Culture, Justice, Religion

Hyper-machmir Green Leaf Party warns that the reefers are kitniyot

Oh, I thought it said “You shall have no products made from weed within your borders…”
JPost reports:

Every Sunday school student knows Pessah for its ban on food that rises, but a growing number of Jews are asking whether the holiday also precludes them from getting high.
Hemp has increasingly been spotted on the list of kitniyot, or legumes, that Ashkenazi Jews abstain from eating during Pessah, according to several influential rabbinical Web sites, including But not everyone agrees that hemp qualifies for the ban, and the debate has led many to question the definition of kitniyot.
While hemp isn’t a kitchen staple for most people, hemp oil can be found in a number of hygiene products and in some alternative baked goods. But it’s hemp’s more notorious cousin, commonly known as marijuana, that has set the sparks flying. As debate over the kitniyot tradition has gathered steam among rabbinic circles, many are looking at hemp as a case in point of why the practice of abstention needs to be reexamined.

Due to my work researching the relationship between Jews and drugs, I was interviewed for this story and just made the final cut towards the end.
My preliminary remarks were, of course, that the prohibition against eating kitniyot (ie., rice, legumes and other grains) on Pesach is no longer relevant. Once upon a time, when we kept our grains sitting in open piles in storehouses, the danger of wheat flour getting mixed in with your rice and lentils was actually a plausible scenario. Now that we most often buy our grains in sealed packages, the danger of accidental mixing is relatively nil. Hence, some groups, like the beit din (religious court) of Machon Shilo, have declared the prohibition against kitniyot to be null and void all together.
With that in mind, the threat of somehow getting your weed mixed up with wheat flour (regardless of the potential hijinks that may transpire while under the influence) is dully preposterous. Let alone the fact that, while folks often cook with pot, they don’t often make bread from it (hemp flour’s rise in popularity notwithstanding), and hemp itself contains no natural leavening agents. Furthermore, as it pertains to medical marijuana, it is halakhically permissible to take medicine that contains chametz on Pesach.
Nonetheless, Ale Yarok, the Green Leaf party, decided to “enforce the prohibition” whereas the group is currently seeking to woo the religious Jewish community, scoring a minor victory recently when Aryeh Eldad of the right-wing National Union party presented a bill to the Knesset for the legalization and regulation of medical marijuana.
Frankly, I share Ale Yarok’s desire to appeal to the religious Jewish community to reform unjust drug laws. However, I disagree with their approach here. Medical marijuana, and likewise religious and recreational drug use, constitute moral and ethical issues, as demonstrated, for example, in Wallace Green’s article in Judaism this past summer, “Dispensing Medical Marijuana: Some Halachic Parameters,” which makes a halakhic case for legalizing medical marijuana based on our Torah obligation to care for the ill. Pandering to the Orthodox community by supporting the extension of an outdated rabbinic law seems like a hokey publicity stunt that has the potential to undermine an otherwise serious and righteous cause.
Better they should focus on upholding our halakhic obligation towards the sick, or even build on the Orthodox Union’s support for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ayahuasca decision, by making the case for freedom of religious expression and it’s lesser-known twin, cognitive liberty (ie., the freedom to explore one’s consciousness). The fact that smoking marijuana has recently proven to be over 100 times safer than drinking alcohol (more on that here) should also serve as impetus for reexamining our outmoded drug laws, their unjust impact on medical, religious, and recreational marijuana users, and the halakhic implications thereof.
That said, I’m thoroughly amused by the implications this raises in selling your chametz pre-Pesach. If your stash stays taped up in your kitchen cupboard, are you still khayav for drug dealing?

24 thoughts on “Hyper-machmir Green Leaf Party warns that the reefers are kitniyot

  1. Ahem… I think that Marijuana is still a dangerous drug for many people. It should be legalized, regulated, and used for medical purposes. But young and hip Jews and their websites should also be careful to say that drug addiction is a form of idolatry, and that drug use is often a way station towards addiction.
    (I’m not saying that smoking pot leads to shooting heroin. I’m saying that smoking pot leads to smoking lots of pot.)
    I think the best way to view it Jewishly is through the lens of harm reduction. What policy causes the least negative effects? While that may be legalization, Jews of all ages and musical preferences should still disapprove, warn, and keep children (up to age of 18) as far away from pot as possible.

  2. marijuana grown outdoor has a significant likelihood of contact with small airborne pieces deriving from other, non-kosher l’pesach grasses and grains. hydroponic marijuana, obviously, doesn’t share this potential problem.

  3. woohoo for indo’
    jg: agree about the harm reduction view, disagree about the dangers of marijuana. abuse is inherent in the social stigmas and constructs associated with drug use. when they legalized it in amsterdam, marijuana use plummeted among youth. that’s because the “criminal lifestyle” associated with drug culture is glorified and when it’s no longer a criminal act, it’s not longer rebellious nor revolutionary.
    i also agree, btw, that drug abuse is a form of avodah zarah. that is, in fact, a major theme of my book.

  4. Okay. Kitniyot. Whippee. It’s well discussed that the prohibition of kitniyot if at all relevent, should only apply to those grains that the decree was made for, ie. rice and beans. That we have expanded it to new world foods is an interesting folly, but folly none the less. The problem with marijuana is that it is not a new world plant. Cannibis was well known to the Rabbis from the time of the mishna, but there is no record of it ever being considered kitniyot. A modern day prohibition is absolutely absurd. However, given that we do accept this prohibition, there remains another halakhic element to consider. For all kitniyot, the plant itself is prohibited, but generally we consider derivatives of the plant acceptable. Thus, according to most sources, sake would be acceptable, even if rice is not. That this principle has come under attack recently is beside the point. However, in the case of cannibis, then hash would still be allowed, even if they didn’t let us smoke herb.

  5. I think the biggest dangers of Marijuana use have to do with long term emotional, social and spiritual disabilities. They are often hard to recognize or articulate, because we associate the word ‘harm’ some events that are much more dramatic and immediate.
    One of the best educators on this is Dr. Drew Pinsky, formerly of LoveLine. People would call his show and report feeling certain ways and having certain difficulties, which were often linked to being a pot smoker, or having given up pot within the last 6-12 months.
    It’s true that very few people smoke pot and then crash cars, shoot people or beat folks up. But they find themselves stagnating professionally, missing out on truly adult relationships, and hanging out with friends who hold them back instead of pushing them forward. Obviously, this isn’t true for everyone. But it’s true enough of the time that the responsible ‘hipsters’ among us should ID it as a reason to cool it on the drug humor and stop making drug use any kind of factor in the coolness one projects.
    The one opening I do see for less harmful drug use is when it’s part of a rare, spiritually responsible process. But we aren’t there yet.

  6. I’m not too inclined to jump on this because none of the authorities who forbade marijuana say anything like this. R’ Moshe? Silent on the issue.
    COKE on the other hand, has a serious problem of chometz d’Oraisa. Some dealers cut their coke with actual flour, and according to the OK, plain flour in the US is often chometz d’Oraisa. Some coke dealers also cut their coke with non-kosher l’Pesach lactose.
    The same issues are extant with other white powders such as meth.
    I wonder if it has ever been posed to a rabbinical authority — by refusing to legislate and deal with Orthodox Jewish drug users and abusers, one actually puts their souls at far greater risks — the addict who only “needs to get high” wouldn’t think of breaking Pesach, but now he is, because no one has told him how to get his Pesachdik fix.

  7. how could marijuana be kitniyot? thats ridiculous.
    if they are claiming because it has seeds, then would we make every plant that has seeds kitniyot?
    hemp seeds are generally only used in foods by neuvo companies trying to raise marijuana awareness.

  8. It should be noted, there is a Sephardi Kabbalistish tradition of using Kineh Bosem (whatever THAT is) in the charoset, fufilling the Kahia (tangy, flavorful) requirement often done with ginger or cinnamon. The charoset is also traditionally made from the fruits and spices in the song of songs, of which Ganja (“kinmon w’ Kineh”) is.
    The rashash kabbalaeestas, as i’ve heard from friends who over heard one ordering spice in a spice shop, seem to think that Kineh Bosem is Valerian— I wonder where they got that idea! Presumeably they wanted something semi psychoactive.
    But he sephardi inyan of hash smoking on Pesach Davka is learned out from the Ben Ish Chai, who talks about the permissibility of smoking on Yom tov as opposed to shabbos in the context of hilchos pesach… I’m told of families where the patriarch would hit the hookah upon pronouncing “blood! Fire! (thhhhhhhhhf–phfew!) columns of smoke! (cough!)” during the seder.
    But the specific relationship of Cannabis to Pesach is in the story of the tavlin/bosem (it’s refered to differently in different nusachs) that the Lord took from the Garden of Eden and cast into the Korban Pesach in order that the other wise reprehensible and unappetising Paschal Lamb be attractive to the vegetariam Israelites, who, upon smelling the herbed meat roasting, became so desperate for a taste that that they circumsized themselves (and their servents) on the spot, just to be able to taste whatever smelled so good. This is the secret, the midrash claims, to that weird line in Isaiah quoted seemingly randomly in the haggadah:
    “I found you there, soaking in your bloods, and I said, “by your bloods you shall live, by your bloods you shall live.”
    That is, the mixing of the korban blood on the ground with the the circumsion blood.
    But it’s very deep. We didn’t want the sacrifce, we just wanted the divine heavenly scent that was put on to it. This is the secret of religion in general, BY THE WAY.
    while we’re on the topic, what’s the gematria of MiMiTzRaYiM, out from egypt/constriction? Yeah, that’s right.

  9. Yosef that is a shame that you’ve left again. I’d have invited you along on several media interviews we have scheduled today and tomorrow. We need a Hebrew speaker who’s knowledgeable about this. Anyone who knows a Hebrew speaker who’ll speak to this can call me on my cell phone, which you can get from Yossef or Mobius.
    Hyper-Machmir? HAHAHAHAHA! Yes, we can’t say anyone’s called us hyper-machmir before. You’re hysterical. I don’t know that you’re wrong about the absurdity of kitniyot, but it’s not for us, Ale Yarok, (the Green Leaf Party) to dispute the greater issue of kitniyot or legumes with the rabbinical authorities. We were told that hemp and cannabis is beginning to appear on rabbinical lists of kitniyot and asked if we’d abide by that. Our answer? If it’s NOT kosher for Pesach, then it IS kosher for the rest of the year.
    Whatever the rabbis want to say about kitniyot is fine. You take ’em on. However, we didn’t have to agree with them for a publicity stunt – we had the front page of the Jerusalem Post and the Associated Press stories whatever we answered. We chose to go with the rabbis on this one, as you say, because we’d like to approach legalization from a Jewish point of view and appeal to the rabbis, but also because we are not rabbinical authorities and we are a political party. The rabbis will help us bring legalization about in Israel. Wonder if you’ll call it all a publicity stunt when you’re sitting in a Jerusalem cafe smoking grass one day? We work hard all year long to promote legalization and we get plenty of publicity – it’s just that most of it is in the local Israeli press.
    Pesach Sameach Satlanim!

  10. I think this is all somewhat incorrect. Even if hemp seed would be kitnyot, it would not affect whether (setting aside the legal question) one could smoke marijuana on Passover. Thee reason is, is that smoking would only be considered deriving benefit (issur hanah) and it would not bee deemed ingesting the kitnyot. There is no prohibition against deriving benefit from kitnyot on Passover. Thus, even if one assumes there would be a kitnyot and not only are the seed but derivatives as well (this point is also subject to some controversy, smoking would still be permitted.

  11. The seeds are only a peripheral aspect of the plant, at least in the manner that most of its current users look at it. It is considered undesirable to have hempseeds (hippie grenades) in the smoking mix, as they tend to pop when heated and have minimal THC content. Most people discard of their seeds, although Sholom recommends that they be guerrilla-planted in random patches of dirt.

  12. For clarification I asked why they list hemp as kitniot and Arlene Mathes-Scharf just responded:
    “The Chicago Rabbinical Council has said that the seeds and pod are
    kitniot for Ashkenazim
    This is based on sefer Siddur Pesach Kehilchoso page 184.
    The leaves are no problem.
    However, the seeds and pods are usable for Sephardim.
    All acceptance is based on the law of the land.”

  13. And of course the discussion of pot turns into a discussion of where is Yosef in the world…
    Can I just spoil all the fun here for a moment – hee hee evil laugh – and add that it’s rather absurb to be discussing the fine print halakha on the use of marijuana on Pesach considering that using any substances that are *not life-saving or demanded by the Torah* and that are *outlawed* by the government is *already* against halakha, or at least highly suspect, in any event? If you’re already going to smoke, and it’s clearly not d’oraita, then why even care what OU or whoever says?
    This to me is a perfect example of the permutations of the stoner’s mind… obsessing over useless technical details and modes of concealment. (Example: the one-hitter that is painted to resemble a cigarette… Only a major stoner could have come up with that idea and then had the enthusaism to actually produce it.) If religious Jews keep smoking pot, we’re going to have a new tractate on the benefits of joint versus bowl by the end of this century…

  14. actually, wheat mixing up with kitniyot is still a problem. I found dozens of wheat kernels in a package of lentils.

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