COR: Medical pot doesn’t need kosher certification

(JTA) – On the day kosher-certified medical marijuana first went on sale in New York, Canada’s largest kashrut agency said it believes such certification is unnecessary.

Following a debate Thursday, the Toronto-based Kashruth Council of Canada (COR) announced that medication need not be kosher.

Last month, Vireo Health of New York announced that the Orthodox Union, one of the largest kashrut agencies in the world, is certifying its medical marijuana products, which come in three forms: pills, oils and vapour.

COR considered the issue after MedReleaf, a producer of medical marijuana, inquired about obtaining certification.

“Something that is medicine, that’s prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn’t need kosher certification,” the group’s managing director, Richard Rabkin, told Canadian Press.

“We don’t really want to get into the business of providing kosher certification for something that is doctor-prescribed,” he added.

Not all kashrut agencies are in agreement on the issue, however. In a statement on its website, the New York-based OU said claims that cannabis, because it is a natural product and because it helps with life-threatening conditions, requires no certification are “factually incorrect.”

“While the cannabis plant is inherently kosher, the final product may contain kosher sensitive ingredients such as alcohol, gelatin and oil,” the statement said. “The qualifying medical conditions are not always life threatening, and even in such instances where there is a threat to life, it is preferable to use a kosher medication when available.”

Noting that it “stands by” its decision to certify medical marijuana, the OU statement concluded: “New York residents who are experiencing intense pain, can now use OU supervised Vireo Health medical marijuana and not be concerned that the product might contain non-kosher ingredients.”

Kosher Check, a global kosher certification agency headquartered in Vancouver, decided two years ago in favour of certifying edible medical pot products, but has not yet certified any such products, according to Canadian Press. A representative of the group said smokable marijuana does not need to be certified kosher, but that edible forms, including capsules, should be certified.

On Thursday, New York became the 23rd U.S. state where medical marijuana is legal. However, it is subject to numerous regulations: Only five producers, including the kosher-certified Vireo Health of New York, have been approved by the state, and sales must go through state-approved dispensaries. In Canada, all forms of medical marijuana are now legal.

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