By Dr. Wallace Greene
On April 16, Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair was issued a permit by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to begin growing medicinal marijuana. A permit to dispense medicinal marijuana will be issued to Greenleaf when its dispensary is operational. That is expected to occur in about six months.
A physician’s task is to heal and to do no harm. Jewish medical oaths as well as the Hippocratic oath constantly emphasize the palliative aspect of medical care. Jewish law has codified the role of the physician, and prescribes strict standards regarding the treatment of patients.
It has been documented that marijuana is an analgesic for sufferers of nausea related to chemotherapy, appetite, and weight loss related to AIDS, migraine headaches, Alzheimer’s, muscle spasms, fibromyalgia, arthritic pain, glaucoma, and other conditions. If marijuana is superior to other drugs, and concerns raised about its continued usage, we need to analyze a number of pertinent halachic issues. We need to determine whether it is permissible to prescribe marijuana according to Jewish law.
We are not dealing with legal issues from the perspective of secular law. Other states have legalized medical marijuana and New Jersey is only months away from doing so. Our discussion is framed by strictly halachic considerations.
Even where marijuana has been legalized, do its dangerous side effects militate against its use? Does compassion for the patient override concerns of possible long-term harm? Under which circumstances may a patient put himself into a potentially harmful situation? If the non-medicinal properties of marijuana promote a feeling of well-being so that a patient feels relief, does that constitute a valid reason to prescribe it? Continue reading