Kosher Weed Could Soon Hit New York State

By McCarton Ackerman 02/24/15

Orthodox Jews in New York have thrown their support behind medical marijuana.

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In a true sign of changing times, Orthodox Jews in New York State could soon be getting their hands on medical marijuana that has the kosher seal of approval.

Several medical marijuana companies have reportedly had “preliminary discussions” with Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification agency.

Although the Union has rejected kosher certification requests from cigarette and e-cigarette manufacturers due to health reasons, the Rabbi confirmed he “would not have a problem” certifying medical marijuana. But, because patients won’t be allowed to smoke it in New York, they will need kosher certification for the products that enable ingestion in other ways, such as capsules, food, and drinks.

Many Jewish individuals have been key supporters in the movement to legalize pot for medicinal and recreational purposes, while 11,000 people in Israel are already licensed to receive medical pot and can buy kosher-certified forms of it. Progressive Jews have also supported legalizing it for social justice reasons, believing it will help eliminate the disproportionate number of African Americans and Latinos who are arrested for marijuana possession.

But, while some Orthodox rabbis have publicly accepted the medical benefits of pot, they appear to be strictly opposed to recreational usage. Many have cited the responsum made 40 years ago by the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, who said the drug was forbidden due to health risks and the user losing control mentally, physically and spiritually.

Rabbi J. David Bleich, an authority on medical ethics at Yeshiva University in New York, said that medical marijuana is “a perfectly acceptable use of a plant that grows in God’s garden,” but opposed recreational use because it’s “pleasure for pleasure’s sake.”

In April 2013, a British drug lord found guilty of smuggling over $53 million worth of cocaine sued prison HMP Frankland over its lack of kosher food. Simon Price asked for $3,800 in damages after claiming he was forced to share utensils to prepare non-kosher food and had no choice in the food he was served, alleging that both Muslim and vegetarians cons received more preferential treatment.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.