Is Medical Marijuana OK for Sikhs?

Sikhism Code of Conduct and Cannabis

Medical Marijuana
Medical Marijuana. Photo © [Getty / Justin Sullivan]

Question: Is Medical Use of Marijuana OK for Sikhs?

What does the Sikhism code of conduct and conventions say about marijuana? What does the scripture of Gurbani say about cannabis and getting high? Does hemp have health benefits? Are Sikhs ever allowed to use marijuana for medicinal purposes?


The Sikhism code of conduct advises against the use of all intoxicants including marijuana, opiates, alcohol, or tobacco products, and instructs that only food should be ingested by any Sikh on a regular basis:
"Sikh bhang, apheem, sharaab, tamaakoo aad nashae naa vartae| Amal prashaadae daa hee rakhae |
A Sikh must not take hemp (cannabis), opium, liquor, tobacco, in short any intoxicant. His only routine intake should be food." Rehat Maryada: Section Four, Chapter X, Article XVI. J.

Sikhism Code of Conduct and Cannabis

The prohibition against marijuana intoxicants applies to every Sikh whether or not they have been initiated as Amritdhari. The Sikhism code of conduct does not allow for smoking pot, or frivolous use of any cannabis product including bhang, an intoxicating beverage.

The Sikh way of Life according to the Guru's teachings include concerns about prohibitions. The only pot permitted in Sikhism is paath, (pronounced to sound like pot) which refers to devotional reading of daily prayers and scripture. What does Gurbani say about marijuana use (Bhang)? The hymns of Gurbani imply that the best high is getting high on ecstasy, with the intoxication obtained through contemplation of the divine, and that users of bhang are destined for the hellish-like nether world.

The Nihang warrior sect of Sikhism in India has a tradition of cannabis use in association with preparation for battle. No other use is sanctioned. A bhang concoction is traditionally prepared by pounding fresh marijuana leaves into a paste with a tall wooden pestle the height of a grown man. Fresh almonds and cardamom pods are crushed with the the leaves, mixed with milk and strained through a length of turban cloth prior to drinking.

Medical Marijuana and Local Ordinances

Cannabis use has shown to be beneficial for certain conditions associated with Cancer and a variety of other ailments. Like any good citizens, Sikhs obey the laws of their respective countries. Some countries allow free use of marijuana and its derivatives such as hashish, or preparations such as bhang. The United States of America has federal ordinances prohibiting use of marijuana. However some state laws permit prescription use of cannabis, and others even permit recreational use. Medical marijuana laws are controversial and vary from state to state. A Sikh would need to follow the same procedure as any other citizen who lives in a state or country which allows legal medicinal marijuana use, including being examined by a state licensed physician and following prescribed treatment.