Kosher cannabis has likely been a thing for millennia, but the age of legal cannabis has certainly provided a totally new perspective on the situation with the ancient standards to match!
The Jewish people’s relationship with marijuana goes back thousands of years. There is a lot of literary evidence according to the way some scholars look at scripture and more firm stuff like physical evidence about how long cannabis had been around the eastern Mediterranean region. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote of the Scythians hotboxing their tents as early as 440 BC.
For Jews, a passage in the Shulchan Aruch, the code of laws in Judaism meant to be practical and specific, was one of the earliest written references connecting Judaism and cannabis. It also got Boston-based physician Yosef Glassman to dive in on the relationship between the Jewish people and cannabis. In coverage of his work by Haaretz, he confidently referenced several points in scripture where he felt cannabis was being referenced.
Weed is so popular in Israel these days that during the buildup to this year’s parliamentary elections candidates from all the major parties were forced to take a stand on the issue or notably keep it blurry as in the case of current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Spectators on the Israeli election from all over believed that far-right politician Moshe Feiglin pushed the cause to the forefront in that last election cycle, and like America, the conversation has continued long after the polls closed.
But now Israel will hold its third election in a year after both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival, Benny Gantz, failed to get a majority after September’s election. So the Israeli voters will have few more months again to consider how important marijuana is to them when they hit the polls.
Cannabis and the policies around it have really evolved over the last few thousand years. Now as it moves into the regulatory light, brands are preparing to take advantage of just how popular cannabis is with Jews via more and more kosher products
But how did the modern Kosher pot wave kickoff? The first famous kosher weed hit the world a decade ago, and it was kosher in spirit. Kosher Kush has a place in history without the rabbi’s blessing because it was the first real OG cut introduced to Amsterdam from California. That claim to fame goes to the team at DNA Genetics.
Shiloh Massive, a popular Mendocino County breeder in his own right, spent years living in Amsterdam taking part in its gray cannabis market before returning to California in the mid-2000s. We asked Massive about the claims of Kosher Kush being the first OG to hit Europe.
“I would have to say yeah,” Massive told L.A. Weekly, “Some people claimed [they had] Kush cause it was hyped but it wasn’t Kush just a name slap. The Jew juice or Kosher Kush was the first one that was really Kush.”
And Europe loved it. Kosher Kush won best indica at both the 2010 and 2011 Cannabis Cups in Amsterdam.
Fast forward to the rapidly developing largest legal cannabis market in the world, in 2015 New York-based Vireo Health announced it would have the first legit kosher cannabis products ever following certification from the Orthodox Union, the official regulatory body of all things kosher, to date they have only certified one other company besides Vireo.
The Orthodox Union has certified over a million products in 8,000 factories in 80 countries as kosher.
“We are pleased to grant kosher certification to Vireo Health of New York’s medical cannabis products which were developed to alleviate pain and suffering in accordance with the New York State Compassionate Care Act,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher back in 2015. “Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain. Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”
A few months later the Orthodox Union would receive some pushback. The OU said there was a lot of confusion from people who thought their certification of the products would create the impression that the use of recreational marijuana was acceptable. The naysayers also claimed the medical products would still find their way into the wrong hands.
“While these concerns are understandable, they reflect a misunderstanding of the nature of these products and the manner in which they are dispensed,” The OU said in a statement in early 2016.
They also contested the OU certified product is sold only in New York State dispensaries, some of the most tightly regulated the world, “and it is unlikely that its use will lead to substance abuse.”
Access to the most heavily certified kosher pot is certainly limited. But why shouldn’t consumers of the recreational market have access to that kind of quality? Thankfully some California cultivators and a few entrepreneurial-minded rabbis felt the same way.
These days Cali Kosher’s white on blue logo is the recreational markets most recognizable kosher-friendly face, with some upstart edible companies beginning to get in the mix. But the Cali Kosher team actually grows good pot, and we love that here at L.A. Weekly so we’ll stick to their tale.
We spoke with Cali Kosher founder Darron Silva to hear how it all came to be.
“I had a friend that was Jewish that was always talking about it,” Silva told LA Weekly. “Then we actually started to pursue the kosher world of cannabis about three or four years ago.” After seeing Mission Farms go through the hoops to certify its weed kosher, Silva planned to do in a way that would attach the process to the wider ethos of the company through his branding approach.
“That’s why I put it out there, Cali Kosher. It’s the best cannabis in the world grown in California as well as kosher,” he said.
Silva’s brother actually currently runs Mission Kosher. Ironically the two gentile brothers have found their way to the top of California’s kosher pot mountain via a love of clean cannabis.
Going kosher proved to be both spiritually and analytically centered when the Rabbis came to the farm. “They did blessings outside every greenhouse and did an inspection as far as how the product was being grown and harvested,” Silva said.
We asked how deep the process was to review of the nutrients he was using.
“Well I mean, as in-depth as it can get,” he replied, “You know they want to look at all your ingredients. They’ll give analysis all the way down to what’s going in the nutrients and soil, how your actually doing the feeding, the whole harvesting process.”
They will return to take leaf samples and make sure everything is up to their standards on occasion.
Silva said there really wasn’t anything else out there for cannabis quite like this before. There were other third party certifications meant to prove sustainable practices, “but the credibility wasn’t really there for my standards.”
Silva now believes kosher cannabis is for everybody. “Not just the Orthodox, but for anybody that wants to have a clean experience with kosher cannabis,” he said
Cali Kosher is now in over 100 stores across the state. They also have a manufacturing facility as well that’s certified kosher.