Cannabis Goes Kashrut: Israel and Orthodox Conversion

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Israel is the most advanced medical cannabis market in the world thanks to the ground-breaking research of Israeli scientists. There are over 100,000 patients with valid cannabis licenses. Beyond this, there is evidence that Jews have used cannabis for religious reasons for thousands of years

But so far, modern Orthodox, or even slightly less observant Jews—both in Israel and beyond—have been leery of taking cannabis, even as medicine. And when it comes to these kinds of decisions, it is usually Israel that has the final say.

The reason? Cannabis as medicine had not been certified as kosher—or kashrut—before in Israel (although burgeoning attempts exist in the U.S.). The term “kosher” refers to regulations that prohibit observant Jews from eating certain foods and require that others be prepared in a certain manner—in other words according to Jewish law.

This has now changed. A kashrut certification for Seach Medical Group was issued—and further was discovered as the company listed on the stock exchange. While this has not helped the performance of the company’s stock, it may well herald a new day in Israel and beyond for medical cannabis brands with the right certifications and market reach. Namely, more Jewish people—including those who are Orthodox—may be inclined to use medical cannabis. If a product is kosher, they can consume it even on Shabbat (holy days) and other religious holidays.

Is Cannabis Kosher?

This is a big issue on the cannabis front (and not just in Israel). It is also complicated because of the grey areas created by legalization. For example, some observant Jews would not take any cannabis—particularly if it had any THC in it on Shabbat (the weekly holy day that exists from sundown on Friday until Sunday morning). In life or death situations, Jewish law does not require that medicines are designated as kosher, but it is usually preferred and recommended that any medicine is certified as such.

Now that a cannabis company has been certified as kosher in Israel, the doubt can end. 

Not only will this (of course) increase the use of medical cannabis domestically, it will also begin to open the discussion outside of the country as well. Starting with the U.S.

Type the words “kosher” and “cannabis” into your browser, and you will see that there is already a trend in the U.S. (starting with California). This is also a conversation in New York.

How might this certification be added to create a different but highly accurate test for purity and healthiness? Not to mention create a unique branding and market entry opportunity?

Does Cannabis Need Kashrut Certification?

As a plant, cannabis is not something that would typically require kosher certification. This is a stamp of approval granted by a rabbinic agency, which will check ingredients, the production process, and the production facility. Consider it a kind of Talmudic GMP meets ISO.

It is usually applied to meat and places where food is processed. However, it is also applied to medicine.

The significance in Israel, of course, is that both the medicines and edibles market can now be certified as kosher. This will undoubtedly drive additional sales as large new percentages of the population can partake. According to the most recent reports released by the Israeli government, the majority of the country identifies as religious. Forty-two percent of the population identify as secular.

In the United States, this means that beyond any state (and presumably federal when it comes) certifications for cannabis, any company hoping to reach the Jewish market in states like New York will also do well to consider this kind of certification.

The Global Jewish Cannabis Market

Walk into any mainstream German grocery store these days and you will find a special kosher section. Indeed, Jews all over Germany import New York state manufactured wine for use in their ceremonies.

There is a huge global niche market for kosher products—and with just a few destination points outside of Israel.

This starts with the U.S. (and just behind them, the U.K.).

In the U.S., 2.4% of the population is Jewish, and 21% of New York identifies as such—the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. California comes second with about 1.5 million Jews, with Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania rounding out the top five states.

This is a targetable population. And now, thanks to the rabbinical approval in Israel of a cannabis medicine, that conversation can happen globally.

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