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Is Marijuana Kosher?

Is Marijuana Kosher?

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Question:

I recently read that a number of U.S. kosher certifying agencies are mulling putting their seal of approval on legal medical marijuana. Rabbi, marijuana is a plant. Since when does a plant need to be certified kosher?

Response:

Since you only asked whether it is kosher—and not whether marijuana should be legal—I will focus solely on that issue. And the answer really depends on how you define the word “kosher.”

Narrow Definition

Most narrowly defined, kosher means that it contains no ingredients that were from non-kosher animals, milk and meat, or other substances proscribed by Jewish law.

Accordingly, if we would know that the product in question contains just leaves and that there was no unkosher residue on the processing equipment, it would not need certification, like plain unflavored tea.

On the other hand, if it would be processed and contain other additives, as appears to be the case, kosher certification would be necessary.

Regarding medically necessitated pills, many rule that they do not generally need to be kosher. “Pill medications that one swallows are permitted even if they contain non-kosher ingredients,” according to the cRc (Chicago Rabbinical Council). “Two exceptions to that rule are: (1) vitamins, which generally require certification; and (2) gel caps, hard or soft, which should only be taken by someone who is ill and does not have a kosher alternative.”

Thus, even if the marijuana itself would be kosher, there would be concern that the capsules that contain it be kosher as well.

Also, if the marijuana is not deemed medically necessary by halachah (Jewish law)—as may often be the case with medical marijuana—then like vitamins, you’d need to be sure that it is kosher before partaking.

Now, the above issue applies only if the substance would be ingested. If smoked or injected, most kosher concerns would not apply.

(Also note that on Passover, when Jews are forbidden to even own edible substances that are not kosher for Passover, there may be concern even for the smoked variety, if they contain more than pure leaves.)

Wider Definition

In a broader sense, “kosher” denotes something that is appropriate for the Jewish person. Until recently, marijuana was an illegal substance just about everywhere, and the use was unsupervised by doctors. There are halachic rulings on the subject, such as the following 1973 letter from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of righteous memory, regarding yeshivah students in Israel who wished to use hashish. In that brief responsum (Igrot Moshe, Yoreh De’ah 3:35), he ruled that drug use is forbidden for the following reasons:

a. A Jew is obligated to maintain his good health—both physical and mental. Many drugs have very serious physiological, emotional and mental effects.

b. He drew a parallel between this and the “rebellious son” of Deuteronomy 21:18. From there he infers that the Torah strongly objects to overindulgence and causing oneself to evoke new outlets for indulgence that were not previously present.

c. Like the case of the “rebellious son,” taking illegal drugs is often the first step in a very precipitous decline. Drug dependents often turn to stealing and other nefarious means of feeding their habit.

d. Many young people who take drugs are going against their parents’ wishes. Honoring and obeying our parents is biblically mandated.

e. The Torah (Leviticus 19:2) requires us to sanctify ourselves. Nachmanides (ad loc.) explains this to mean that a person should not indulge excessively in bodily pleasures.

Because of all these reasons and others, he ruled that using narcotics is forbidden.

Obviously, none of these reasons would apply in a case where a patient takes these substances following the ruling of their doctor in a controlled and legal environment.

On the other end of the spectrum, they would most certainly apply to youths using illegal drugs.

For those in the middle, it would be advisable that the individual present his or her case to a competent rabbi before proceeding.

Broadest Definition

Even if we would conclude that narcotics are not forbidden, the question remains whether or not they are compatible with Jewish values and spirituality. In response to a 1977 query, the Lubavitcher Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—wrote that his opposition to marijuana use was “more and more so. The very question is startling.”

Why was this? Perhaps the key is found in the following 1965 letter to a student in Cambridge, Mass., regarding LSD:

. . . Biochemistry is not my field, and I cannot express an opinion on the drug you mention, especially as it is still new. However, what I can say is that the claim that the said drug can stimulate mystical insight, etc., is not the proper way to attain mystical inspiration, even if it had such a property.

The Jewish way is to go from strength to strength, not by means of drugs and other artificial stimulants, which have a place only if they are necessary for the physical health, in accordance with the mitzvah to take care of one’s health. I hope that everyone will agree that before any drugs are taken one should first utilize all one’s natural capacities, and when this is done truly and fully, I do not think there will be a need to look for artificial stimulants . . .

By Chabad.org Staff
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Yehoshua August 19, 2017

Hi
No one generally smokes cannabis leaves. Only the 'buds' from the female plant. As you have in the picture. This is where the medicine, is mainly. Reply

Timothy Banning Ventura July 9, 2017

So like. "It depends." Reply

Matis T Orlando April 20, 2017

I think this is an important discussion the Jewish people really need to have. Because Cannabis is simply a plant (like tea or coffee), and not a processed drug, is it proper to classify it a "narcotic" per halacha? HaShem gave plants to mankind, and it was good. I understand that one should not indulge excessively into bodily pleasures, but how would cannabis be any different from alcohol in this regard? In fact, if alcohol can be used to uplift ones mood, why can't cannabis? We've all been to at least one Farbrengen where we might have had a little too much to drink, so ya can't tell me we must have a sober mind 100% of the time :) Reply

Dr Billy Levin South Africa July 10, 2017
in response to Matis T:

Cannabis is habit forming, addictive and dangerous. Need I say more? Is suppresses mainly the functions of the very important left brain . In nomality we are supposed to be left brain dominant. Reply

Yosef July 11, 2017
in response to Dr Billy Levin:

Alcohol is far more habit forming than cannabis. This is well established. Reply

Salvatore September 10, 2017
in response to Dr Billy Levin:

Cannabis is not actually addictive. It is a habitual addiction. There is no physical or mental dependence on the drug. Reply

Jonathan September 14, 2017
in response to Dr Billy Levin:

Cannabis is proven to not be addictive or dangerous. You are incredibly misinformed when it comes to Cannabis. Reply

Anonymous Chicago April 20, 2017

Cannabis is and continues to be scientifically shown to be a medically useful plant While I understand and respect the positions included in this post, I cannot come to the same conclusions.

Cannabis Sativa and Cannabis Indica, more commonly known as Marijuana, have potent medicinal properties not found in other plants, and not recreated synthetically. From juvenile epilepsy, where it can be directly life-saving, to supplementing cancer treatments, where it's appetite-inducing properties (as well as its stimulation of the patient's own, internal endocannabinoid system) allow patients to continue to maintain weight while receiving radiation treatment. These same appetite-inducing properties have proven invaluable to many AIDS, MS, Hepatitis and other patients with chronic, degenerative diseases.

Tikkun Olam is a central tenet of the Jewish faith. Our world has been populated with plants and animals that we are to make use of, medically, without restriction. To save a life is a mitzvah, one that cannot be ignored. Cannabis is medicine Reply

Pinchas April 20, 2017

needs to be more scholarly when it comes to these issues. the article felt contrived at points to insinuate certain perceived biases. I think you should just stick with the mystical aspects and not the medical. I have heard from many that the medical information provided to R. Feinstein used in this teshuva is outdated and contradicted by modern science. Weed is safer than Tylenol regarding you cannot OD on it. The gateway drug theory is unsubstantiated and no evidence supports the claim. If it is an issue regarding honoring you parents d'oarisa, then this should be the main point. Reply

Dr Billy Levin South Africa July 10, 2017
in response to Pinchas:

AS a doctor involved in this aspect of medicine for 50 years, Cannabis is dangerous and harmful. It is nor banned and labeled for nothing. Is weed safer than Tylenol? Not in a million years! Reply

Geoffrey Scott Donaldson Denman Island, BC September 10, 2017
in response to Dr Billy Levin:

You've been a doctor for 50 years and you haven't figured out that Cannabis is safe and even beneficial? In the USA there are hundreds of Tylenol overdose deaths annually---and precisely zero Cannabis overdose deaths. Sure glad you ain't my doctor! Reply

Anonymous April 11, 2017

As a jew and serious marihuana smoker for 25 yrs. I am pretty sure to be able to tell you in no way it is kosher if not used for medicinal purposes. Only if you are able to uplift it by strenghtening your service could it be regarded as such (perhaps the Baal Shem Tov did so (to tackle those stories)). Be honest; most just get stoned (it hardens your heart like a stone!!!), so in those cases; no way it's possible to regard it as 'kosher'.
It places a shield between you and HaShem and is the manifestation of Egypt itself for some or more.
Chag sameach! Reply

Anonymous July 20, 2016

have to agree with Geoffrey scott
THC is not hallucinogenic, as while it alters perception of time and vision and emotion it does not cause the mind to see visions but rather just causes the brain to re-interpret what it already sees. Reply

Rafael V Rabinovich Crown Heights July 20, 2016

to "Hypatia" from the UK Cocoa is not harvested for its leaves, nor is cocaine made from it. Cocoa beans are used to make chocolate. May be you mean coca, a South American plant used for traditional and medical purposes among the people of the Andes, and from which cocaine is made.
BTW, the Hellenic philosopher whose name you used for your comment, is written"Hypathia" in English. Reply

Geoffrey Scott Donaldson Denman Island, BC July 19, 2016

Marijuana Is Not Hallucinogenic If I compare marijuana to real hallucinogens, including LSD, DMT, mescaline and psilocybin, it is completely non-hallucinogenic. Put another way, to make the case that marijuana is hallucinogenic in any way, by any measure, then one would have to include as hallucinogens coffee-cake, cream of mushroom soup and orange-juice. Reply

Rafael V. Rabinovich Crown Heights July 18, 2016

Specifics: cannabis, THC, other cannabinoids, or hallucinogenics bichlal? Please note that Cannabis per se may or may not be hallucinogenic. It depends on the amount and percentage of THC. Other substances, such as CBD, have a calming effect, and CBN helps with sleep.
The Rebbe's answer refers specifically to recreational hallucinogenics used for "spiritual purposes". I don't know even if the Rebbe is davka talking about that form if cannabis, or hallucinogenics in general. Reply

Samantha Leon Seattle May 13, 2016

Cannabis: Medicine, Not Drug Just so you guys know, cannabis was just certified kosher by a leading Orthodox rabbi. Even if it hadn't, cannabis has been shown to help with a number of medical problems including depression, insomnia, epilepsy, obesity, diabetes (It's supposed to regulate the disease; not being a diabetic, I don't speak from experience), and cancer, and the fact that it's loads safer than alcohol, pills, heroin, crack, and any other form of drug doesn't hurt its credibility either. Penny for your thoughts... Reply

Hypatia UK February 23, 2016

What people who like to ban things need to keep in mind is the comparison between natural products [which tend to be relatively benign and distilled products [which tend to cause health problems / serious addiction
for example - wine and beer VS spirits alcohol
tobacco vs raw nicotine
opium vs Heroin
cocoa leaves VS cocaine
etc Reply

Shlomo USA February 23, 2016

The opinion of the Rebbe It's a problem that makes Chabad incompatible with me personally even though I have no other community. Considering the Rebbe omniscient/all-knowing as most Lubavitchers is the real problem that keeps reappearing even in threads about Cannabis which was very possibly the very substance our ancestors used to induce spiritual experiences. Cannabis has been found in the stomachs of remains of people in the Land of Israel and has been a known medicinal herb from Europe to Asia since ancient times. Both incense and annointing oil contained large amounts of cannabis according to the common sense etymological understanding of one of the most prominent herbs in those ingredients, kanne bosem. Literally, fragrant herb. Kinna mon for example is sweet bark, also known as Cinnamon and is etymologically the same in Greek, Hebrew, English... Spices were international words much like words like 'internet' and 'computer' today. And everyone knows that incense was always related to the mind. Reply

Menachem Posner February 22, 2016

To John You are conflating two issues. In the later you quoted, the Rebbe was not asked for his opinion on smoking. Rather, he was asked why there was no official ban put in place, and his response reflects that. On the other hand, when asked his personal opinion on marijuana use, he gave it. Reply

Hypatia UK February 22, 2016

Marijuana is harmful and addictive
This is wrong
while excessive use of Marijuana has been shown to be harmful
the substance has never been shown to be addictive - that is a common myth Reply

geoffery scott donaldson denman island February 7, 2016

Kosher Ganja As the discussion proceeds, would-be prohibitionists appear to be on the losing side---small wonder when they use prejudiced, spurious, and doctrinaire rationales. A good example cited below is the fallacious leap from qualified use (of any substance) to absolute prohibition in Halacha.

Another fallacy is ascribing toxicity to marijuana---another spurious, letter-of-the-law argument conveniently ignoring the facts that any substance, even essentials-of-life like water and air, is "toxic" in excess, and that, in the context of all potentially "toxic" substances (including water and air), marijuana is located somewhere near the least "toxic" of substances.

It's the straw-men that are absolute here; otherwise: ganja has no known lethal dose (how benign it is), and is not related to narcotics to any greater extent than it derives from a plant.

"Excessive" use is a misleading qualifier (some commenters are trying to make it a criterion here) that applies just as well to water or air. Reply

John February 7, 2016

Rabbi Posner, your response backing up the Rebbe's smoking letter is inauthentic. The same reasoning about forbidden things could have been used for marijuana. Yet the rebbe made a big deal of something that is less dangerous than cigarettes. It would go a long way towards the authenticity of Judaism to state the Rebbe erred in his thinking. The Gemara makes mistakes when talking about biological and medical items. It doesn't lessen its greatness in other fields. You come off as naive and cynical in agreeing with a letter that doesn't work intellectually. Reply

Alex USA February 6, 2016

Reality Allowing alcohol and claiming that it's somehow different is pure hypocrisy. Abuse of anything is not healthy. The main issue halachically speaking is legality since "the law of the land is the law". Hopefully soon this ridiculous prohibitionist non-sense will be a thing of the past and anyone who prefers cannabis to alcohol will have that option as our ancestors very probably did. Reply

Dr Billy Levin South Africa January 29, 2016

Marijuana is harmful and addictive, kosher or not Kosher Reply

Dr Billy Lein Benoni April 26, 2017
in response to Dr Billy Levin:

I add to and not reply. ADHD is right brain dominance and/or left brain immaturity. A brain dysfunction as we are supposed to be left brain dominant. Marijuana suppresses left brain, Thus can only be harmful to everybody, but especially to ADHD patients some of whom can be prone to drugging anyway. Kashrut is not the issue. Reply

Menachem Posner USA January 28, 2016

RE: Marijuana vs Smoking, the Rebbe's response Thanks so much for sharing that letter. If you read it carefully, you'll see that the Rebbe writes that there is no need for a rabbinic ban on smoking since a harmful activity is already forbidden by Torah. Reply

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