Since the Rastafari movement started in Jamaica in the 1930s, cannabis has been an integral part of its rich culture. Unlike many people who use it just to get a high, Rastafarians are against that notion. They are quite conservative in any use of drugs. Many faithful Rastas (followers of Rastafari) will not even consume caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco, because they believe it is harmful to their bodies—a sacred temple, states an article from They also vehemently oppose the use of hard drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.

Rastas call cannabis ganga, and consider it a tool for better understanding. Although there are a few different Rastafari sects, the veneration of cannabis is universal among them. The first Rasta community was established by Leonard Howell, shares This Christian clergyman and his followers named the place Pinnacle. At first, marijuana was just a cash crop for them. When they began to see its benefits for medicine and reasoning, they adopted it as a sacrament.

Rastafari Interpretation of Cannabis In The Bible

Although many mainline Christians may use the Bible to condemn cannabis use, Rastas cite scriptures that approve and celebrate it. The “Tree of Life” that was mentioned in Genesis is translated as the cannabis plant by Rastas. They also point out numerous cannabis references in the Bible, including “eating all herbs” and “leaves to heal the nations”. To Rastas, cannabis was created by God for human use. Although partaking of cannabis is encouraged, it is not mandatory in order to belong to the movement.

Using their personal interpretations of scripture, cannabis has become deeply ingrained in the Rastafari culture. As part of their communal worship, Rastas often meet and smoke cannabis in a pipe they call the chalice, which is a reference to the cup used by Christ at the Last Supper. These religious meetings are called reasoning ses

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sions. All participants are welcome to smoke cannabis from the chalice and share their visions and ideas. The calming characteristic of cannabis puts everyone at ease and provides a sense of community and oneness with the Divine.

American Rastas Using Cannabis—Is It Legal?

There is still a perennial debate as to the legality of cannabis use for religion. Proponents of Rastafari claim that such use is protected by the religious rights of the First Amendment. This argument has protected peyote use for certain Native American tribes for religious ceremonies, says an article from However, the source also points out that both peyote and cannabis are Class I drugs under US drug laws.

During landmark state referendums over the past couple years, there are some states that have limited decriminalization of marijuana use. Cannabis stores such as are popular among devotees. It is still illegal to use cannabis in most states, regardless of religious convictions such as Rastafari.

As American Rastas join with other proponents of cannabis use, other states are looking at the possibility of its limited use. Cannabis is considered a verdant blessing from God to humans, and Rastas will continue to enjoy its benefits.


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