Feb 25, 2015

The OU and Mehadrin Marijuana

Rabbi Moshe Elefant of the Orthodox Union has reportedly said that the OU has been holding preliminary discussions with several companies that produce medical marijuana. It seems that the OU would be open to provide a hechsher for pot.

I don't think marijuana should need a hechsher. It is a plant that grows in the ground. What about that requires kashrut supervision? Maybe they will certify it as bug free, for those who won't be smoking it but making hash brownies? It seems to be a marketing ploy, similar to putting a hechsher on bleach or laundry detergent.

But that's ok. That's business. I don't like creating chumras out of people's ignorance for the sake of business and making money, but that's life.

The good part of this is that if we are in a position where the OU is willing to put its stamp of approval, if the companies are at the point where they are looking to market their product with the OU, it might indicate that we are on the cusp of a big breakout for marijuana.

Is a hechsher really needed for medical marijuana, if it is needed for marijuana at all? Is there a single person who has required medical marijuana, for medical purposes, that has refused to take it because it did not have a hechsher? Suddenly it needs a hechsher? Will this open them up to new markets? The patients buying it still have to get the necessary medical approvals, and  if they qualify they would have bought it with or without the OU. They seem, to me, to be angling, for when the marijuana becomes legal for more than just medical purposes but for general use. The companies might be positioning themselves for expansion to non-medical use, where the consumers might ask for the hechsher, and the OU might be positioning themselves for that expansion as well.

And that I like  - even though it seems the hechsher isn't needed for that purpose either, but I like what it indicates about the market...

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  1. It seems that some states prohibit marijuana leaves, permitting only capsules and other processed marijuana.

    Nevertheless, this is not something they should get involved in. Are they that desperate for money? That's what it looks like. Pay and you can get an OU symbol.

  2. I think he said explicitly that the hechsher is needed only for processed capsules and edibles.

  3. I haven't asked anyone at OU, but it is entirely possible that one of the processors or marketers reached out to OU.

    As for the need for a hechsher, that depends on two perceptions. We call it 'medical'; but is it considered a medicine or a supplement? If it is considered a supplement, then many Jews will consider that it would be preferable to ensure it is kosher, similar to vitamins and the like. Similarly, since some traditional Chinese remedies are treif, people take them using utensils that they set aside and don't otherwise use in their kitchen. Most 'medical' marijuana is, in fact, used as an adjunct to help control side-effects of medications or symptoms of illness; but not as actual therapy to directly treat or cure disease itself. (Despite some feeble claims; there is so far no significant research that shows marijuana has curative effects for disease.) Most uses of marijuana that I've seen involve taking it by mouth, so we go back to the supplement issue. Personally I would argue that it isn't much different than ondansetron or other drugs used to manage side effects or symptoms, and therefore shouldn't need a hechsher when swallowed like a pill or mixed into a rov of food (especially since it is a plant and inherently doesn't need a hechsher). The OU has to respond to market requests. If use among Jews is increasing and they want the reassurance of a hechsher, then OU or another hechsher will see themselves as needing to provide that. If the marijuana is going to become an ingredient in other foods or supplements (likely, in my opinion) then it will need OU approval anyway for a commercial list of ingredients.

  4. Do we want to promote the attendant brain damage?

    1. I'm going to suggest, as a healthcare provider with some knowledge of this topic (though not an expert), that you don't know what you're talking about.

  5. Will those still refraining from eating quitniyoth during Pesah, refrain from eating marijuana during Pesah? (true medical reasons aside)

    I doubt it.

    Seriously though, maybe this isn't an issue. Shouldn't people distinguish between seeds and leaves (ie. coriander)? I don't know this inyan. Do they?


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