Alaskan Jews take note: The Orthodox Union has begun “preliminary discussions” with medical marijuana companies interested in receiving the organization’s kosher seal.
Medicinal marijuana is a big business in the United States, generating over a billion dollars in 2013, according to the research group Arcview Market Research. Included in that are the dozens of state-level and national companies that produce and sell “edibles,” foods that have been infused with marijuana.
With marijuana already legalized for medicinal use in 23 US states, for recreational use in three (Alaska joined Colorado and Washington this week) and more states expected to pass similar legislation, the pot business is only expected to grow.
Some cannabis companies are apparently looking to reach out to an untapped market — kosher medicinal marijuana users. This is critical for purveyors that are hoping to enter the medical cannabis market in New York, as the state senate only allows patients to receive marijuana in a non-smokeable form.
As marijuana is a plant, it requires no real kosher supervision when it is sold by itself in dispensaries, but if companies want to sell kosher edibles, they will need to go through the same process to which all food companies must submit to get certified.
In the past the Orthodox Union, which is one of the main certifiers of kashrut in America, was loath to give kosher certification to companies that manufacture tobacco products due to the deleterious health effects. But, the Jewish Daily Forward reported this week, as the health benefits of cannabis are now understood, the Orthodox Union has no such qualms about certifying medical marijuana.
In Israel, despite the fact that foods infused with medical marijuana are sold (including in one interesting case to an inmate who was not allowed to smoke his medicinal pot during his prison sentence and thus had to resort to pot-infused cookies), the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has not weighed in on the kashrut of edibles.
“We don’t deal with it,” said Daniel Bar, the spokesperson for the Rabbinate. “We have not even looked into it.”