Anyone who has purchased salt or pickles in America is familiar with the idea of kosher foods. Kosher rules have been handed down among Jews for thousands of years, often as a means to guard against the very practical dangers of unhealthy food, disease, and contamination.
Rabbis certify food as kosher if it meets this complex set of rules. Now a group of entrepreneurs is asking a group of Jewish religious leaders to certify their product: medical marijuana.
The Orthodox Union is considering a request by multiple cannabis businesses to allow rabbis to examine and approve weed products for kosher medical consumption. The union is made up of Orthodox American rabbis and regulates kosher certification.
Growing MMJ support from Jews
Marijuana itself probably doesn’t violate kosher rules. Some Jews, however, believe it’s forbidden by religious proscriptions against harming the body. But a growing number of observant Jews believe medical cannabis can relieve suffering and improve health, and the opposition to recreational pot certainly isn’t universal.
The kosher laws explicitly allow plants and vegetables, unless they’re infested with bugs. Few people eat cannabis flower; most toke it, and the kosher rules don’t explicitly ban smoking – though other laws bar cigarettes because of the well-known health hazards.
Still, edible marijuana could pose some unique problems under kosher law. Weed cooking often involves oils, salts, and spices, some of which can’t be certified kosher. The rules forbid preparing both kosher foods and non-kosher foods in the same cook wear, so cannabis chefs may have to dedicate pots, pans, and kitchen space solely for kosher products.
Capsules or other forms of THC allowed under medical marijuana laws could also violate the kosher rules. But any weed product that doesn’t require digestion should be OK.
Israel has successful medical program
The push to certify pot products as kosher has a decent amount of support, backed by a tidal wave of marijuana reform across the country. Likewise, Israel has a strong MMJ program and a history of intense research on the subject. That may make the idea of kosher weed somewhat more appealing to many Jews.
Rabbi Moshe Elefant, who heads kosher certification for the Orthodox Union, said he and his fellow rabbis acknowledge the medical benefits of pot and “would not have a problem” certifying it.
Even so, there are plenty of Jews who disagree. Some Orthodox rabbis oppose any use of cannabis, recreational or medical, though neither the Torah nor the Talmud specifically prohibits the drug.
Indeed, it’s been a part of Israeli culture for at least 1,000 years. We don’t know how widespread marijuana’s use was, either among Jews or Middle Eastern gentiles, but Judaism has been aware of it since ancient times.