April 5, 2007
Is Pot Kosher for Pesach?
The Green Leaf Party, a small Israeli political party that supports legalizing pot, announced March 27 that marijuana might not be kosher for Passover.
The reason, they say, is that marijuana seeds -- and likely hemp seeds -- are kitniyot, which Ashkenazim traditionally don't consume on Passover. Sephardim do eat kitniyot.
"You shouldn't smoke marijuana on the holiday, and if you have it in your house, you should get rid of it," Green Leaf spokeswoman Michelle Levine told the Associated Press.
The announcement did not set off much of an uproar in Jerusalem, according to Jewschool.com editor Dan Sieradski.
Jews may be kashering their pots and pans for Passover, but he said he wasn't aware of anyone throwing out their pot.
But even on a religious level, Sieradski said the argument that pot is kitniyot and should not be used by Ashkenazim is a pipe dream.
Kitniyot, generically called legumes, include rice, corn, beans, peas, lentils and seeds. The traditional ban among Ashkenazim, which is not rooted in halacha, began in medieval times from fear that kitniyot could come into contact with banned grains while in storehouses.
"For those who are machmid," or stringent, about kitniyot, Sieradski said, "it could be an issue. But if they're really that observant, they probably don't smoke weed anyway."
Perhaps it's something on which the Orthodox and Reform could smoke a peace pipe: No herb -- not on Passover or any other time.
"Marijuana is not kosher all year long," said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, chief operating officer and rabbinic coordinator of kashrut for the Orthodox Union.
However, Elefant noted that if the marijuana is used for legal medical purposes, it would be acceptable on Passover, as are all medications.
Elefant's Reform movement counterparts took a similar position.
"The law of the land is the law," said Rabbi Eric Yoffe, president of the Union for Reform Judaism. "If it's illegal to use marijuana, we certainly don't sanction the use of it."
One Orthodox smoker in her late 20s said she had never asked her rabbi if pot was kosher for Passover because -- like other natural products that are not grain-based -- she assumed it was fine. If she did consult a rabbi over this, the woman said, she would consult the most lenient one she could find.
And if that rabbi told her pot was illegal for Passover, "I would just have to double my prescription for Xanax," she said. "There's always a replacement."
JTA Staff Writer Ben Harris and intern Armin Rosen contributed to this report.