Israel’s medical marijuana program has been declared kosher. In a recent decree, Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich of Mazkeret Batia, a town south of Tel Aviv, ruled that using pot recreationally is forbidden, but that growing, distributing, and smoking marijuana for medical purposes is allowed under halacha, or religious Jewish law.

Rabbi Zalmanovich’s ruling was in response to an opinion by Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, who in March told Israel’s Magazin Canabis, “If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.” Zalmanovich modified that statement, saying if marijuana is administered to relieve pain, then the person providing it is “performing a mitzvah,” meaning a worthy deed commanded by faith. Additionally, according to Zalmanovich, the person smoking medical marijuana is using it “in a kosher fashion.”

However, recreational pot use is a different story. Rabbi Zalmanovich, who wrote a book on alcoholism in Judaism, said, “Taking drugs to escape this world in any excessive way is certainly forbidden.”

More than 11,000 patients are enrolled in Israel’s flourishing medical marijuana program, which treats those suffering from more than 30 ailments including Parkinson’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and multiple sclerosis (MS). The Israeli government officially approved the program in 2011. However, the Health Ministry first began allowing use of medical pot in 2008.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam discovered THC in Israel nearly 50 years ago. Today, Israel distributes more medical pot than any country in Europe. According to Health Minister Yael German, “Israel distributes nearly 880 pounds of cannabis per month.”

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