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, 56, 121-127

Islam and Cannabis: Legalisation and Religious Debate in Iran

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Islam and Cannabis: Legalisation and Religious Debate in Iran

Maziyar Ghiabi et al. Int J Drug Policy.

Abstract

Iran is currently discussing cannabis and opium regulations, which could bring a legalisation of drug consumption through a state supervised system. The article engages with the question of cannabis by looking at the legal interpretation of religious authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The choice of Iran is justified for several reasons: firstly, Iran has a long history of drug use and cannabis has been part of the country's intoxicant traditions since times immemorial; secondly, the Iranian state is unique in that it combines religious exegesis with political machination through official channels; finally, among all Middle East and Islamic countries, Iran is at the avant-garde in experimenting in the field of drugs policy which makes an excellent case for the study of cannabis regulation. The article is the result of a direct engagement with Iran's leading Shi'a authorities, the maraje'-e taqlid, 'source of emulation'. The authors redacted a list of eight questions (estefta'at) about the status of cannabis in Iranian society. It questioned cannabis' legality in Islam, its potential medical use, the feasibility of domestic production and other relevant aspects of its social-religious life. Based on the responses, the authors analysed the difference in opinions among the religious scholars and speculate on the possibility of policy reform. Given the dearth of scholarly work about illicit drugs in the Islamic world, about which many readers might not be familiar, the article opens with an overview of the place of cannabis in the history of Islamic societies. It discusses terminological ambiguities, references in religious texts and traditions, and the general interpretations within Muslim religious schools of thought. Then, it discusses the status of cannabis in contemporary Iran before tackling the responses provided by the religious scholars. Eventually, the paper puts forward reflections about the potential implications for future policy developments on cannabis.

Keywords: Cannabis; History of cannabis; Iran; Islamic law; Legalisation; Middle east; Regulation; Religion.

Figures

Fig. 1
Fig. 1
Ayatolllah Makarem Shirazi's response.

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