Kosher Cannabis Available for Medical Use in New York

Medical cannabis products designated as kosher

Kosher medical cannabis

On December 30, 2015, Vireo Health of New York became the first company in the world to receive kosher certification for its medical cannabis products from the Orthodox Union (OU), the largest and most well-known kosher certification agency. While many have questioned the OU’s action, the organization stands by its decision.

Update: Today, November 22, Vireo Health is opening the first medical cannabis dispensary in Queens. It is located at 89-55 Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst. They are one of only five companies licensed to sell marijuana in New York State. Their White Plains dispensary opened on January 7, the first day of New York’s medical cannabis program.

Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Although Pennsylvania is not among them, as previously indicated in The Philadelphia Jewish Voice, New York joined the ranks of the medical marijuana states in July 2014 with the passage of the Compassionate Care Act. Under this law, patients in New York with specifically defined medical conditions can qualify for the state’s medical marijuana program, which was launched this month.The Compassionate Care Act lays out registration requirements for both prescribing physicians and qualifying patients. It also establishes strict criteria for the production and sale of medical cannabis by authorized companies, with limits on the number of permissible dispensaries and on product types. While liquid, oil and capsule forms of medical cannabis have been approved, smoking is specifically proscribed.

Under the Compassionate Care Act, the New York State Department of Health has licensed five companies to produce and sell medical cannabis in New York State. One of these companies is Vireo Health of New York, a subsidiary of Vireo Health, LLC. Vireo Health of New York operates its production facility in Fulton County, New York, and just opened its first dispensary in White Plains. Its remaining three dispensaries are expected to open shortly in Queens, Binghamton and Albany.

ou-iconThe trademarked “OU” kosher symbol will be placed on the packaging for products sold by Vireo Health of New York: capsules, oral solutions and vaporization oils and cartridges. It is the first time ever that this designation will appear on medical cannabis products.

Ari Hoffnung, chief executive officer of Vireo Health of New York said:

Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis.

Prior to certification, the Orthodox Union held extensive conversations with the company’s senior management. OU rabbinic field representatives then visited the cannabis cultivation and lab facilities in Fulton County for inspection and verification to assure that all OU standards and policies were in place.

“We are pleased to grant kosher certification to Vireo Health of New York’s medical cannabis products, which were developed to alleviate pain and suffering in accordance with the New York State Compassionate Care Act,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, chief executive officer of OU Kosher. “Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain. Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”

Map of the US showing US cannabis laws.

Map of the US showing US cannabis laws.

   Jurisdiction with legalized cannabis.
   Jurisdiction with both medical and decriminalization laws.
   Jurisdiction with legal psychoactive medical cannabis.
   Jurisdiction with legal non-psychoactive medical cannabis.
   Jurisdiction with decriminalized cannabis possession laws.
   Jurisdiction with total cannabis prohibition.


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