Marijuana borders are stretching even further than before. The market is making it's way to the Jewish population. Starting this month in New York patients with a registry identification card will be able to purchase certified kosher cannabis products under the Compassionate Care Act. Patients can apply online to receive this card once they have a prescription from a physician that has been registered with the Department of Health. The physician must have also completed a 4 hour online course on medical marijuana.
One of the founders
Stephen B. Corn, of the mandatory online course for doctors that want to be registered by the state said that, “many, many doctors have successfully, quickly, effectively completed the course.” Corn goes on to explain that quite a few doctors that wanted to complete the course did so because their patients with conditions like cancer and chronic pain asked them to do it. Other doctors that specialize in oncology or chronic pain management took the course as they have had an interest in this the whole time.
Certified as kosher
Vireo Health of New York will be the first cannabis company that will be certified as kosher from the Orthodox Union. This union is the largest and most recognized kosher certification agency across the globe. You will be able to recognize the kosher medical cannabis products like oils, vaporization cartridges, and capsules by the Orthodox Union's trademark- the letter "U" inside a circle. The company has four dispensaries located in Queens, Albany, White Plains, and Binghamton where you can purchase their products.
largest Jewish community
Being that the largest Jewish community in the United States reside in New York, it is the perfect place to launch the kosher cannabis products. Ari Hoffnung, CEO of Vireo Health of New York, says, It's our hope that [being certified kosher] will also help combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis and that it will send a message to people of all faiths that using medical cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering does not represent an embrace of "pot culture." He continues to say that, Patients should never feel guilty or ashamed for using a product recommended to them by their physicians.
New York's new medical marijuana program
Although New York's new medical marijuana program allows patients to use marijuana products it actually still bans smoking marijuana. Kinda takes some of the fun out of it, right? What does this leave for patients? Well, they can ingest cannabis in the form of vaporizable oils, capsules, tinctures, medicated patches, and under-the-tongue strips. Yitzy, a New York resident with Chron's disease and irritable bowel syndrome, is hoping to get a doctor recommendation for medical marijuana. He says, "I keep kosher, If [medical marijuana] had a kosher symbol, I would feel more comfortable with that." He continues, "If it has any other ingrdients besides the cannabis, I know I'm not getting pig fat, gelatin, or something grossly non-kosher.
The Orthodox Union's chief operating officer, Rabbi Moshe Elefant, adds that the agency will not be certifying cannabis for recreational purposes, only for medical use. He says, "the OU is very sensitive to certifying products that we feel are appropriate...For example, though many kosher-keeping jews smoke tobacco, the OU does not actively certify cigarettes as kosher." Cigarettes give a warning about health. If the OU puts their stamp on a product it endorses and approves that product's use.
Blessing the cannabis
A kosher certification doesn't come lightly. It's not as easy as just blessing the cannabis. In fact, Rabbi Elefant says, That's a common misconception...the cannabis products will not have received a blessing. In order for the cannabis products to receive a kosher certification, all the individual ingredients must qualify as kosher. Rabbi Elefant explains that alcohols and additives used in the extraction processes do not necessarily have to be kosher, however, the equipment used in manufacturing must only be used for kosher ingredients or cleaned thoroughly in between uses. Also, the rabbinical association will only certify it as kosher if the marijuana is grown and produced according to the laws of the kashrut; this includes that it is completely free of insects. The Orthodox Union is in communication with other cannabis companies not only in New York but also across the country looking for kosher certification.
New York's medical marijuana program is deemed to officially start January 7 this year. We can hope with this movement that marijuana continues to lose the negative stigmas around it and that people see it more as medicinal tool.
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