Divine herb: study shows cannabis users receive spiritual benefit from plant

Researchers with the California School of Professional Psychology looked at how contemporary adults use cannabis for spiritual purposes.

Mind-altering plants like cannabis have been a part of the spiritual journey of peoples across the globe. rgbspace/Getty Images


Psychologist Frederick Heide says cannabis is often associated with either recreational or medical purposes.

However, the academic notes that the herb is not typically related to contemporary spiritual pursuits.

This even as cannabis has been historically linked to many old and established religions.

A recently published paper written by Heide and his colleagues with the California School of Professional Psychology suggests adults in present times use cannabis as well for spiritual purposes.

“These results are consistent with how cannabis has been employed for thousands of years in cultures worldwide, including within major religious traditions such as Hinduism and Islam,” Heide told CannCentral.

Summing what the study found out, Heide related that almost two-thirds of the sample of 1,087 people reported that they “received spiritual benefit from cannabis”.

“Those who reported spiritual benefit scored higher on several measures of spirituality,” the psychologist said.

These benefits include “more daily spiritual experiences, being more mindful, and being more motivated to use cannabis for self-knowledge”.

Heide also noted to CannCentral that most of the people in the sample were “free from cannabis use disorder”.

Cannabis use disorder is associated with problematic consumption that results in physical, psychological, and social issues.

As for those who do not have such disorder, Heide explained that these are people who are “able to non-judgmentally accept and describe their emotions”.

Moreover, they are generally “older, and being less likely to use cannabis to cope with worries or forget about their problems”.

The study is titled “Spiritual Benefit from Cannabis”, and was co-written with Heide by Tai Chang, Natalie Porte, Eric Edelson, and Joseph C. Walloch. The California School of Professional Psychology is a part of the Alliant International University.

The paper was published online by the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs on July 5, 2021.

The authors noted that mind-altering plants like cannabis has been “been part of spiritual practices for thousands of years”.

“It has deep roots in Hinduism, Islam, Rastafarianism, and indigenous traditions in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere,” they related.

However, “almost no attention has been given to how contemporary adults employ it spiritually”.

This is mainly because of the stigma associated with cannabis use, especially in the American context.

“Beginning in the early 20th century, its use in America was fallaciously portrayed as leading to immorality, sexual depravity, and murder,” the authors wrote.

They also characterized the study as groundbreaking.

“The present study was the first empirical report to center on possible spiritual benefit from cannabis use,” the authors stated.

In the study, participants selected which category best describes their spiritual or religious affiliation.

The choices covered a wide range from nonreligious or secular to spiritual but not religious, agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, Eastern Orthodox, Hindu, Islam or Muslim, Jewish, Mormon or Latter-day Saints, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Taoist, Shinto, and others.

The results show that 66 percent responded “Yes” to the question, “Have you ever gotten spiritual benefit from cannabis?”

In contrast, 5.5 percent responded affirmatively to the question, “Has cannabis ever been a hindrance to your spiritual progress?”

Asked “How compatible is cannabis with your spiritual values?” on a scale where 1 was Not at all, 4 was Somewhat, and 7 was Very Compatible, participants responded in the following: 1 (13.4 percent), 2 (3.5 percent), 3 (2.5 percent), 4 (12 percent), 5 (7 percent), 6 (4.7 percent), and 7 (56.9 percent).

The study employed a number of measures to gauge spiritual benefit, and one of these is the so-called Marijuana Motives Measure (MMM).

The MMM is a questionnaire that assesses how often participants use cannabis for each of five reasons: Social (“Because it helps me enjoy a party”), Coping (“To forget my worries”), Enhancement (“Because it’s fun”), Conformity (“To be liked”), and Expansion (“To expand my awareness”).

“The most substantial loading was for Expansion, a subscale on the Marijuana Motives Measure which assesses how often participants use cannabis to be more open to experiences and to know themselves better,” the authors wrote.

They added, “Openness to experience and desire for self-knowledge have been associated with higher spirituality.”

Another measure used in the study is the Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS). Two of KIMS’ five scales that relate to “Observing Inside” and “Observing Outside” received good scores.

“These subscales assess the degree to which participants are able to give their full attention to the present moment, a central skill in Buddhist practice,” the authors noted.

The authors noted that results of the study suggest that an “alternative moral stance is possible” to the view that cannabis is a “moral threat”.

Follow Carlito Pablo on Twitter at @carlitopablo

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