Jewish

Medical Marijuana Could Get Kosher Certification from Orthodox Union

Marijuana
Medical marijuana may soon get a new form of approval — this time from Orthodox rabbis. Rabbi Moshe Elefant, COO of the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification agency, has held “preliminary discussions” with companies that are interested in having their medical cannabis products approved as kosher.

Medical marijuana is legal in almost half of all U.S. states today and is expected to be legal in New York next year. Recreational marijuana is currently legal in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington.

Due to the pro-legalization effort throughout the country, even Orthodox rabbis have begun to accept the medical benefits of cannabis.

As more states legalize cannabis for recreational and medicinal purposes, many businesses also turn to recreational or medical marijuana business branding experts, who help businesses create products that stand out. But in a state like New York, with a high Jewish population, having kosher cannabis is also a big deal.

“Anything that the industry can do to make medicine accessible to patients and adult use in states where it’s been legalized is a good thing because we don’t ever want people driven to the black marketing to have access, which could be dangerous or harmful,” said Diane Czarkowski, owner and managing partner of Canna Advisors. “We want them to have safe access by purchasing from a licensed dispensary and by making the drug kosher just opens up another group of people who might not have been able to get access before.”

Because marijuana is a plant, it wouldn’t technically need certification. But cannabis can be used in edible products and capsules, which would require a kosher seal.

Cannabis is used medicinally to minimize pain, anxiety, nausea and other symptoms in patients with everything from HIV/AIDS and cancer to multiple sclerosis and glaucoma.

Progressive Jewish groups see the issue of marijuana legalization as one of social justice. Drug laws often disproportionately affect black and Hispanic Americans even though white people are just as likely to use cannabis.

Ean Seeb, who owns one of the oldest marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Colorado, and is a regional board member of the Anti-Defamation League, compared Jewish marijuana activity today with prohibition-era involvement in the alcohol industry.

Of Colorado, Seeb said, “We have shown here in Colorado that you can effectuate social change without the world crashing down on you.”

Most orthodox rabbis, however, still oppose use of cannabis, medical or otherwise.

Still Elefant is hopeful that the Orthodox Union will follow Israel’s lead on the topic of medicinal cannabis. Israel is one of the world’s leaders in medical marijuana and has licensed more than 11,000 people to receive the drug, and patients can buy kosher-certified cannabis products.