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.
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.”
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