Drug Policy

Is Marijuana Kosher for Passover?


As I see it, the short answer to this question, posed in Tuesday's Jerusalem Post, is yes. Here is the long answer:

On Passover, which begins Monday night, Jews commemorate the Exodus from Egypt, during which the Israelites were in too much of a rush to let their dough rise and therefore had to pack unleavened bread, by refraining from "leaven" (chometz). In addition to obvious things like bread and cake, this category includes foods that might have ingredients derived from chometz or that might otherwise be contaminated by chometz. The rabbis, in what is known as "building a fence around the Torah" (also known as "making Judaism more of a pain in the ass than it has to be"), extended the prohibition further, decreeing that kitniyot—legumes, seeds, and even certain vegetables that are said to resemble chometz in some way (because they rise when mixed with water, say, or because they can be ground into something like flour)—also should be avoided. The kitniyot ban has never been followed by Sephardic Jews, and it is increasingly questioned by Ashkenazim as well, especially in Israel. But evidently there are enough Israeli pot smokers who observe the kitniyot ban for the headline question to have arisen.

Leaving aside the legitimacy of the kitniyot rule and the arbitrariness of its application, I don't see why it would prohibit possession or consumption of marijuana on Passover. If an edible seed is prohibited because it could be ground into something resembling flour, that doesn't mean the plant that grows from the seed is prohibited. For example, if coriander and mustard seed count as kitniyot (which they supposedly do), that doesn't mean you can't have cilantro or mustard greens on Passover. It should follow, then, that deseeded marijuana is OK even if hemp seeds (and foods made with them) are prohibited.

Still, I like the twist that Israel's marijuana legalization party put on the controversy:

Israel's Green Leaf Party ("Aleh Yarok") said it was not taking any chances. Following an inquiry by the Post, a spokeswoman for the party said the group was sending out an e-mail to members warning them about hemp's possible kashrut problems.

"We are warning our people not to eat anything with hemp products if they follow the practice of kitniyot on Pessah," said party spokeswoman Michelle Levine. "We are considering announcing a ban on everything containing hemp just to be on the safe side. We are going with the rabbis on this. People should remove all cannabis and hemp from their homes."

Levine said one of the party's main arguments for cannabis legalization was biblical references to it.

"We would like to ask people… if it's listed as not kosher 'for Pessah,' [doesn't] that mean it must be kosher the rest of the year?" said Levine.

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  1. So, this is the only instance in the civilized world where tobacco is okay but pot is not?

    I am moving!

  2. Sad but related news from this side of the world: beginning next Sunday, the Dutch government will actively enforce a 2003 law prohibiting the sale of alcohol in coffeeshops, despite fierce opposition by Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen.

  3. Wouldn’t it be easier just not to eat? That probably how the “Fast of Ramadan” came about.

  4. I can’t believe people choose to live this way. What’s the up side?

  5. I can’t believe people choose to live this way. What’s the up side?

    Continued survival of your people and culture, IIRC.

  6. I can’t believe people choose to live this way. What’s the up side?


  7. We have a winner!

    de stijl | March 30, 2007, 12:09pm | #
    I can’t believe people choose to live this way. What’s the up side?


  8. Smoke a joint, go to Hell!

    How’s that for the next DARE campaign?

  9. I can’t believe people choose to live this way.

    * Ahem * – Not “choose”; rather, Have Been Chosen. If you please.

  10. Real question: how safe marijuana for Jewess about to lay egg?

  11. Warren

    Being Jewish is like playing chess: it looks absurd unless you know the rules and actaully play.

  12. finally!! an appropriate use for “the exception that proves the rule”

  13. Josh,
    I don’t understand what you mean. Chess looks like a board game. Before I could play chess, I could play checkers and parcheesi. I knew what board games were and why people played them. The more I learned about chess the more I understood it.

    Judaism looks like a religion. I was raised Protestant and am related to several Catholics. I’m also acquainted with some Jewish people (reformed).

    Orthodox Judaism (and several other anal retentive flavors of Judaism) doesn’t look like it has anything to do with faith. The more I learn about it, the less I understand it.

    Coupled with all the strife and turmoil that surrounds those whom choose this lifestyle, my original question still stands.

  14. I stopped following the ban on kitniyot following some time in Israel and being married to a sephardic woman. So no problems blowing smoke over pesach. The article also says this.

    “On Monday, the religious court of the Shilo Institute issued a ruling that permits all Jews to consume kitniyot during Pessah. Rabbi David Bar-Hayim wrote the ruling, with Rabbis Yehoshua Buch and Chaim Wasserman co-signing.

    The move is seen as a direct attack on the kitniyot tradition, as Bar-Hayim wrote that the current explanations for the custom were “unconvincing.”

    “Kitniyot is no longer applicable. It’s a tradition people keep going because they want to extend a perimeter so far outside the actual law of Torah that they could not possibly violate the actual law,” said Dan Sieradski, an editor at JewSchool.com who has been at work on a book on Jews and drugs for several years.

    “Clearly, you can use hemp in food,” he said. “You might mix it into brownies. You aren’t going to make bread out of it.”

  15. From the Talmud:

    RABBI BEN MAIMON said, “verily, Rabbi Sullum is in error. For is not the peanut butter *kitniyot,* as well as the peanut? Likewise, if the hemp seed is *kitniyot,* then the plant must be likewise *kitniyot.*”

    “Thou knowest not whereof thou speakest,” said RABBI BEN JOSEPH, “for, I kityinot, are we to say that we cannot burn the wood in the fire merely because the seed of the tree is *kitniyot*? In the same manner, how can you say not to burn the cannabis plant merely because the seeds are *kitty-knotted*?”

    RABBI ELIEAZER spoke and said, “cease your prattling, both of you, for verily your quarrelling is harshing my mellow.”

    RABBI SHIMON BAR YOHAI said, “thinkest thou upon this, O dudes – what if the entire world was merely a molecule in the fingernail of the Holy One, blessed be He – doesn’t the idea just freak you out, man?”

    RABBI ZECHARIAH said, “behold, I am hungry. Those potato chips better be unleavened.”

  16. I’m totally crushing on you right now, Mad Max. Awesome!

  17. The more I learn about it, the less I understand it.


  18. Warren, not all religions are faith based.

    Anyway, the fence around Torah always struck me as bizarre because they build the fence in some directions way, way the hell out there, over the horizon so you can’t even see the Torah from there; and in other directions it’s right up against it, with them figuring ways to file down the Torah in certain places so they can draw the fence in even further. Rather like Constitutional law, come to think of it.

  19. kitniyot is only part of the issue. the other part, where there unfortunately can be no argument, is “the law of the land is the law.” in cases where civil law forbids something otherwise allowed by jewish law, the civil law is considered to be binding as a religious requirement.

    that’s one reason why we can’t do the polygamy thing any more.

  20. Warren,

    I am a 32 year old male of Jewish decent, and have only recently gained faith and understanding of Judasim,

    for me, I have seen the opposite. The orthodox, who although have the most rules to follow are also the most faithful. They seem to understand the spirit and meaning behind what they are doing. It is the reform and conservative Jews who either do not observe or do so mechanically.

  21. goood day this vere vere nnice thank you 4 ever

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