Why would weed need to be kosher?
This was my initial reaction after learning that a medical marijuana company in New York had been given the seal of approval by one of the world’s largest Rabbinical organizations. My second reaction was: I need to do a story on this. My friends jokingly asked if I’d get free samples.
First I had to figure out whether this was an anomaly or an undiscovered trend. There wasn’t much evidence of it being the latter, but to rule it out I began calling up prominent rabbinical organizations to ask if they’d ever heard of kosher weed.
The reactions pretty much ranged from “What?” to “No.” The Orthodox Union, which had just certified Vireo Health of New York, the medical marijuana company based in Johnstown, was not in the process of inspecting anyone else. Eventually, I found one other company, Cresco Labs, that was in the final stages of getting certified by the Chicago Rabbinical Council.
Even by the hackiest of hacky journalism standards, two does not make a trend, so this would be a story about an interesting swerve in marijuana’s march toward mainstream acceptance.
Now, how to write about it?
Getting the facts straight is a priority for any story, but I was particularly concerned about embarrassing corrections on this one. I needed to explain, for instance, that observant Jews followed strict dietary rules for food and drink that did not apply to lifesaving medication. Since medical marijuana isn’t typically considered curative, these rules mattered for capsules, brownies and other products.
“A cancer drug made out of bacon-wrapped crickets,” I wrote, referring to two of Judaism’s verboten animals, “would be fine.”
But, ugh, what if there was some obscure exception to the rules about insects that I wasn’t aware of? Rabbis have written volumes of books dedicated to the interpretation of various Jewish laws, and I started imagining the correction:
“An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that bacon-wrapped crickets were not kosher. While bacon is never kosher, crickets could be kosher if…” etc.
Better to just check, I thought, adding it to my list of questions.
I also gave a lot of thought to how I’d ask my questions. Sure, the story was about kosher weed, but it was also a business story, and I was talking to religious leaders who had clearly given serious thought to whether or not this was something they wanted to weigh in on. The correct tone, I finally reasoned, was somewhere between “Isn’t this kind of funny?” and “This isn’t funny at all.”
Satisfied that I had narrowed it down, I called Rabbi Moshe Elefant, the chief operating officer of the kosher certifying arm of the Orthodox Union, one of the world’s largest rabbinical organizations.
I shouldn’t have stressed. Mr. Elefant was patient, and his answers were clinical. Sure, maybe it crossed his mind that a secular-sounding reporter from a publication like The New York Times would find the whole idea of kosher pot funny. But that didn’t seem to matter to him as much as whether I got the story right. The most important thing, Rabbi Elefant explained, was that some religious people with terrible illnesses would not try marijuana unless it complied with their beliefs.
Kosher marijuana, he said, was about the potential to alleviate great suffering.
By Rachel Abrams - The NY Times/May 20,n2016
Graphic Jewish Star: lortepc.dk
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