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Is This Weed Kosher? And Other Burning Questions

by Rabbi Rami ShapiroAugust 04, 2019
Columnists
many leaves of marijuana a hybrid of sativa and indica in greenhouse plantation

Yarygin/Getty Images

Is this weed kosher? Is this rabbi Jewish? Are these Doritos good, or what?

According to The Week, “some cannabis growers in California are paying Jewish rabbis to certify their products as kosher.” Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association explained why: “Folks deserve to know that what they’re consuming is healthy.” *

There are two things that need correction here: the notion of “Jewish rabbis” and the assumption that kosher equals healthy. Let’s start with “Jewish rabbis.”

The adjective “Jewish” is completely unnecessary when speaking of rabbis. Rabbis are Jews. It is a prerequisite for the job. While some rabbis may not recognize other rabbis as rabbis, and some Jews may not recognize other Jews as Jews, this has to do with internal Jewish politics and religious power plays, and in no way implies there are rabbis who aren’t (at least in their own minds) Jews.

I suspect the confusion comes from the need to attach adjectives to the words “priest” and “minister.” Since one can be a Catholic, Episcopal, Anglican priest, or Hindu priest, the word “priest” in and of itself is insufficient. Similarly, one can be a Baptist minister, a Methodist minister, a Lutheran minister, or a Scientology minister, so, again, the word “minister” needs clarification. But the word “rabbi” (like the words imam, roshi, lama or bhikkhuni) does not. A rabbi is a Jew the way an imam is a Muslim. Hence the term “Jewish rabbi” is redundant.

Now let’s take up the notion that kosher means healthy.

I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home. We ate only kosher food. We ate slabs of bread smothered in chicken fat, we ate chicken livers, we ate the tongues of cows, and we ate tons of processed foods. We also drank oceans of sugar saturated soda. All these things were kosher, none of them were healthy.

A food is kosher if its manufacture conforms to the dietary laws laid out in the Hebrew Bible as interpreted by Jewish rabbis. Oh, sorry, just rabbis. This has nothing to do with eating healthy. If you want to eat Jewish, try The South Beach Diet. Since many Jews live on South Beach one may assume that some of them follow this diet. And since fewer and fewer Jews keep kosher, one might suspect that more South Beach Jews follow the South Beach Diet than Moses’ Kosher Kitchen Diet.

But what about kosher cannabis? There is much discussion as to whether cannabis is a fruit, a vegetable, or an herb. This discussion mostly happens among people who are high and often follows a passionate discussion as to whether or not Doritos® Nacho Cheese Flavored Tortilla Chips are part of a healthy breakfast. In any case, fruits, vegetables, and herbs are all kosher as long as they don’t contain small insects which are not kosher. So, certifying pot as Kosher is a matter of marketing, not health. The only Jewish question one can ask regarding cannabis is whether one is permitted to smoke it on Shabbat. Since doing so requires kindling a spark, something prohibited on Shabbat, the answer is no. Eat pot brownies instead.

*[Full disclosure: I tried pot twice. That was back in high school. All it did was make me hungry. I am a food addict, and I always want to eat. I haven’t touched the stuff since.]

Confused about CBD? Read our special section here.

 


Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. His spiritual advice column, "Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler," addresses reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more.

His newest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art: Shattering the Illusion of Control and Falling into Grace with Twelve-Step Spirituality.

He has this to say about religion: “To me, religions are like languages: no language is true or false; all languages are of human origin; each language reflects and shapes the mindset of the civilization that speaks it; there are things you can say in one language that you cannot say or cannot say as well in another; and the more languages you know, the more nuanced your understanding of life. Judaism is my mother tongue, yet in matters of the spirit I strive to be multi-lingual. In the end, however, the deepest language of the soul is silence.”

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