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Rabbis Green-Light Weed for Passover

According to one formerly Denver-based rabbi, you can smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em, but only if you’ve already got ’em. Let him explain.

As we come into Passover, which starts tonight and runs through April 11, our nation’s sizable Jewish population will be shedding anything made with grains, thus ruling out beer and most spirits. That means if you’re one of the faithful with a heavy thirst for the tipple, it’s wine headaches all week long. There is, however, one way they can kick back and unwind before digging into some matzo: by getting high.

Ben Greenberg is a New York City-based rabbi who has the distinction—and added authority—of having been the head of a Denver-based synagogue while the state was passing, and enacting, the law that famously legalized marijuana.

“There are really two different layers of prohibitions during Passover,” Greenberg explained by phone. “One of them is specific to the Ashkenazic Jewish community, and the other one is the biblical prohibition, which is that you can’t have any leaven—no grains. The additional layer of prohibition is that European Jews, several hundred years ago, added that you can’t have anything that might look like a grain. So they don’t eat beans or rice on Passover.”

Uh-oh. So does this mean that the sticky buds of the cannabis plant fall under this category?

“The overwhelming majority of rabbis are clear that it does not,” Greenberg noted, sagely.

There are, however, some further stipulations.

“So the question becomes, In what form can you have it?” The rabbi’s voice grows a bit more serious. “Because the problem with edibles is it might be processed in a way that includes leavening, or might come in contact with foods that are not kosher for Passover. So those items should be avoided.”

OK. So no powering down weed brownies, folks. Stick to your bongs. But first, a word of warning:

“You also have to take it into consideration that smoking anything is not good for you,” Greenberg cautioned.

True. Not good for you, but also not oser (forbidden), right?

“Actually that’s a great question,” he laughed. “The majority of the rabbinical authorities were a little late to the idea that smoking was bad for you. Primarily because they were taking into consideration the difficulty it would impose upon the community if they were to outright ban smoking cold turkey. So, at this point, the Rabbinical Council of America, which is the largest body of centrist orthodox rabbis in America, has published a statement prohibiting smoking. And the general consensus now is that if you haven’t started, you shouldn’t start.”

OK. So, no edibles, and, if you don’t already smoke weed, and are Jewish, then don’t start smoking weed. Especially on Passover. But other than that?

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“After you’re done drinking four cups of wine at the Seder, I don’t know if you need anything extra,” Greenberg continued. “But if you do, and if you’re already in the realm of smoking anyways, and you’re in a state where it’s legal, then you don’t have to worry about the fact that the marijuana plant itself is not kosher for Passover.”