Is Cannabis Kosher? This may not be as common of a question as what animals are kosher or what foods aren’t kosher, but as cannabis usage increases throughout the world it is a question that is beginning to be asked more often.
Rabbi Yaakov Cohen is both a Rabbi and a Kosher Supervisor for cannabis certification. Rabbi Cohen is on a mission to ensure that cannabis products are available for those who choose to be kosher with their food consumption and products. But this quality cannabis isn’t just for those who are kosher, it’s truly a gift for all who experience the benefits.
Within the Jewish community kosher certification is very important for those who choose to follow the laws of kosher. When you combine the fact that not all cannabis users are prone to smoking the plant, certifying cannabis edibles as kosher has been crucial to ensure their access.
The Rabbi recently spoke with The Cannigma stating, “I want the community to have kosher options available,” he explained. “I help get people connected to this medicine and they don’t want to smoke, they don’t want tinctures, but edibles work well for them. Why shouldn’t edibles with the medicine people need be available with the kosher option?” Rabbi Cohen said that his company Whole Kosher Services has certified close to 20 different brands of cannabis products to date. Those include CBD brands like Charlotte’s Web and Wana, a Colorado based edibles producer of both THC and CBD edibles.
Edibles continue to increase in popularity year over year as more users become acceptant of cannabis and explore the potential uses of the plant and cannabis extract products. Not only that, when it comes to those who follow basic kosher laws, certification is important.
“Even in the regular supermarket, something like 40 or 60% of the items in the grocery store are kosher and people prefer a kosher item to a non-kosher item,” Rabbi Cohen said. He explained that the kosher certification signifies that “there was another pair of eyes” supervising the manufacturing process.
Is Marijuana Kosher?
Rabbi Cohen explained how the laws of kashrut apply to marijuana and cannabis flowers at the plant level rather simply. Because cannabis is a plant , the certification is a bit more simple for plant-based products rather than animal-derived.
“There are insects in the flower buds, but because you smoke it, you smoke the buds then it’s no problem,” Rabbi Cohen explained. “If you put the plants or leaves in your salad, say, that would be a problem. But most people don’t do that, so there’s no problem giving kosher certification to the flower tops.”
Are All Cannabis Products Kosher?
Unlike cannabis buds and flowers, cannabis oil products and cannabis extracts over have additional ingredients. This requires a more extensive process which includes inspection of the processing facilities as well as analysis and review of the carrier oils used in infusions, like MCT Oil in CBD Tinctures for example. To be kosher, the product would need to use kosher-certified MCT Oil.
Unfortunately, the Jewish law isn’t quite that simple. When it comes to cannabis concentrates, the method of extraction and solvent used is crucial. If the extraction method was ethanol-based, it must be known if that ethanol was derived from corn or other sources. If corn-derived, the corn would need to be kosher so that the process was whole.
As for cannabis edibles, it is important that they are made without mixing milk and meat products, which those who follow kosher law abstain from. If any whey is used in the product, it also must be determined if that is animal-derived and of kosher standards.
When it comes to CBD Gummies or other cannabis gummy products, gelatin is forbidden and not kosher, so gummies that are pectin based are the ideal choice.
Certified Kosher Cannabis Brands
An example of a certified kosher cannabis brand is Mission Kosher Cannabis in Patterson, California. Mission Kosher Cannabis which is owned by Mitch Davis has developed kosher certification standards for cannabis alongside Rabbi Levy Zirkind, director of Chabad of Fresno, since 2015. Today all Mission Kosher Cannabis products are 100% kosher-certified.
Compared to organic certifications, the kosher process places special emphasis on the cleanliness in which a product is made. Davis told Natalie Fertig, “You don’t have to be organic to be kosher. You have to not have bugs, not have pest infestation; you have to go through the inspection.”
The element of surprise is critical for successful kosher inspection. Rabbi Zirkind conducts these at Mission Kosher Cannabis much like Rabbi Cohen at the facilities in which he inspects. The plants are checked for bugs, workers checked for wearing gloves and hair nets along with overall cleanliness throughout the workroom. However, even with these strict reviews, inspecting cannabis facilities is rather simple compared to kosher meat slaughtering and processing according to Rabbi Yaakov Cohen.
Rabbi Yaakov Cohen’s Cannabis Journey
Rabbi Cohen moved to Houston, TX for a job in 2011 after serving for a decade in San Antonio as rabbi and Jewish community leader. Less than a year after relocating, his five-year old son Elisha was diagnosed with brain cancer and began undergoing treatments of both chemotherapy and radiation.
Like many parents do, the Rabbi was introduced to the world of cannabis in an effort to help alleviate the pain his son was in. “We knew about cannabis and we were reading the research coming out of Israel about cannabis and stories about people in California who used cannabis for their kid and the kid totally got better.” he told The Cannigma.
In 2012, the family traveled to California to begin their medical cannabis journey with treatment for their son using cannabis-based juices from a doctor they found. Rabbi Cohen also connected with a local cannabis farm where he was able to source the cannabis needed for his son Elisha’s cannabis juices.
“He did incredible with it, his energy level, his functioning systems were all getting better! He was getting stronger,” Rabbi Cohen exclaimed. Unfortunately, the family was not able to stay permanently in California and upon traveling back to Texas, Elisha lost access to the medical cannabis he so desperately needed and was benefitting from.
Elisha lost his battle to cancer in 2014. It was in the wake of this tragedy that Rabbi Yaakov Cohen decided to lean in on helping others through access to medicinal cannabis in honor of his son’s memory.
The Rabbi is on a mission in memory of his son and is clear to point out that he does not personally partake in cannabis usage, “I’m not promoting a lifestyle, I’m promoting medicine,” he says.
Having already performed kosher certification in both Houston and San Antonio, Rabbi Cohen said it was a rather easy decision to begin offering his services to cannabis companies so that all who need it, regardless of what ailment they may be sick with, have access to kosher options.