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Orthodox Union Certifies Medical Marijuana Products, Deem Their Use a ‘Mitzvah’

A first in kosher pain relief

Jonathan Zalman
December 30, 2015
Dank Depot / Flickr
"Grape Cush" marijuana strand. Dank Depot / Flickr
Dank Depot / Flickr
"Grape Cush" marijuana strand. Dank Depot / Flickr

In July 2014, five companies were awarded licenses by the New York State Health Department to grow and sell marijuana in the state, and in New York City. One of them, a Minneapolis-based company called Vireo Health, which produces “pharmaceutical-grade cannabis-derived medicine,” announced Wednesday that all of its products had received kosher certification from the Orthodox Union. Vireo’s pot products—intended by law for use by patients who suffer from a variety of serious illnesses, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, and HIV/AIDS, among many others—are apparently the first to have the “OU” trademark attached to it.

That kief, intended to alleviate pain and suffering? It’s kosher. Apparently it’s a mitzvah, too:

In Vireo’s announcement, the CEO of OU Kosher, Rabbi Menachem Genack, 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.”

Vireo will operate four dispensaries in New York—in White Plains, Queens, Binghamton, and Albany—all of which are scheduled to open in January 2016. (New York will be taxing it, of course.)

Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.