Does pot need kosher certification? Montreal says yes, Toronto says no

Medical marijuana

The Jewish Community Council of Montreal (JCCM) says medical marijuana does need kosher certification, an opinion that differs from that of the Toronto-based Kashruth Council of Canada.

“Any product which is ingested… must bear kosher certification,” council executive director Rabbi Saul Emanuel told The CJN.

“The product, [the] cannabis plant, in its raw state is kosher. It is the fact that it may be produced with other ingredients, and perhaps on a non-kosher production line, that would require the product to have reliable kosher certification.”

The council, which issues the MK hechsher, bills itself as “Canada’s kosher certifier.”

On Jan. 7, the Kashruth Council, which issues the COR hechsher, announced that it believes such certification is unnecessary.

“Something that is medicine, that’s prescribed from your doctor, that you need to take for your health, that doesn’t need kosher certification,” the Kashruth Council’s managing director, Richard Rabkin, told the media.


The organization, which describes itself as Canada’s largest kashrut certification agency, made the announcement after MedReleaf, a Health Canada-licensed producer of medical cannabis based in Markham, Ont., applied for certification.

The JCCM’s position is in line with that of the Orthodox Union (OU). In December, Vireo Health of New York announced that the OU is certifying its medical marijuana products. They went on sale Jan. 7, the day medical marijuana became legal in New York state.

The OU, like the JCCM, says the cannabis plant is inherently kosher, but the final product may contain other ingredients such as alcohol, gelatin and oil. The agency also notes that marijuana is not used exclusively for life-threatening conditions and, therefore, presumably, cannot be exempted by virtue of pikuach nefesh (saving a life).

“[E]ven in such instances where there is a threat to life, it is preferable to use a kosher medication when available,” the OU said in a statement on its website.

The JCCM has not been approached by a medical marijuana producer about certification. There is only one producer licensed by Health Canada located in Quebec, Hydropothecary of Gatineau.