Sacred Way To Use Cannabis: This Rabbi Is On A Mission To Bring Legal Weed To New York

New York has set the start of its first legal pot sales for Dec. 29, just in time for New Year’s festivities. But after the holiday season fades, New Yorkers will still have reasons to celebrate in the upcoming months as the industry grows. Some industry experts have predicted that the Big Apple could become the world’s weed capital.

In any case, pot is just starting to grow in this state, legal weed that is.

Among those preparing to take part in this endeavor is rabbi James Kahn, who is part of a company, “Keep It A 100,” one of the first to be licensed to open a cannabis dispensary in the state.

Kahn already has experience with this type of business, as he was helping with a family cannabis business in Washington, D.C. and is the executive director of Liberty Cannabis Cares, which is a part of Maryland dispensary Holistic Industries. The senior Jewish educator at the University of Maryland Hillel is also helping at a Jewish social service agency, reports NY Jewish Week.

“Suffering is not a mitzvah,” Kahn told the outlet. “Giving people permission to use cannabis to enjoy and to take time for self-care, for healing, for connecting with people, it’s just another tool that Hashem has given us to live better lives.”

Why cannabis? It’s A Mission

“When done right, cannabis can be a force for good — for individuals and the communities they live in,” Kahn said. “That is my mission.”

Rabbi Kahn first came into contact with marijuana via his grandfather who was struggling with “severe” multiple sclerosis (MS) and asked his teenage grandson to help him find some weed.

“He was hesitant to try cannabis because of the stigma that surrounded it,” Kahn said. “He was not a fan of hippies or cannabis. An aide offered him cannabis and it worked. The first bong I ever saw was my grandfather’s.”

More and more anecdotal stories confirm cannabis can provide much-needed relief to people with MS. Earlier this month a story about a paralyzed dad who replaced 75 pills a day with marijuana and got back on his feet made headlines.

“All cannabis is medicine,” Kahn said. “The word ‘recreational’ is often seen as less than. We Jews have long known the value of rest, of stopping. That’s at the heart of Shabbat. In order to have holiness, we need to give ourselves the space to experience it.”

Getting The License

Keep It A 100 is among the 36 recipients of New York’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) program. The list includes 28 dispensaries owned by justice-involved individuals and eight nonprofit organizations and prioritizes people in communities most affected by the war on drugs for opportunities in the legal cannabis industry.

Kahn teamed up with a Bronx native and ex-drug dealer, Marquis Hayes, who got out of jail in 2007, and worked his way up to become a renowned professional chef. Under the partnership, Hayes will source the product for the company, while Kahn will to source the capital and offer his experience in the industry.

First retail sales will be on Long Island with the first dispensary scheduled to open in a few months, Kahn said.

Other partners in the company include Kim Stetz, a psychotherapist and Christina Betancourt Johnson, who owns a cannabis business.

Kahn noted that even though marijuana has not been “at the forefront of the modern Jewish age, the cannabis industry is full of Jews.”

“Judaism is relevant because it helps us squeeze more out of life,” Kahn said. “It’s helped me use cannabis in a way that I would call sacred.”

He added that he has had “interesting experiences reading sacred texts while consuming cannabis.”

Photo: Courtesy of Grav on Unsplash

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMarketsHolistic IndustriesJames KahnJudaism and cannabisMarquis HayesNew York CannabisNY Jewish WeekRabbi cannabis
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