With cannabis legal for medical and recreational uses in a growing number of states, observant Jews and the simply curious might be wondering – can this possibly be kosher?
The short answer is yes, at least if you smoke it, and almost certainly if you take it for medical reasons. The case for edibles might be a bit more complicated.
For religious Jews, the laws of kashrut, or kosher, govern what food is fit for consumption. While they notably ban the consumption of foods including pork and shellfish, there are countless intricate stipulations governing how animals are to be slaughtered and food is to be prepared. Many Jews (and even some Christians) look for rulings from rabbinical authorities to determine whether food is fit for consumption.
Official Kosher Certified Marijuana
That’s why Vireo Health of New York, a medical cannabis dispensary, made a splash recently when it got kosher certification for its products from the Orthodox Union, one of the main organizations that rules on Jewish dietary restrictions.
And Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, a leading ultra-Orthodox authority in Israel, went viral on YouTube when he gave marijuana leaves a sniff and declared that the plant had a “healing smell” and could be consumed for medicinal reasons, even during the holiday of Passover, when stricter dietary rules apply.
A focus on good health
It should come as no surprise that Jewish religious authorities offer a nod of approval to medical cannabis. Under Jewish law, the preservation of physical well-being is looked upon as among the highest of religious commands, and strict religious demands may be set aside in favor of measures that relieve pain and suffering.
Still, some religious Jews prefer the security of a rabbinical opinion, so on those grounds Vireo’s kosher certification could give it a marketing edge for its oral solutions, oils, capsules, and other products.
The rules on cannabis edibles
When it comes to other edibles, there are no clear rabbinical rulings, although plant material such as cannabis generally may be consumed by observant Jews without concern if it is free of animal products. Cannabis grown in Israel technically would be subject to special rules requiring that the land lie fallow for one year out of every seven. Plants grown outside the Holy Land are not subject to the same restriction.
But many cannabis edibles are mixed in with other foods such as milk chocolate, candy, or soda. These products would be subject to the same limitations as any other packaged food product, so the most observant Jews probably would avoid them unless they were certified by rabbinic authorities.
The laws of kashrut do not apply to smoking, which historically has been widespread in many religious Jewish communities. Rabbinical authorities have offered mixed opinions on the propriety of smoking over the centuries, but generally allowed it, although not on Shabbat and other holy days, when it is impermissible to light a fire. However, many modern-day rabbis oppose smoking entirely for health reasons.
Although cannabis and hashish are common across the Middle East, there is no confirmed mention of the plant in the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament. And while a glass of schnapps or three might be sanctioned for religious celebrations, recreational cannabis is not part of the historical Jewish tradition.
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