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Israel’s Leading Orthodox Authority Rules Cannabis Is Kosher for Passover

Bill Weinberg

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On the eve of the Passover holiday, there has been a breakthrough in the controversy over whether cannabis is kosher.

The Times of Israel just couldn't resist this lede: "Getting baked on Passover is no longer just for matzah, a leading Orthodox rabbi ruled, after sniffing (but not smoking) some cannabis leaves…"

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, Israel's leading Orthodox halachic (Jewish law) authority, ruled that cannabis is kosher for Passover and can be either eaten or smoked over the eight-day festival, during which strict dietary laws apply. Kanievsky issued the ruling in response to a query from the cannabis advocacy group Siach—which means both "plant" and "conversation" in Hebrew.

Kanievky stipulated that the plant is still considered a member of the kitniyot group of legumes that are forbidden on Passover among Jews of Ashkenazi (East European) origin. But, he said, if used for medical purposes, cannabis is permitted for Jews from all backgrounds. Kitniyot foods—including rice, corn and beans—have always been permissible for Sephardic (Spanish or Middle Eastern) Jews on Passover but have been banned by Ashkenazic rabbis since the Middle Ages.

The account says that after examining a handful of cannabis leaves, Rabbi Kanievsky and Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, another leading Orthodox authority, declared that the plant had a "healing smell" and made the traditional blessing for fragrant herbs.

The report goes on to note that pervious rabbinical rulings in Israel had approved smoking but not ingesting medicinal cannabis during Passover.

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