‘I’m a Rabbi in Texas Writing Kosher Certificates for Cannabis’

I used to be born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. I used to be there until I used to be virtually 19, went to Cal State Northridge University, studied philosophy, psychology. Then I made a decision to take a journey, to go away California and to search out myself. I travelled throughout Europe, after which, after all, I ended up in Israel, in a rabbinical faculty, the place I did certainly discover myself. I stayed there for 19 years. I studied, turned a rabbi, received married, began a household.

And then we have been recruited to go to Texas to do outreach work —not precisely missionary stuff, as a result of we weren’t attempting to transform anybody to Judaism; however relatively to complement the lives and strengthen the reference to people who find themselves already Jewish. I used to be already concerned in kosher certification earlier than, so once I received to San Antonio I turned head of the native kosher company. I received most of my coaching and expertise there, and once I left San Antonio for Houston, I began my very own kosher company.

Which can be when my five-year-old son was recognized with mind most cancers. We went by means of all the mainstream protocol, of surgical procedure, radiation and chemotherapy. For a whereas, he was on the mend. And then, a yr later, he had a relapse. We went by means of the choices – which all appeared to be about selecting between totally different sorts of chemo. And my son did not do effectively with chemo, in any respect. Every single attainable facet impact occurred to him. Every single one. During that protocol we have been just about residing in ER. It was horrifying.

By the time he had the relapse, we have been already researching into hashish: we heard hashish stimulates urge for food, and we have been attempting to get him to eat. We have been attempting to rehabilitate him after the mind surgical procedure, as a result of in the start, he could not transfer, he could not stroll, he could not discuss, they needed to put a tube in his abdomen for consuming. But he was slowly regaining his schools, and we heard hashish might stimulate urge for food, so we wished to present that a go.

Rabbi Yaakov Cohen’s son Elisha, in Houston, Texas, 2013
Raquel Leyva/Courtesy

We flew to California and attached with a physician, who gave us a prescription for uncooked hashish flowers that we needed to juice. Because, in keeping with the physician, in case you juice the uncooked flower, it has all the useful properties with out the psychoactive results. Because of our lack of understanding and lack of directions we have tried different types of hashish earlier than, and my son skilled some episodes with the psychoactive facet of it—it was terrifying. We ended up on a hashish farm, the place these two ladies helped us—G-d bless them.

So we have been juicing flower tops, getting him some CBD oils, and he was doing actually nice. We could not keep in California, although, and went again to Texas, and the individuals on the farm agreed to ship the medication to us. The first bundle got here by means of.

The second one was found by the feds, who confiscated it and closed down their farm.

Elisha, our beloved son, wasn’t getting his drugs anymore. He declined. We flew to Manhattan for a totally different type of experimental protocol, however earlier than we might get began he fell into a coma, for about three months—after which he handed away.

But then individuals began coming to us, asking about hashish therapies. Not simply most cancers sufferers: hashish is in no way a panacea, G-d forbids, however it’s terrific for assuaging many sorts of signs. For occasion, I’ve one good friend who will get horrible migraines. He will get one at the very least as soon as a month, and it used to knock him out for like a week. He could not operate. No drugs would assist him. It was the one factor that may assist this man’s migraines was to go get a tattoo. So, he has tattoos throughout his physique. I’m not joking—possibly not actually throughout his physique, however it’s a lot of tattoos. And in the present day? When he will get a migraine he’ll take a puff from a vape pen and a gummy after which he’ll fall asleep after which awake subsequent morning—feeling fully wonderful. I’ve a neighbour right here in Texas who has lupus and it is actually a lot of assist for her, however she’s not capable of simply fly to Florida, Colorado and no matter each time she wants a prescription. I do know one man who has a very sizeable enterprise in CBD oils. But he additionally works a few days a night time delivering hashish merchandise to individuals. And who do you assume calls him? It’s not youngsters partying. It’s outdated individuals, sick individuals, who bless him with tears in their eyes as a result of they want this drugs, it relieves their ache, it helps them sleep. So that is the type of people who I do that work for.

It began with a particular person right here and a particular person there, however it in a short time turned obvious there was a enormous want for it. I first approached CannaKids in California: they manufacture and distribute robust hashish merchandise for youngsters. The founder initially got down to create hashish remedy protocols for her personal daughter, who additionally had a tumor. I went there, met them, we gave them the certification, after which it began to department out. The CBD market after all began to supply that there ought to be CBD merchandise which might be Kosher. We went to an MJBiz Conference (MJBizCon) in Las Vegas and simply began to supply individuals Kosher hashish. A short time later we went on LinkedIn and it grew in a short time from there.

Why medication should be kosher

People hear “kosher edibles” and get some very specific concepts. I do not approve of leisure use, myself. But I can also’t restrict my work strictly to classical medicinal marijuana and exclude edibles. Because many individuals, for no matter cause, won’t be capable to get medicinal marijuana the place they reside, or in the event that they journey for occasion, and nonetheless have some want for hashish. And in addition to, totally different individuals take in totally different chemical compounds in another way. Some can take a capsule; others want oils or inhalations; others can solely correctly get the specified medicinal impact by means of an edible.

Rabbi Yaakov Cohen at work in Mexico, 2018

And that is the place kosher certification comes in. Because for many Jewish individuals, the legality or illegality of hashish is just half the issue. The different half is they can’t know if what they’re consuming is kosher or not—if its manufacturing abides by Jewish dietary legal guidelines.

If you are studying this, you may be considering—huh. How can hashish, or any plant, be kosher or non-kosher? Kosher is nearly pork and seafood and never mixing meat and dairy, proper? Well, not precisely. Kosher legal guidelines specify what we are able to eat (cloven-hoofed animals, like cows; and sea creatures which have scales and fins, like fish), and excludes every part else. Bugs, for occasion, are out—identical to shrimps are. So, in case you have been chewing on uncooked hashish leaves, and these leaves have been infested with bugs, and also you by accident ingested these—that may be a transgression.

Luckily, individuals do not do this—the closest they get is drying and smoking the flower tops which doesn’t current a kosher subject. Any bugs caught up in the method are incinerated, and anyway, you are not swallowing them. So that is not a drawback. The drawback begins with extra processed types of hashish. For occasion, gummies and capsules: each are sometimes made with gelatin, which is mainly melted cow bones—and even pig bones. Not appetizing to start with, however the subject for us is that even a cloven-hoofed animal is just not kosher until it has been ritually slaughtered. So, in case you’re consuming hashish in gummy kind, you haven’t any method of figuring out that the gelatin is kosher. We are presently working with 4 processing crops which might be changing to pectin—which is plant primarily based, so it is in the enterprise’s personal curiosity: nobody really needs to be consuming melted bones, so pectin-based will enchantment not simply to Jews, but in addition to vegetarians, vegans, Hindus—and, after all, Muslims, who already typically search out kosher labels as a result of if one thing is kosher, it is also assured to be halal. Oils, like vaping oils or CBD, are a totally different drawback, as a result of some oils are extracted utilizing ethanol, which comes from grapes—and there is a entire set of kashrut legal guidelines that offers with grape-derived alcohol, due to how necessary wine is in Jewish rituals, going all the best way again to the Temple. A kashrut label additionally tells you that a totally different type of extraction has been used.

A altering world

It’s not that that Judaism hasn’t engaged with hashish past the kosher/not kosher query. There’s a debate about whether or not the weed is talked about explicitly in the Torah. For occasion, one crucial rabbi, Aryeh Kaplan, notes that among the many spices they used for the oil with which they anointed the High Priest was “kanneh bossem”, aromatic reed, which rabbi Kaplan claims could also be hashish. Archeological digs in Israel that found home and native altars—bamahs—found traces of hashish being burnt, presumably as providing.

To me, it goes deeper nonetheless. It’s well-known in Hebrew rabbinical ideas that every one weeds and herbs have been uniquely blessed with the flexibility to heal. And there you’ve this weed with great useful powers that is been ignored for centuries after which disparaged and maligned and solid apart. But as we study from Psalms: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” The world is altering—this rejected herb is changing into the cornerstone of a lot useful remedy, serving to so many people who find themselves sick.

So positive, you possibly can say I’m on a mission. I need to convey this drugs accessible to extra individuals—definitely to individuals who would think about using hashish to ease their ache however are holding again due to spiritual causes or stigma. But I additionally need to assist break the barrier. I do know this couple in my neighborhood whose child was having seizures, like 300 seizures a day! We instructed they need to attempt Charlotte’s Web CBD. They mentioned “No, it’s cannabis, we went to a Rabbi and he said no.” The seizures went on, the child ended up with mind harm, the mother and father received divorced as a result of the daddy could not deal with it anymore, and this stigma, this prejudice, deeply broken a little one and broke up a household. It’s a horrible scenario. There are numerous tales like this. My mission is to take away the stigma and make this drugs extra broadly accessible.

As instructed to Dimi Reider.

Rabbi Yaakov Cohen runs the Whole Kosher Services certifying company.

The views expressed in this text are the writer’s personal.

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