But Smoking Pot for Fun? Not So Fast!
Kosher marijuana could soon be available to Orthodox Jews in New York State — but only on doctor’s orders.
Rabbi Moshe Elefant, head of the Orthodox Union’s kosher certification agency, said he has held “preliminary discussions” with several companies interested in obtaining a kosher seal of approval for medical marijuana.
The move comes as legalization of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes spreads across the country, with many of the leading pro-legalization activists, philanthropists and entrepreneurs drawn from the Jewish community.
Medical marijuana is legal in about half of U.S. states today. A handful of states have legalized recreational marijuana use.
Although Orthodox rabbis appear to have accepted the medical benefits of cannabis, they remain much more cautious about recreational marijuana. Most Orthodox rabbis say it’s strictly prohibited.
Such a view marks a clear divide between Orthodox Jewry and progressive Jews who support across-the-board regulation of pot.
Ean Seeb, one of the owners of the oldest marijuana dispensaries in Denver, Colorado, where marijuana was legalized in 2012, compared Jewish marijuana activity today with Jewish involvement in the prohibition-era alcohol industry, gambling during the early years of Las Vegas and the civil rights movements of the 1960s.
Seeb, a regional board member of the Anti-Defamation League and the Rocky Mountain Jewish Historical Society, said: “We have shown here in Colorado that you can effectuate social change without the world crashing down on you.”
Seeb was one of several Jews who led the charge for marijuana legalization in Colorado, including Steve Fox, a lawyer, and Mason Tvert, the executive director of Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation. Nationwide, Jewish philanthropists including Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer and billionaires George Soros and Peter Lewis have funded legalization efforts.
Progressive Jews see legalization of marijuana as a social justice issue. They argue that U.S. drug policy criminalizes otherwise law-abiding citizens and disproportionately affects black and Latino people, who comprise most marijuana arrests even though white people are just as likely to smoke pot.
Claire Kaufmann, co-founder of a recently established Jewish drug policy reform group, Le’Or, based in Oregon, said: “It’s undeniable that the current system isn’t working. It isn’t protecting kids, it isn’t decreasing consumption levels and it’s perpetuating a black market which is dangerous and where the people running that market are incentivized to deal harder, more addictive drugs.”
Ethan Nadelmann, director of the reform group Drug Policy Alliance and the son of a leading Reconstructionist rabbi, said he believes pro-legalization efforts in America have hit a tipping point. “You now have a majority of Americans in favor of ending marijuana prohibition,” he said.