Pharmaceutical firm Vireo Health of Minneapolis announced Dec. 30 that its medical marijuana has been certified kosher by the Orthodox Union, the body that sets such standards for America's half-million Orthodox Jews. The OU's Kosher Certification program usually stamps its seal of approval on food products. But now Vireo Health, one of five companies licensed to market medical marijuana in New York state, has received the OU's imprimatur for herbal product—a first in the industry. The New York Daily News reports that the OU rabbinical association gave its certification after inspecting the company's facilities and finding that the cannabis is produced according to the laws of kashrut—for example, being entirely free of insects.
"Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis," said Vireo CEO Ari Hoffnung in a press statement. He added that kosher cannabis will deliver an "important message" to those who believe that use of the product for medicinal purposes promotes recreational smoking.
Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of the Orthodox Union, said: "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."
The development was also noted by Israeli news site YNet. In Israel there are several manufacturers that market medical marijuana, but so far the country's Chief Rabbinate has not certified their product, YNet wrote. There is much controversy among Jewish scholars as to whether the herb is kosher for Passover.