective there is no immediate danger to the soldier’s life, he still is to be considered as falling into the category of a “sick person in danger of losing his life,” and for such a person, anything that needs to be done for him is permitted.

“Jewish law allows this person to desecrate Shabbat and smoke this drug,” Rabbi Kook ruled, while noting that, “There are other halachic authorities who are strict on this issue [forbidding it], but you have no greater need than this.”

Rabbi Kook also stressed that for a healthy person, there is no justification whatsoever for using drugs in any case at all, either on Shabbat or during the weekdays.

Responding to the ruling, Rabbi Menachem Perl, the head of the Tzomet Institute, said, “This ruling permitting [the smoking of medical cannabis] stems from the fact that the device operates independently without being switched on or turned off [on Shabbat]. It is important to note that the device is permitted for any suffering patient to use in order to benefit from medical cannabis, but not on Shabbat.”