Medical Marijuana under Sharia

By Jomana Bima, a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington School of Law

Marijuana, hemp, or hashish is a psychoactive drug from the Cannabis plant, used for recreational or medical purposes. The main psychotropic ingredient of cannabis is a compound called tetrahydrocannabinol or better known as (THC), a compound responsible for causing an intoxicating effect. Marijuana can be consumed by smoking, vaporizing, within the food, or as an extract. Under Sharia law, marijuana is categorized under narcotics or “Mukhaddirāt.” In Arabic, muhkadirat or narcotics are any substance that makes a person feels sluggish and lazy, deprives sensation, and covers mind.

Regarding the Sharia rule on narcotics, there is no reference to drugs or narcotics in the early years of the Islamic era, even in the holy scripts of the Quran or the Sunna. Classical fuqaha’ (jurists) did not define what narcotic is even though they talked about various types of intoxicants. Instead, they focused on the general principles regarding intoxication to explain rulings. To understand how the jurists extrapolate a judgment regarding marijuana, we need to understand the reason for the prohibition of wine and alcohol beverages. Sharia law prohibits consuming wine and alcohol beverages, considering it as one of the major sins. The majority of the fuqaha’ (Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali schools of thoughts) said that the reason for the prohibition of wine is the intoxication based on the Prophetic hadith states that “Every drink that causes intoxication is forbidden.”[1]

Based on the prohibition of wine, as a general principle, intoxicants that alter an individual’s mind or affect perception, judgment, behavior, and ability to think are impermissible under Sharia. Therefore, recreational marijuana is forbidden.

Medical Use of Marijuana

Under Sharia, it is permissible to use marijuana for medical purposes under the “Doctrine of necessity,” one of the Islamic Jurisprudence principles that states “necessities permit the forbidden.” However, permissibility is not ultimate, several conditions must be met. The purpose of these conditions is to ensure that there is a real and absolute necessity. Using cannabis-based products and narcotics in general for medical treatment is permissible in the following cases:

  1. If the need of using such substance was absolute necessity or “dharura” because necessity is the only exception that can make what originally forbidden to permissible. Relieving symptoms of pain, chronic conditions, or acute severe pain is a medical necessity.
  2. If the medicine is prescribed by a qualified and trustworthy physician who is considered as an expert on the field.
  3. In the absence of alternative lawful medicine that has the same efficiency.
  4. Using minimal amount to meet the patient medical need, and any over need doses considered impermissible.
  5. If the medicine does not cause harm that equal to or greater than the damage that already existed based on the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm.”

In summary, using narcotics–including cannabis– for recreational purposes is forbidden under Sharia because it is intoxicant that affects the person’s mind and judgement. Using cannabis for medical reason is permissible as long as the condition stipulated above are met.

[1] Sahih Muslim, Book of drinks, Ch.7, every intoxicant is wine and every wine is forbidden, No. 2001.

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