I belong to a worldwide association of kosher agencies called AKO the Association of Kashrut Organizations. akokosher.org.
Back in February I attended the conference held in Oxnard California where all of the world leading organizations met to discuss the contemporary issues involving the kosher industry. Much was discussed but one thing that caught my special attention was when one of the leading kosher organizations in the world gave a small talk on the kosher certification of marijuana.
As we have seen there was an article released last year where the OU announced that they were going to give cannabis a kosher certification. here is the article. https://oukosher.org/blog/consumer-news/ou-medical-marijuana-statement/
When this leading organization was approached to give certification to cannabis, they were of course faced with the dilemma. “To be Kosher? or not to be?” So the rabbi continued that he had had conversations with people in the Jewish community who had various illnesses and that marijuana gave them tremendous relief. Upon getting such information, they decided that for medicinal reasons they were going to certify it as kosher.
The rabbi continued to explain that for health reasons how could they not? However, the issue came when the company that they wanted to certify also manufactured cannabis for recreational purposes. Here is where they felt they had to draw line and not issue a kosher certification. So, if a manufacturer was producing marijuana for medicinal purposes only, then they would certify it. If the manufacturer was producing for medicinal AND recreational they would not give a kosher certification. Certainly, if they ONLY made for recreational they would not certify it. And then the rabbi sat down for questions. and that’s when I asked
“So, are you saying that you would not give certification for edibles? edibles can be also medicinal?”
The rabbi explained of course for edibles they would give but they have not been approached for that item. They have so far only given kosher certification for oils and vapors. (I should have asked why vapors would need it since it is inhaled but I was already thinking about my next question).
“Are there any bugs in the plants that one needs to be careful about the Torah prohibition of eating bugs?”
The rabbi answered they were involved in oil only in which there were no bug concerns. Here the moderator who is also head of the top five kosher agencies interjected saying they have certified cannabis in their region and have found bugs to be in it. He continued to tell us that growers actually introduce another kind of bug that eats those bugs.
(The reason why is asked is that there are people who eat it raw. they put it in salads. some might want to put the actual bud in their brownies or tea. according to that answer it does present a problem and checking the buds for bugs seems necessary.)
The moderator continued saying “Thank G-d, Rabbi Cohen, you’re an ignoramus in this area so you don’t need to worry about it.”
I retorted “but I did come from California.” (I was chuckling inside saying to myself “little does he know i used to grow the stuff back in my high school days”).
Someone else then asked a question that was brewing in my mind
“You won’t give for recreational purposes so what’s the difference between that and alcohol which you do give kosher certification for and that is recreational? Is it because of stigma that you won’t give kosher certification for or is there another reason?
The rabbi answered and said quite simply that to give for recreational reason would make them “a joke” of sorts and might devalue the reputation of the organization.
With that, it came out that it was really a stigma and that it seems as soon as it would be globally legal for recreational reasons, then they would technically give kosher certification to recreational cannabis.
I later had conversations with other west coast kashrut agencies and they told me that they were also approached and they are refraining from doing it for the same reasons. It just makes them look like a joke.
I however, am not afraid. I lost my six-year-old son to brain cancer three years ago and my family and I are still suffering from it. We were giving him cannabis oil trying to work up to the therapeutic dose, when he the disease drove him into a coma and took his life. I see value even in recreational for some cases and in my studies and investigation its better than alchohol if its legal. If any manufacturer out there sees this article and wants to go kosher certified, I am willing to step up to the plate and help. Call me at 210 913-1836