Rabbi blessing weed. Image via jta.org
There are many reasons that people may not want to try medical marijuana, ranging from stigma from its past as an illegal substance to family disapproval, among others. But for observant Jews, the issue may not be any of those things – they may even be happy about the idea of this alternate treatment – but they have to make sure the weed is kosher if they plan on using tinctures or edibles.
Now that medical marijuana is gaining traction as an accepted form of alternative therapy for many common medical conditions, marijuana companies are looking for ways to make themselves stand out from the competition, and being able to lay claim to selling certified kosher weed is one of them. Taylor West, deputy director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, recently said as much in a recent article, stating: “You’re seeing companies looking for creative ways to distinguish themselves, but also just interesting ways to appeal to different types of consumers.”
But in order to claim what they have is kosher, marijuana companies need to get certification by The Orthodox Union or a local rabbinical organization. This means that a group of rabbis will inspect every single step of the process, as well as the ingredients used in the products being made with the marijuana to ensure everything conforms to kosher laws.
Ingredients must not come into contact with forbidden foods, like pigs or insects, and the restrictions extend all the way down the supply chain.
Every ingredient in a marijuana brownie, for example, needs to be kosher. The leaves, if eaten, would need to come from a bug-free plant. Marijuana gelcaps cannot be made out of pig gelatin. There are also rules for the equipment that processes kosher food.
In addition to these restrictions, any company that successfully gains this certification will need to be subject to periodic rabbinical inspections to ensure they’re upholding standards.
One medical marijuana company, Vireo, spent thousands of dollars to finally achieve kosher status for their edibles and tinctures – making them one of the few companies that currently hold this distinction. Considering that the medical marijuana industry is projected to be a multibillion-dollar market, the few thousand dollars they invested to gain kosher certification is a good business move.
Though Vireo is currently only producing and selling kosher marijuana edibles in New York, with over three synagogues and a large Jewish community center in Santa Rosa alone, the availability of kosher edibles may bring an uptick in business to dispensaries in Sonoma County who can find a way to stock them, or seek certification as well.