What Does Legalizing Weed Mean for Canadian Muslims?
In case you’ve been living under an American-centric rock: recreational weed was legalized across Canada on October 17 (now affectionally and unofficially dubbed “Weed is Legal” Day).
When I opened my eyes this past Wednesday morning, I was greeted by a storm of “Happy Legalization” messages from non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “but weed is haram!” But is it really that simple? The stigma surrounding marijuana in the Muslim community has always sent a very clear message: only “lost” Muslims partake. And, for the most part, conversations around the topic are generally avoided out of fear, taboo, you name it. The fact that I have to ignore the urge to preface this with “I DON’T SMOKE WEED” in flashing lights should tell you something.
But the devil’s lettuce has been proven to assist with depression, anxiety, pain and a multitude of other physically and mental illnesses. Now, medical marijuana has been legal in Canada for a while – but Muslims have been generally split on whether it’s permissible or not for medicinal (let alone recreational) purposes for about just as long. But now that getting weed is more accessible than ever, the conversation amongst Canadian-Muslims has arisen again.
The lectures and conversations were generally split between two streams of thought: extremely concerned community leaders, pushing the narrative that it’s haram come hell or high-water (definitely hell though, according to them) and “what’s-up-fellow-kids” Imams that believe weed is in more of an Islamic grey-area.
In the months leading up to the nation-wide legalization, the Canadian-Muslim community was put into “is it really haram though?” overdrive. The lectures and conversations were generally split between two streams of thought: extremely concerned community leaders, pushing the narrative that it’s haram come hell or high-water (definitely hell though, according to them) and “what’s-up-fellow-kids” Imams that believe weed is in more of an Islamic grey-area.
The issue of weed (both in an Islamic and general sense) is complex. Canada has had to look into pardons for those in jail for minor weed-associated charges, what legalization means for Canadians crossing the border, public consumption, pricing, supply; the list goes on. But for the purposes of this article, I’d like to explore what this new accessibility means for Canadian-Muslims.
Obviously, I’m not a sheikh and I have absolutely no authority to tell anyone what’s haram and what isn’t. But as a young Muslim in the West, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t curious or intrigued by pot/grass/bud/skunk/Mary Jane. And for a long time, I couldn’t tell if the shame surrounding my intrigue was fueled by unfair narratives or a genuine place of consciousness. There’s been a lot of talk about something not being halal just because it’s normalized, which is a really important sentiment, but I don’t believe this applies to kush (let’s see how many nicknames I can fit into one article).
Those that fall on the “cool” end of the spectrum don’t want to debate with those that fall on the “you’re for sure going to hell” side of the spectrum. But where does that leave those of us that fall in the middle? We’re forced to choose between ignoring something that has the potential to benefit us, or being branded as “haram.”
As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety for about as long as I can remember, the radio commercials promising the medicinal benefits of weed are very attractive. I’ve watched friends have success with it and I’ve seen the difference it’s made in their lives. Of course, it hasn’t all been great – success varies from person to person. But the issue that we face within the Muslim community is that no one feels like sitting down to really discuss what the benefits or drawbacks are. Those that fall on the “cool” end of the spectrum don’t want to debate with those that fall on the “you’re for sure going to hell” side of the spectrum. But where does that leave those of us that fall in the middle? We’re forced to choose between ignoring something that has the potential to benefit us, or being branded as “haram.”
At the end of the day, not much has really changed in Canada in the few days following legalization, aside from the empty storefront by my house being filled with bongs. People have been smoking and consuming marijuana well before it was legal, and they will continue to do so. What the legalization means for Muslims is that it will be much more present in daily life (whether you’re partaking or not). It means that we need to do our own research within Islam and form well-rounded opinions for ourselves to avoid blindly following the narratives that already exist. There’s a lot of mystery that surrounds weed (see: the difference between THC and CBD) and what it does. And as always, knowledge is the only solution to clear the smoke of mystery.