If you’re a dedicated Jew, kosher certification really matters to you. Jerusalem Post’s Health & Science, section questions rabbis on the need for medical cannabis products to be certified kosher.
The question has many angles to be considered. In Israel, medicinal cannabis has been legal and accepted as a reputable treatment for more than two decades. It is low key, and no one even bothered to ask for the rabbinic authorities’ stamp of approval.
More or less 25,000 people hold medical marijuana licenses, but the Chief Rabbinate has no policy on kosher cannabis. Daniel Bar, spokesman for the Religious Services Ministry, and acting spokesman for the Chief Rabbinate said, no one has ever asked, so there has been no need to develop a policy. If someone uses a product for health reasons, there is no need for kashrut, he explained.
Medicine doesn’t need certification
A representative of Tikun Olam, Israel’s largest medical marijuana provider, said the same. Because cannabis is used as a medical treatment. it doesn’t need to be certified.
So, why then did Vireo Health of New York apply and receive certification from the Orthodox Union’s (OU) Rabbi Moshe Elefant? The company manufactures oils, vapors and capsules for patients with a medical marijuana prescription bearing the OU symbol on every one of its products.
Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health New York, explains the reasoning behind applying for certification as two-fold; first, they operate in the largest Jewish community in the United States, and they wanted to make sure they serve the unique religious dietary needs of their patients.
Secondly there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to cannabis, medical or not. They wanted to send the message out to all New Yorkers, of all faiths or backgrounds, that using medical cannabis for pain or to alleviate suffering is nothing to be ashamed about, even more so if a doctor prescribed it and it is certified by a prominent Orthodox Jewish organization.
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Hoffnung said that the OU had many questions, and visited their facilities to gain an understanding of the whole supply chain and the whole process. His company were not required to make any changes to the growing or manufacturing process, but had to agree that if any changes were to be made, particularly if new ingredients were added to the medication, the OU would have to be informed.
Open-minded and scientific
He said, “I found them to be extraordinarily engaging and open-minded, and really laser-focused on the science, and on how these products will help alleviate pain and suffering.”
Elefant said the official Orthodox Union policy is not to certify anything containing marijuana for recreational use. That is why some companies in other states have not received certification.
He said they are accustomed to being criticized, and whatever they would have done someone would have questioned their decision. They try and do what is right, but are open to questions, and like to hear what people have to say.
Rabbi Elefant concluded, “If we make a mistake, we even agree that we made a mistake, but we don’t think we made a mistake this time.”