Forward Thinking

Marijuana Goes Local in Israel

By Talia Lavin

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(JTA) — Taking a puff is going local in the Jewish state.

According to a Bloomberg report, Israel’s tightened border security — aimed at curbing the influx of African migrants, as well as securing the country against potential threats from Lebanon and Syria — has also had the effect of hampering the country’s supply of marijuana and hashish.

The result has been a surge in home-grown product, which some Israeli marijuana enthusiasts describe as more potent than the version smuggled in from neighboring Arab countries. According to David Wachtel, head of the Ale Yarok marijuana-legalization party (which memorably teamed up with Holocaust survivors in a Knesset campaign), this is good news.

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Editor's Choice: Best From Across the Country

By Forward Staff

The Forward is partnering with other Jewish newspapers to offer our readers a peek at some of the best stories from around the country, as selected by the editors at those papers.

We will offer a selection of unedited links with brief introductions from the editors of the papers. Now that the high holidays are behind us we expect more content in the coming weeks.

jewish journal

From the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles

Just over six years ago, in the lush Upper Galilee of northern Israel, the nation’s first large-scale harvest of legal medical marijuana was flowering on the roof deck of Tzahi Cohen’s parents’ house, perched on a cliff overlooking the bright-green farming village of Birya.

Until then, fewer than 100 Israeli patients suffering from a short list of ailments had been allowed to grow the plants for themselves, but this marked the first harvest by a licensed grower.

Click here for the full story

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Marijuana Legalization Is Freedom of Religion Cause

By Eliyahu Federman

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Medical marijuana is spreading in acceptance, with Illinois this month becoming the 20th state to legalize medical marijuana. But so far no states have legalized religious marijuana use, even though there is compelling reason to do so.

People consume alcohol for religious reasons, especially Jews. At least 25 states even allow minors to consume alcohol for religious purposes. So why not legalize marijuana for legitimate religious purposes?

Various world religions include the practice of ritual drinking of alcohol. Christians drink communion wine. Jews drink Kiddush wine, Passover Seder wine, and consume alcohol on festivals such as Purim where the tradition is to celebrate by drinking until one can’t distinguish Haman (our enemy) and Mordecai (our hero).

Last year, Northwestern University defrocked Chabad rabbi Dov Hillel Klien for serving alcohol to underage students. Klien maintains that he was serving moderate amounts of alcohol for legitimate religious purposes, such as Kidush wine on Shabbat, with the knowledge of university officials. Klien is currently suing Northwestern for religious discrimination and for “singling (Jewish groups) out from other campus religious organizations that ‘commit the same acts’ — meaning Christians who celebrate the Eucharist with wine.”

Similarly, many religions engage in ritualistic marijuana smoking dating back thousands of years. It was used in the worship of the Hindu deity, Shiva, and most widespread today by Rastafarian’s as a Bible study, and meditation aid.

Roger Christie is a minister of the Religion of Jesus Church, which uses marijuana as a “sacramental herb.” Christie and 13 others associated with his ministry are currently facing marijuana possession and trafficking charges for offering pot as a part of religious services in Hawaii.

Whether Christie was using and selling marijuana for bona fide religious purposes, or as a cover for conventional drug dealing is unclear, but the question remains whether marijuana should be permitted for sacramental use.

Even though religious marijuana use is not generally permitted, in 2006 the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Brazilian-American church União do Vegetal could import and use illegal drugs in worship services. Native Americans are routinely given exceptions to use an illegal Schedule I substance called peyote.

Under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by Congress in 1993, the government is required to show a “compelling interest” in order to “substantially burden” a legitimate religious practice. If hallucinogens like peyote can be legal under this standard, why should more mild drugs like marijuana be any different?

Even Prohibition, which banned alcohols in the U.S., exempted wine “for sacramental purposes, or like religious rites.”

Alcohol is a drug like marijuana with potentially harmful effects. But if alcohol is widely accepted for religious use among Jews and others - maybe marijuana should be too.

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VA, FL Close But Leaning Dem; CO OKs Weed

By J.J. Goldberg

Chuck Todd on MSNBC is saying Virginia and Florida are too close to call but look likely to go for Obama, because the counties still outstanding are generally Democratic-leaning. The call in Ohio by the networks was for the same reason, as Michael Barone explained rather patiently to Karl Rove on air at Fox: the outstanding votes are mostly in overwhelmingly Democratic counties - and in Democratic precincts within those counties, as Barone explained.

An MSNBC reporter at Romney HQ reports that Romney had prepared an acceptance speech but no concession speech. Nobody from the campaign is around to answer questions. If the margin is close, they will go to provisional ballots, which won’t be counted until the end of the month.

Colorado and Washington both approved ballot measures legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Not medical marijuana - happy weed. That could set up a conflict with the incoming Obama administration. Up to now his Justice Department has opposed California’s medical marijuana law, which effectively nullifies federal drug laws. Tho without much conviction. Recreational use might change the equation and set up a real constitutional confrontation.

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