Fake Kosher Marijuana
Last week, Vireo Health made a big deal about its new strain of “kosher certified” marijuana, which the company plans to sell in New York state’s new medical marijuana dispensaries. Turns out, cannabis is already kosher—at least if you’re smoking it. “Cannabis isn’t kosher, it’s fake” one rabbi explained to reporters from Haaretz.
According to several Jewish leaders, practitioners, and reporters, pot is already kosher since it’s a naturally occurring herb.
“Marijuana, like apples or spinach, is a plant,” wrote Ruth Schuster.
“If grown in Israel, to be consumable by the religious under Jewish law, its growers would have to adhere to the custom of shnat shmita (meaning, allowing the land to rest every seventh year).”
“For American-grown pot, shmita does not apply, hence hechsher (kosher approval) is not necessary.”
All of this apparently only applies to ganja that’s smoked. If cannabis is grown to be eaten or consumed as an oil or tincture, it’s a slightly different story.
And this is where Vireo’s new kosher certified cannabis comes into play.
“The only products permissible are cannabis extract products, like capsules, like oils, and like vaporization cartridges,” said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung.
“Of course, fruits and vegetables and natural plants are kosher, but we’re not talking about native plants here–we’re talking a pharma product that contains extracts from natural plants.”
In the end, then, it seems that the kosher label only really matters if you’re dealing with some cannabis extract product. And even then, kosher certification is more about ensuring that the other goods and extracts used to produce the final edible or oil are ready to go.
Beyond that, it sounds like the kosher cannabis hype may simply be a clever bit of marketing.
“Why do some people insist on buying salt with hechsher?” said a Jewish news source. “Because they do. Some ultra-orthodox families won’t purchase a product if it doesn’t have a kashrut stamp on it, whether or not it makes sense.”