"From the Jewish perspective, nothing is more important than the concept of healing and bringing sufferers relief," says Rabbi Jeffery Kahn -- who has spent 30 years leading congregations in Australia, Illinois, Miami and New Jersey -- and now runs a dispensary for medical marijuana: Takoma Wellness Center, in Washington, DC.
So far, Takoma only has three customers, and they must meet state criteria and suffer from one of five diseases: HIV, AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis or glaucoma. "I was a congregational rabbi during the worst days of the AIDS epidemic and saw up-close and personal what people living with AIDS were dealing with and finding relief with medical marijuana," says Kahn.
Jeffery Kahn's wife, Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, has worked as a nurse at a long-term acute care hospital for many years. She has decorated the dispensary with "hamsas," a Jewish and Arabic symbol to ward off evil.
The Kahns are able to offer their for-profit services under the district's Medical Marijuana Program that launched Aug. 1. All proceeds will go to HIV/AIDS charities, according to the Kahns.
"We knew this could be done well and we know how to do this right," he said. "It's important to know the risks. But we are bringing healing and relief to people."