January 11, 2016

Why Medicinal Marijuana Needs Kosher Certification

When Coor’s Beer obtained the kosher certification of the Orthodox Union many years ago, some immediately argued that beer was inherently kosher and did not require certification. The same argument surfaced with water and many other products that kashrus-observing Jews may have consumed without certification. The latest controversy is over none other than marijuana which the OU recently certified as kosher for medicinal purposes. Once again there was the argument that if used for medicinal purposes marijuana is no different than any medicine that can be used for a sick person without kosher certification. I have long learned that even the most benign products like water do need certification because of the complexities of modern mass production. Second, in a generation that is seeking to ingest everything kosher, why not offer the kosher certification, especially if the manufacturer seeks and desires the kosher certification as a marketing tool? Wouldn’t someone who has observed kashrus all their lives and is so sick that they require the marijuana to ease the pain be somewhat comforted in the fact that the marijuana is kosher certified? In recent years, many manufacturers of over the counter medications have opted for kosher certification and wouldn’t it be nice if all medications were kosher as well?

I wonder whether those whose knee-jerk reaction is to mock the kosher certification of a product that on the surface may not require kosher certification are in fact doing a disservice to kosher as a whole. What is wrong with a kosher certification that simply assures the customer that indeed there is nothing to worry about the kashrus of this product, even if it is water? Perhaps they won’t have to worry of what else was produced on that line at the bottling plant or whether the cleaning agents were indeed treif. I see this as a testimony to an extremely kashrus-conscious generation, which is nothing to sneeze at. Why make kosher consumers feel that the kashrus process is not genuine? Even a sick patient who can certainly rely on all the leniency of the rabbis wouldn’t mind knowing that what is ingested is kosher.