Hanukkah Begins – What’s The Deal with Kosher Marijuana?
Recently, a licensed Canadian marijuana producer was awarded kosher certification for the production of medical marijuana, now the recognition of cannabis by mainstream religions seems closer than ever.
Hydropothecary Corporation of Gatineau, Quebec will have its cannabis buds, oils, and tinctures given the Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut mark of certification.
What’s the meaning of kosher?
At its most basic, kosher means “fit” or “appropriate”. Products that fall into this category are those that have been certified as safe for use by those of the Jewish faith. This means is that the product must not contain a single ingredient that is prohibited for consumption by Jewish Law.
Food is deemed kosher if it comes from an animal that has been raised and prepared in a certain way. In order for the food to be particularly kosher, it is required that a rabbi gives the production process a “seal of approval”.
It, however, remains the subject of discussion as to whether cannabis can be certified Kosher. The reason for the seemingly deepening debate is Israel’s central role in cannabis research.
As such, there are a number of rabbis who have categorically stated that “cannabis is not kosher”. And they have a point. In traditional Jewish customs, something can only be certified kosher if it is intended for eating. Clearly, smoking isn’t the same as eating. You can’t, therefore, say you are striving to keep kosher by smoking the right kind of weed.
Those who belong to this school of thought argues that cannabis in its plant form is already kosher and, therefore, requires no further certification. To some Rabbis, marijuana consumed for medical purposes is considered kosher for the Passover holiday.
But that excludes medicinal weed products and other cannabis edibles to which other ingredients have been added. That’s the reason why a company in Colorado USA is now partnering with Rabbi Moshe Elefant to bring to the market kosher edible weed products. These are mainly targeted for use in New York following the legalization of medical marijuana.
As to whether it is right or wrong to ingest the marijuana and its products, Rabbi Moshe says Jews are expected to take care of themselves and if a “doctor prescribes marijuana”, they have no option but to take it.
This view is supported by Dr. Ajay Chaudhary, a lecturer of religious studies at Columbia University. He says that so long as marijuana is used to “save a life or alleviate suffering” it is kosher even when taken during Hanukkah or Yom Kippur.
During the holiday of Hanukkah, Jewish faithful celebrate the miracle of oil. It is believed that the sacred oil burned at the Temple by the predecessors of today’s Jews is actually, marijuana oil.
So, a number of companies have taken advantage of the continued use of THC oil as part of the Hanukkah festival to see kosher certification for marijuana products.
Whether recreational marijuana shall be added to the list of kosher cannabis products is the matter of a wait-and-see proposition. Rabbi Levy Teitlebaum of Ottawa Vaad HaKashrut says the ethical question of using “a product simply for enjoyment” shall be the main consideration.