May 9, 2016

Rabbis Debate How Far Kosher Certification Agencies Should Go? Should it Include Marijuana?

New York - Anytime an unconventional item is certified kosher, it makes news. Last year the sensation was kosher for Passover Viagra. Recently it was the newly kosher certified medical cannabis which made the front page of the Business section of the New York Times (May 7th).  Vireo Health of New York (“Vireo”), one of only five companies licensed by the New York State Department of Health to produce and sell medical cannabis, has been certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU). Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher said: “In a life or death situation, Jewish law clearly sets aside the kosher status of a medicine, but in other cases, it is preferable and sometimes recommended that a medicine be certified kosher. We commend Vireo Health of New York for taking this step and making this commitment to the Jewish community.”

In recent years, many kashrus agencies have greatly expanded their “non-food” kosher food certification extending to appliances, shavers, and even artificial dissemination (under rabbinical guidance). Many drugs and nutritional supplements have received kosher certification as have oral hygienic products. Several rabbis told Kosher Today that people who observe kashrus nowadays are cautious about anything that they ingest and not necessarily food. There seems to be a growing interest that even drugs have kosher certification despite the rabbinic leniencies that people that must take these drugs could do so even without kosher certification. In fact, at least one rabbi expressed reservations about the kosher certification of the marijuana. “Our Torah clearly mandates that a critically ill patient can consume drugs even if the origin is a pig,” he noted. But other rabbis said that in 2016, cooperating manufacturers and certification agencies can team up so that even the most critically ill patients and their families have the peace of mind that the cannabis was kosher.