Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

D.C.’s Marijuana Reform Rabbi

Jeffrey Kahn and his wife are set to open one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, D.C.

Print Email
Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn and his wife, Stephanie, outside the vacant office where they plan to open the Takoma Wellness Center. (Rita Rubin)
Related Content

Contact High

In Berkeley, three Orthodox Jews run a medical-marijuana collective selling a religiously inspired cannabis cream

Mile High

Ean Seeb, a Denver medical-marijuana provider who’s active in Jewish causes, helped run parts of last week’s Jewish Federations General Assembly there

It’s not just Reform rabbis, either. A number of rabbis across the spectrum of observance believe prescribing medical marijuana to relieve suffering is acceptable under Jewish law.

“Basically, Jewish teaching is extremely supportive,” said J. David Bleich, an Orthodox rabbi and professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and head of its postgraduate institute for the study of Talmudic jurisprudence and family law. “The beneficial purpose of marijuana seems to be countering the side effects of chemotherapy and other symptoms … and there’s no reason society shouldn’t take advantage of it.” Jurisdictions that approve and regulate medical marijuana, Bleich said, “certainly are to be lauded.”

The Kahns hope they’ll be able to serve their first patients by the beginning of December. For now, though, there is no marijuana to dispense, because in Washington, the dispensers of medical marijuana won’t be the ones growing it. In addition to approving four dispensaries out of 17 applicants, the health department approved six cultivators from among 28 applicants. (One of the six is a company co-owned by former talk-show host Montel Williams, a Maryland native who uses medical marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis.) The cultivators still need to make structural changes to their facilities and haven’t yet started growing marijuana, Akhter says; once they begin, it will take 90 to 100 days before they will be able to supply the dispensaries.

No patients have yet been approved by the health department to receive medical marijuana, either, although many have expressed an interest, Akhter says. They must prove that they live in D.C. and receive a prescription from a doctor licensed to practice in the city. This process, too, will take time.

Once they open their doors, the Kahns’ have a business plan based on serving 500 patients their first year, although at best that’s a guesstimate. Their dispensary will serve patients by appointment only, making it less like a retail store and more like a doctor’s office, Kahn says. He and his wife also plan to partner with Takoma providers and refer patients to a wide array of complementary health services available in the laid-back neighborhood.

The Kahns hope that their dispensary will serve as a model for Congress to see that marijuana can safely be used to treat appropriate patients without ending up being diverted to people who aren’t ill. Kahn summed up his mission: “There’s no reason for people to be suffering and not getting the help they need.”

***

Like this article? Sign up for our Daily Digest to get Tablet Magazine’s new content in your inbox each morning.

1 2View as single page
Print Email
MWC_DC says:

Nice write up, Rita

Marijuana has become a tonic and medicine for many people. It should not be “decriminalized”.There are hundreds of thousands of Israelis who use the stuff on a daily basis. The problem besets many nations around the world. 28.5% of the French smoke it on a regular basis. The problem with it is that is energy sapping and blocks the consciousness. It is a pain suppressant and easy way to stop unfolding one’s potential. If California decriminalizes it will stunt the psychic and spiritual development of the State.

Regarding recreational drugs, and no matter how you try to rationalise it, marijuana is
such a thing. It is used as a coping mechanism.

A bloke called Dick Alpert was a Harvard Professor in the early 1960′s. He met a
guy called Timothy Leary who was experimenting with a legal substance called
L.S.D. The Sixties was unfolding and in 1963 a wealthy female benefactor
donated the New York State Millbrook Estate to them to continue their
“research”.

This group were the forerunners of the hippies. The place divided into two groups.
There were the trip-all-the-timers and the scientific-intellectual-inquirers.
After a few years of this he left the commune and decided to travel to India.
One of the first Westerners to go down this spiritual path.

When in the north he met a saddhu, i.e. Wise Man/Tzaddik/Sage named Neem Karoli Baba and asked if he could study with him. He was granted this wish as the saddhu
saw something in him. Dick changed his name to Ram Dass as per a Hindu custom.
Three years later and after much clean study, meditation, good food and calm he
decided to do take a chance. On a quiet mountain top he wanted to find out
something. He was curious about something in his past that was bugging him.

He took out two vials of liquid LSD that he had kept since the wild Millbrook days
and offered one to his saddhu. The saddhu with perfect trust of his good friend
and student took it. (By the way this was not weak stuff that had lost its
efficacy. It was very potent.)

Guess
what happened ?

(Please
pause here before reading below for the answer. Play some elevator music, grab
a cup of coffee, feed the dog or something to boost the suspense.)

NOTHING
!

Ram
Dass was genuinely puzzled, but left it and did not question his teacher for
fear of boring or annoying him. One month later he struck up his courage and
prompted the saddhu once again. The second vial of super-powerful liquid LSD
was popped.

Guess
what happened ?

NOTHING.

You
know why ? He was already on a higher plane of consciousness.

MOTS
(Moral of the Story) You do not need drugs to get to an exalted level of bliss,
happiness, security, purity, innocence, wonder and awe. It is a myth. A good
upbringing, Torah study, healthy lifestlye and right action will do the trick.
My children will thus not need drugs.

P.S.
All this is discussed in Ram Dass’s book which I read seventeen years ago. By
the way he was intrigued and asked the saddhu what he thought of the experience.
The saddhu said “This is a medicine for the west.” He didn’t say whether he
thought it was a good or bad medicine for the west. He was a terse saddhu and
didn’t speak much. Loincloths, boiled rice, meditation, chai and the blue sky
were his best friends.

Miha Ahronovitz says:

Tablet Magazine by design has set aside some “shocking content” directed to both Jewish and non-Jewish traditional views part of establishment Controversy brings readership. This quest for controversy is not always successful. We always used prayer and wine to get to exalted consciousness. What this story is about Jewish entrepreneurship and it reads like a community newspaper homeless people give you for free downtown.

The endocannabinoid system is a major regulator in the body implicated in almost all diseases including cancer.

Medical Marijuana prohibition is a crime against humanity and a violation of the religious precept – heal the sick.

Please pass this on to Rabbi Kahn. I was a member of his Congregation in Rockford.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

D.C.’s Marijuana Reform Rabbi

Jeffrey Kahn and his wife are set to open one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, D.C.

More on Tablet:

A Halva-Inspired Recipe for Rosh Hashanah

By Leah Koenig — Ringing in the Jewish New Year with an artisanal tahini and honey spread