The Spiritual Effects of Cannabis - Marijuana and Spirituality

December 20, 2018

Cannabis as a Spiritual Guide

Working with cannabis generally can be tricky. With the illegality of the plant still widely held, there is not much research into the scientific parallel to what many consider to be ‘enlightenment’.

Enlightenment is, to put it generally, the awareness or understanding of oneself and their surroundings. Many of us have not had the benefit of skillfully using the plant as a spiritual ally. Many religions throughout history have utilized cannabis as a spiritual guide. What binds these activities or traditions together, is not there unconscious bidding of the gods they follow, but the act of calming our discursive mind and focusing our intention on the present moment. The inner stillness often associated with marijuana—or meditation largely— is a simple way of reminding us that we create our own reality. However, we must also be mindful of the slippery slope this principle connotes.

Humans have effectively been born into society with some set configuration in the operating system. Everyone—at least the unlucky ones— spends a good amount of time trying to understand their own internalized programming. . . Who am I?. . . What is my purpose? . . Can I have a purpose without some higher god? All these questions asked by the shaman and the atheist alike. 

The result is that, more often than not, we are driven by narratives and not substance. Narratives that operate below the radar of our conscious desires. The teachings of many world religions claim that by bringing our unconscious desires to light we can ultimately learn how to function skillfully as awakened beings. 

The Unconscious, Intention and Mary Jane


You may be asking yourself at this point, what any of this has to do with everyone’s favorite herb: marijuana?

When used as a meditative practice (i.e. non-recreationally), cannabis can help to amplify and shine a light on many of the illusions we carry with us. It invites us into a more deep, committed look into our ideas of ourselves. Intention is a key component to a truly lived life. Consider that in the Native American Church, entheogenic medicines can dramatically increase the potency of how an intention manifests. Even recreationally, many pot smokers site marijuanas ability to reduce stress and anxiety, leading to the softening of one’s personality.

Cannabis in different cultures/religions


  • Cannabis in Taoism: Shamans used cannabis in combination with other common herbal remedies: predominantly ginseng. Believed to reveal truths about the future, cannabis consumption was predominantly used for religious officials, not the common people. Some scholars believe this might explain such a strange exclusion from their religious texts, unlike other faiths. By 200 C.E, the Han Dynasty of Imperial China had embraced Confucianism, abandoned Taoism and with it, cannabis.

  • Cannabis in Buddhism: While spiritual Chinese cannabis consumption may have ended by 200 C.E., it was just coming into its own in India. It is said that the gods felt sorry for humans suffering and so granted this plant so that they may attain delight, lose fear and increase sexual energy. The most popular spiritual theory is that gods and demons—working together— churned the milk ocean to gather amrita. Amitra is Sanskrit for immortality. Whichever story is up your alley, there is no secret cannabis carries favor in the Hindu faith. Practically, offering of cannabis drinks are made during religious festivals. Bhang originated in the Indian subcontinent. It was used in foods and beverages as early as 1000 BCE (The Bhang Lassi Is How Hindus Drink Themselves High for Shiva - Vice.com). Not only to Tibet and India share a border, but a common affinity for cannabis as well. Tibet is a historically Buddhist nation. In Mahayana Buddhism, it is believed that Guatama Buddha subsisted on one hemp seed a day for six years on route to Enlightenment. In some depictions, Buddha is portrayed as holding a bowl of “soma” or cannabis leaves.

  • Cannabis in Ancient Greece: The ancient Scythians and Assyrians have been known to use cannabis for religious purposes. The 5th century historian Herodotus wrote on these religious ceremonies. If we are to believe his whole story, the Scythian tribes held religious ceremonies in tent-like structures where they burned hemp plants. Communal inhalation was used for ritualistic and euphoric purposes.

  • Cannabis in the Old Testament: While cannabis is clearly prevalent in the traditions and practice of eastern religions, there is some reason to believe that Judaic and Christian traditions used the plant as well. Polish etymologist Sula Benet proposed a radical interpretation of the Hebrew text. According to her interpretation, there was a mistranslation with the word cannabis—kaneh bosm, in Hebrew— as calamus. Calamus was a plant traditionally used to make fragrances. Assuming this translation is correct, this would fundamentally change our understanding of the Old Testament. We can find references to kaneh bosm in multiple books, including: Exodus, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Song of Songs.

  • Cannabis in Jamaican Religion: The island nation of Jamaica. Known for Bob Marley, Rastafarianism and cannabis. Made popular in the U.S. by Bob Marley, the Rastafarian movement focuses on Jah, or God. Spiritual use of cannabis and rejection of materialism and oppression. Rastafarians’ use of marijuana was subject to scrutiny, even drawing legal proceedings which culminated in the 1993 Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. This act stated that the consumption of cannabis and other substances are protected under religious law.

Best 4 Strains & Practices for Meditation


Some strains do have substantial THC that they can benefit meditation. Typically, these strains will be heavy indices producing an array of affects from calmness to focus.

It is important to note—much like anything else—to dose responsibly and with your goal in mind. Remember, the goal of cannabis meditation is developing intentional focus. Hopefully, these strains will provide you some rewarding benefit as it has done for me. 

Related article: 5 top tips to smoke weed and be productive

Note that this list is not exhaustive of meditative strains or practices, but rather, ones I have found to be particularly beneficial. Like many other strains, these come with severe dry mouth. It is key to stay hydrated at all times, not just when consuming cannabis. Have a bottle of water with you. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than getting half-way through a creative task and having to break focus because someone forgot to fill the Brita filter. And yes, that someone was me

  • Kosher Kush: By nature, an indica strain, giving it typically less negative side effects compared to some stove strains. This strain gained notoriety in its early day with the aid of a story that claimed the plant had been blessed by a Rabbi. Kosher Kush has also been studied as an alternative to pharmaceuticals to aid with chronic pain, depress, anxiety, and even lack of appetite. Using this strain sends the consumer into a deep relaxation, reducing worries and eventually producing a sedentary effect. This strain is definitely meant for at-home meditation, best later in the day. Because of the onset of tiredness, this strain is best closer to bed. Be prepared for a rush of euphoric feelings before crashing into a solid 6-8 hours of the best sleep ever (More info about the strain here).

  • AK-47: Best described as uplifting, this strain offers a strong resolution to stress and anxiety—two of the most common sources of lack of concentration. Associated with many creative types, AK-47 creates an aura of focus allowing artists to delve deeper into their art. This safe-space creates a relaxed environment. Perfectly paired with groovy tunes, use this strain for intentional creative focus, or just to relax after a long day. Be careful though, AK-47 does tend to have quite a long effect, in comparison with other hybrids and is capable of deeply relaxing neuroses (More info about the strain here).

  • Jack the Ripper: Not all meditative practices involve deep relaxation. Some salivas have been known to completely kill exhaustion and induce energetic focus to keep the user motivated and concentrated. This strain is definitely meant for the go-getter who loves to get things done and take on whatever life throws away. The constant hustle-and -bustle of modern society can leave one completely drained mentally by mid-day. With a moderate strength of ’15-20%’, this strain is suitable walks of life (More info about the strain here).

  • Blue Dream: With a wide-array of effects, Blue Dream is suitable for healing. Overall, BD considered most helpful to those suffering with those who are suffering from recurring mental issues, from stress and depression to chronic headaches. Those who find themselves regularly exhausted, worried or upset, will find this a wonderful solution (More info about the strain here).

  • Northern Lights: At first sight, the actual Northern Lights, can be overwhelming. Much like it’s namesake, this strain is widely used medicinally for its peaceful and tranquil effects, with minimal adverse reactions. Quintessential for an evening smoke or just to unwind. Light the stars above, this strain will ignite your mind in moments of darkness. Describing this feeling as dreamy would not be too far off, sending smokers into an altered state of severe physical laziness. Better taken before bed. Also note, this strain has a real tendency to induce happiness and genuine smiling (More info about the strain here).

4 Practical Exercises to Consider


  1. The Raisin Test: A simple enough exercise for beginners. Can be done with any ordinary object. I recommend something that easily fits in your had. The goal being to imagine you have never seen such an object. Describe it: How it looks? How does it feel in you hand? What do the smells remind you of? The raisin is an arbitrary object. The goal is to concentrate deeply on an individual object which will aid in bringing the user’s mind to the present and avoid ruminating about the future.

  2. Mindful Observation: A simple enough exercise meant to help the user detach the ordinary meaning of words from objects. It can also aid in developing a stronger imagination. The goal is simple. Pick a window with a good view. Look at everything: leaves, cars, etc. Instead of thinking in terms of denoting an object by words, try to notice the appearance. Notice the colors, patterns, textures. Pay attention to the way the wind blows and the grass bends. Be Observant, but not critical. Aware, but not fixated. It’s okay to become distracted. Return back to the view and continue the practice.

  3. Mindful Breathing: Personally, I find this exercise to be more of a success when walking. However, static breathing works too. Start by breathing in slowly for a 6 second count. Inhale though your nose. Hold for 6 seconds. Exhale through the mouth for 6 seconds. Make sure the breath is controlled. Purposefully watch your breathe. Feel your lungs expand. You’ll find your mind will simply raise thoughts, let it. Let your thoughts rise and fall with no judgement.

  4. Mindful listening: Open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way and train your mind to be less swayed by your preconceptions. Much of what we feel is influenced by past experiences .The idea is to listen to music from a neutral standpoint, with an awareness not hindered by your preconception of what music should be. Close your eyes and listen. Don’t worry about the genre, artist and song title. Listen to the dynamic of the beats. Hone in on vocals. Not just the word choice, but the tone of the artist. Listen intently and explore the track.

Conclusion - Final Thoughts

The mind can be motivated to be creative, introspective or even destructive. It is important to know both the strain you are using and your own limits. Smoking can be a fun time, but we all know it takes one bad trip to ruin a good time.

With an open-mind and an open-heart you can utilize a variety of strains to shed the weight you constantly burden yourself with. To face your fears honestly is the key: you are your thoughts, so you might as well become comfortable with them. I feel afraid all the time.

Most of us just wear our masks because we just want to see the world through clouded eyes. We can try to be positive, but at the end of the day, it is all just a mask. Fear will always be with you, so you must learn to see through it with unclouded eyes.

To find the cause of what is always disturbing you. Mindfulness is not a quick fix. Peace. 

About the author

Richard Sanchez has been working with writing challenged clients for over two years. He provides content creation, blog management, and editorial services. His educational background in philosophy and logic has given him a broad skillset from which to approach many topics. His writing skills can be confirmed independently on StatRoute and MonroeBlvd. He especially excels at preparing content for sports and cannabis culture. You may learn more about his upcoming work on Twitter. You can also reach him at rsanc2014@gmail.com or by text @ 973-525-8902 regarding any writing or editing needs.