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The Ancient and Recent History of Kosher Pot

Kosher cannabis has likely been a thing for millennia, but the age of legal cannabis has certainly provided a totally new perspective on the situation with the ancient standards to match!

Photo by Daniel Luna

The Jewish people’s relationship with marijuana goes back thousands of years. There is a lot of literary evidence according to the way some scholars look at scripture and more firm stuff like physical evidence about how long cannabis had been around the eastern Mediterranean region. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Scythians hotboxing their tents as early as 440 BC.

For Jews, a passage in the Shulchan Aruch, the code of laws in Judaism meant to be practical and specific, was one of the earliest written references connecting Judaism and cannabis. It also got Boston-based physician Yosef Glassman to dive in on the relationship between the Jewish people and cannabis. In coverage of his work by Haaretz , he confidently referenced several points in scripture where he felt cannabis was being referenced.

Photo by Daniel Luna

Weed is so popular in Israel these days that during the buildup to this year’s parliamentary elections candidates from all the major parties were forced to take a stand on the issue or notably keep it blurry as in the case of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Spectators on the Israeli election from all over believed that far-right politician Moshe Feiglin pushed the cause to the forefront in that last election cycle, and like America, the conversation has continued long after the polls closed.

But now Israel will hold its third election in a year after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, failed to get a majority after September’s election. So the Israeli voters will have few more months again to consider how important marijuana is to them when they hit the polls.

Cannabis and the policies around it have really evolved over the last few thousand years. Now as it moves into the regulatory light, brands are preparing to take advantage of just how popular cannabis is with Jews via more and more kosher products

But how did the modern Kosher pot wave kickoff? The first famous kosher weed hit the world a decade ago, and it was kosher in spirit. Kosher Kush has a place in history without the rabbi’s blessing because it was the first real OG cut introduced to Amsterdam from California. That claim to fame goes to the team at DNA Genetics.

Shiloh Massive, a popular Mendocino County breeder in his own right, spent years living in Amsterdam taking part in its gray cannabis market before returning to California in the mid-2000s. We asked Massive about the claims of Kosher Kush being the first OG to hit Europe.

“I would have to say yeah,” Massive told L.A. Weekly, “Some people claimed [they had] Kush cause it was hyped but it wasn’t Kush just a name slap. The Jew juice or Kosher Kush was the first one that was really Kush.”

Photo by Daniel Luna

And Europe loved it. Kosher Kush won best indica at both the 2010 and 2011 Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam.

Fast forward to the rapidly developing largest legal cannabis market in the world, in 2015 New York-based Vireo Health announced it would have the first legit kosher cannabis products ever following certification from the Orthodox Union, the official regulatory body of all things kosher, to date they have only certified one other company besides Vireo.

The Orthodox Union has certified over a million products in 8,000 factories in 80 countries as kosher.

“We are pleased to grant kosher certification to Vireo Health of New York’s medical cannabis products which were developed to alleviate pain and suffering in accordance with the New York State Compassionate Care Act,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher back in 2015. “Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain. Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

A few months later the Orthodox Union would receive some pushback . The OU said there was a lot of confusion from people who thought their certification of the products would create the impression that the use of recreational marijuana was acceptable. The naysayers also claimed the medical products would still find their way into the wrong hands.

“While these concerns are understandable, they reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of these products and the manner in which they are dispensed,” The OU said in a statement in early 2016.

They also contested the OU certified product is sold only in New York State dispensaries, some of the most tightly regulated the world, “and it is unlikely that its use will lead to substance abuse.”

Access to the most heavily certified kosher pot is certainly limited. But why shouldn’t consumers of the recreational market have access to that kind of quality? Thankfully some California cultivators and a few entrepreneurial-minded rabbis felt the same way.

These days Cali Kosher’s white on blue logo is the recreational markets most recognizable kosher-friendly face, with some upstart edible companies beginning to get in the mix. But the Cali Kosher team actually grows good pot, and we love that here at L.A. Weekly so we’ll stick to their tale.

We spoke with Cali Kosher founder Darron Silva to hear how it all came to be.

“I had a friend that was Jewish that was always talking about it,” Silva told LA Weekly. “Then we actually started to pursue the kosher world of cannabis about three or four years ago.” After seeing Mission Farms go through the hoops to certify its weed kosher, Silva planned to do in a way that would attach the process to the wider ethos of the company through his branding approach.

“That’s why I put it out there, Cali Kosher. It’s the best cannabis in the world grown in California as well as kosher,” he said.

Silva’s brother actually currently runs Mission Kosher. Ironically the two gentile brothers have found their way to the top of California’s kosher pot mountain via a love of clean cannabis.

Going kosher proved to be both spiritually and analytically centered when the Rabbis came to the farm. “They did blessings outside every greenhouse and did an inspection as far as how the product was being grown and harvested,” Silva said.

We asked how deep the process was to review of the nutrients he was using.

“Well I mean, as in-depth as it can get,” he replied, “You know they want to look at all your ingredients. They’ll give analysis all the way down to what’s going in the nutrients and soil, how your actually doing the feeding, the whole harvesting process.”

They will return to take leaf samples and make sure everything is up to their standards on occasion.

Silva said there really wasn’t anything else out there for cannabis quite like this before. There were other third party certifications meant to prove sustainable practices, “but the credibility wasn’t really there for my standards.”

Silva now believes kosher cannabis is for everybody. “Not just the Orthodox, but for anybody that wants to have a clean experience with kosher cannabis,” he said

Cali Kosher is now in over 100 stores across the state. They also have a manufacturing facility as well that’s certified kosher.

Kosher cannabis has likely been a thing for millennia, but the age of legal cannabis has certainly provided a totally new perspective on the situation with the ancient standards to match!

Is Marijuana Kosher? This Rabbi Might Clear Your Conscience.

Is marijuana kosher?

As Passover and 4/20 coincide in 2019, observant Jews want to know.

In 2019, the second night of the Jewish holiday of Passover falls on 4/20. That makes it more fitting than ever to address a query that, if some cannabis fans had their way, would be an addition to the traditional four questions that are asked at every Seder, the ceremony and ritual feast that marks the beginning of the eight-day observance.

Namely, is marijuana kosher?

For an answer, Weedmaps News turned to Rabbi Raphael Leban , managing director of the progressive outreach organization The Jewish Experience in Denver, Colorado.

Q: Have you been asked before whether weed is kosher?

A: Let me put it this way. I have a very open constituency. As more of an outreach synagogue than a traditional one, we have thousands of people who turn to us for spiritual guidance. So, yes, the question does come up because we certainly have members for whom keeping kosher and enjoying Colorado ‘s major cash crop is important.

Q: What, in a nutshell, do you tell them?

A: The Torah requires Jews to maintain a kosher diet, which precludes us from eating certain foods including pork and shellfish and eating meat and dairy together.

Kosher refers specifically to eating, so if one were smoking or vaping marijuana, that does not rub up against any issue of kashrut, or the laws around keeping kosher.

Additionally, if one were consuming cannabis by anointing one’s skin with a lotion or swallowing a tasteless pill , neither of those is eating, so, again, those aren’t a concern of kashrut.

When, however, we’re talking about putting something in our mouth, in the form of drops, tinctures , edibles , or anything else that falls into the territory of eating, then we have a valid concern about whether what we’re consuming is kosher.

As a plant itself, marijuana is kosher. No kasruth problem there. On the other hand, there might be kosher issues when additives or ingredients are used in preparation or processing.

For example, some red food dyes are made from crushed cochineal insects , and while insects are acceptable to the FDA, it’s not to kashrut laws, so brownies made with this dye wouldn’t be kosher.

Fortunately, the kosher-supervising industry is so robust in America today, that if you go to a supermarket anywhere in the country, you can find certified-kosher ingredients for whatever you need to make brownies or the edible of your choice.

Q: If I’m buying my edibles at a dispensary, how can I be sure they’re kosher?

A: A person who’s interested in observing the Jewish laws of keeping kosher would want to make sure that anything marijuana-related, just like anything they eat that’s not marijuana-related, has been certified kosher by a reliable kosher agency.

[Note: Today, you can find kosher dispensaries in some cities, as well as online shops .]

Q: Going back to insects, what if there are tiny bugs on my marijuana buds?

A: Insects are a forbidden food, so those of us who are kosher are extremely meticulous in checking our food, particularly our salads and vegetables. If there are bugs in marijuana that you’ll be eating in some form, that would be a problem. So you’d need to carefully check for bugs and get rid of every last one before using the marijuana as an ingredient in anything you’re preparing.

Making sure that the marijuana that’s used in any edibles is free from insects would be one of the criteria a rabbi with a kosher-certifying agency would consider as they approve products or oversee production.

Q: So, it’s pretty easy for someone to keep kosher and enjoy marijuana?

A: I haven’t commented on whether marijuana use is healthy or not — we’ll leave that to the experts — but that’s another issue that could arise. There’s a commandment in the Torah that one must care for one’s health, both physical and spiritual. Today, we all want to eat things that nourish us, that are healthy for us and that conform with our goals for our physical well-being.

A Jewish person who is in tune with kosher, also wants to make decisions about what they consume that conform with their spiritual health. Even though, according to the letter of the law, it may be acceptable to consume cannabis, that may not always confirm with our spiritual health goals, which are the spirit of the kosher laws.

Q: In the same way that drinking two bottles of kosher wine a night is not really kosher in the deeper sense of the word.

Q: So far the news about marijuana being kosher is good! But is it kosher for Passover?

A: I don’t think there are really any additional issues that would arise for Passover. The Torah requires that during Passover we neither consume nor own anything that is chametz , a food product made from five forbidden grains: wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt. Marijuana isn’t a grain, so chametz prohibitions don’t apply.

Ashkenazi Jews also avoid kitniyot , a group of foods that includes rice, corn, and certain types of legumes. Again, this doesn’t apply to marijuana.

Q: One last question: can marijuana leaves be used on the Seder plate as a bitter herb?

A: The answer to that, in one word, is no.

Featured Image: Yes, we(ed) are. (Photo by Evan Grant via Flickr; used with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license)

This post has been updated to clarify the role of The Jewish Experience.

Is Marijuana Kosher? This Rabbi Might Clear Your Conscience. Is marijuana kosher? As Passover and 4/20 coincide in 2019, observant Jews want to know. In 2019, the second night of the