Visiting Varanasi, India, you can’t help but notice the ceremonial pyres burning constantly along the riverbanks. Pilgrims come from all over to bathe in the holy waters of the Ganges and observe the sadhus—religious sages who dedicate their lives to meditation and asceticism.

These devotional men are known to be avid ceremonial cannabis consumers and watching them puff ganja out of handmade chillums is a common sight in consecrated locations across the country. They inhale the herb (locally known as bhang — or charas, in its resin form) when praising Shiva, the deity of virtue and one of the most important gods of Hinduism.

Using marijuana is commonplace in other religions too: Shinto Buddhists used to burn hemp plants as incense during their…

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