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Religious leaders aim high to make kosher marijuana available

Orthodox Jews in New York might eventually be able to get high on occasions besides holidays — under doctors' orders.
Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers market. (Photo by David McNew/Reuters)
Marijuana plants for sale are displayed at the medical marijuana farmers market.

Orthodox Jews in New York might eventually be able to celebrate the high holidays -- actually high -- under doctors' orders.

With collaboration from a Colorado drug firm and a Jewish group that offers kosher certification, cannabis could be available to Orthodox Jews in the Empire State by next year. The group, the Orthodox Union, could offer certification to start selling legal, edible marijuana with a kosher stamp of approval, The Jewish Daily Forward reported on Monday.

WATCH: Third state legalizes recreational marijuana

The marijuana plant itself doesn't need to be classified as kosher; but for patients to ingest marijuana in food, drinks, or capsules it must be blessed.

Many Orthodox rabbis have accepted the use of marijuana for medical treatment because of health reasons. But most of the Jewish leaders continue to feel strongly about continuing to prohibit the drug for recreational use.

Last February, Dr. Abraham Twerski, who is also a rabbi, cautioned his community about "the increasing problem of alcohol abuse and marijuana smoking among Jewish adolescents." In a post on the website for the Orthodox Union, he wrote: "It is unfortunate that many people still do not accept that some of our own children are involved."

The planning in New York comes as states experiment with the regulation of the drug. Almost half of the United States allows medical marijuana, and a handful recreational marijuana. Marijuana use technically is still a crime under federal law.

More than a year has passed since Colorado became the first state in the country to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana. Since then, Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and the District of Columbia have made moves to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Other states have passed medical marijuana laws that permit limited use of the drug. Just this week, Alaska became the third state to allow recreational use. Legal pot has become big business, with nationwide sales topping $2.6 billion last year. Colorado is now home to more than 500 pot stores.

Israel, where the Jewish people have maintained both physical and religious ties, is a world leader in medical marijuana, with more than 11,000 people licensed to receive the drug in medicinal form, according to the Daily Forward. There, patients already can buy kosher-certified products.

Medical marijuana will go on sale next year in New York.

A new studypublished Monday in the journal Scientific Reports found that marijuana is more than 100 times safer than alcohol. Among other drugs like heroin and cocaine, cannabis was the only one studied that posed a low mortality risk to users.