Why Islam Prohibits the recreational use of marijuana

Marijuana is the most widely  used illegal narcotic in the  United States and Europe.  According to some annual  surveys, after 2007, more teenagers  smoked marijuana than cigarettes in  the United States. Many young Muslims  need to become aware of the Islamic  position on marijuana because of its  popularity. Does Islam condone the  use of marijuana? Does Islam forbid  it? If Islam forbids it, what does it say  about cases of medical necessity? It is  imperative that young Muslims know  the answers to these questions.
One must refer to religious authorities  in order to ascertain the Islamic position  on this drug. These authorities review  the verses of the Quran, the prophetic  traditions and Islamic principles in  order to derive religious rulings. Various  schools of thought within Islam agree  on some fundamental principles. Sayyid  Ali Khamenei, a religious authority and  the current head of the Islamic Republic  of Iran, was asked a question about  the use of drugs, including marijuana.
The following is quoted from his book  Practical Laws of Islam:
“Question 1392: What is the ruling  in the matter of using narcotics, such  as hashish, opium, heroin, morphine,  and marijuana, be it by way of eating,  drinking, smoking, injecting or applying  them anally? And what is the view on  selling, buying, and dealing in them  in general, i.e., carrying, transporting,  storing, or smuggling? A[nswer]: It is  haram [religiously forbidden] to use  narcotics in any way because it results  in considerable adverse effects in terms  of personal health and social cost. By  the same token, it is haram to deal in  narcotics in any way, i.e., carrying, transporting,  storing, selling, buying, etc.”
Sayyid Ali Sistani, another popular  religious authority currently residing in  Iraq who oversees the Islamic Seminary  in Najaf, was asked about hashish.  Hashish is a drug which is derived from  the same plant as marijuana. Marijuana  is derived from the dried flowering tops  of the cannabis plant while hashish is  made from the resin and is more potent.  They are both classified as cannabis.  On his website he is asked about the  Islamic ruling of the consumption of  hashish. He states: “It is impermissible.”
Sunni scholars also prohibit the use  of marijuana. As an example, in the  question-and-answer section of the  sunnipath website Shaykh Muhammad  bin Adam al-Kawthari of Dar al-Iftaa  in Leicester states: “Drugs such as  marijuana, cocaine, opium, etc are all  unlawful (haram) due to the various  harms connected with them.” He then  establishes that marijuana is an intoxicant  and supports his verdict with a  tradition from Sahih al-Bukhari which  states that the Messenger of God said:  “Every intoxicant is prohibited.”
One can examine the effects of  marijuana on one’s brain in order to  understand why it is religiously prohibited.  Most drugs, including marijuana,  produce a ‘high’ by stimulating brain  cells to release a chemical called  dopamine. The active ingredient in  marijuana, delta-9-tetrohydrocannabinol,  commonly referred to as THC,  stimulates specific receptors in the  brain called cannabinoid receptors.  When these receptors are activated  THC interferes with normal brain functioning.  Most of the cannabinoid receptors  are found in parts of the brain that  influence pleasure, memory, thoughts,  concentration, sensory perception, and  coordinated movement.
Marijuana disables one’s ability to  create new memories. Memories are  formed in a part of the brain called  the hippocampus. THC alters how  information is stored in this area of  the brain. The majority of evidence  supporting impaired memory stems  from studies performed on animals. A  study performed on rats shows that rats  exposed to THC in utero or adolescence  displayed severely impaired memory  in the later stages of their lives. The  hippocampus of these rats’ brains even  showed structural changes as they aged.
Balance is regulated in the cerebellum  and basal ganglia. THC interferes with  the normal functioning of these parts  of the brain leading to a loss of coordination.  Therefore, driving while under  the influence of marijuana is incredibly  dangerous. Furthermore, the performance  of difficult tasks and athletics in  this state would be greatly impaired.
Finally, marijuana also affects cannabinoid  receptors found in the cerebral  cortex. The cerebral cortex is responsible  for sensory perception. Therefore,  THC may cause one to have an altered  sensory experience in areas such as  taste, touch, smell, sight, and hearing.
A few supporters of marijuana  approached me and tried to argue a case  for the permissibility of this drug. One of  the arguments that they used was that  marijuana does not intoxicate; rather  it merely relaxes one who consumes it  and increases their appetite. This argument  cannot stand up to the scientific  evidence.. First, THC stimulates brain  cells to release dopamine which causes  one to become intoxicated. Then, it  impairs one’s memory, disrupts one’s  coordination, and alters one’s sensory  perceptions. Therefore, marijuana is  definitely an intoxicant.
There is another group of Muslims  who ask about the use of marijuana  in specific circumstances. For instance,  they state that cannabis can be used  as an effective analgesic for pain relief,  can be used as an effective treatment of  glaucoma, and can stop breast cancer  from spreading to other areas of the  body, thus becoming a non-toxic alternative  to chemotherapy.
Apparently, one would be able to  consume cannabis if the treatment of  these, or other, diseases is dependent  upon it and a trustworthy physician  prescribes it.
Once again, in Practical Laws of Islam,  Sayyid Khamenei was asked “Is it  permissible to use narcotic drugs for the  treatment of diseases? And assuming  that it is permissible is it absolutely  permissible or in case that it is the only  way of treatment?” (Question 1393)  His answer was: “There is no objection  to it provided that the treatment and  the eventual recovery are dependent  on their use and it is prescribed by a  trustworthy physician.”
Due to the popularity of marijuana  amongst teenagers in the United States  and Europe, it is imperative that young  Muslims know the Islamic stance on the  drug. Religious authorities have clearly  stated that the narcotic is religiously  prohibited. One of the reasons that it is  prohibited is because it is an intoxicant  which, in addition to stimulating the  brain to release dopamine, affects one’s  memory, coordination, and sensory  perception. Therefore, Muslim youth  must be weed-free and “just say no.” •
Originally posted: Islam Today Magazine

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