Vireo Health of New York (“Vireo”), one of only five companies licensed by the New York State Department of Health to produce and sell medical cannabis, announced today that all of the company’s products produced in New York have been certified as kosher by the Orthodox Union (OU), the world’s largest and most widely recognized kosher certification agency.
The trademarked OU symbol will appear for the first time ever on medical cannabis products, including the Company’s vaporization cartridges, oils and capsules. These products will be made available for purchase to qualifying patients in Vireo’s four New York State retail dispensaries. The dispensaries are located in White Plains, Queens, Binghamton and Albany and are scheduled to begin opening during the first week of January.
“Being certified kosher by the OU will not only help us serve the dietary needs of the largest Jewish community in the United States, but also combat unfortunate stigmas associated with medical cannabis,” said Ari Hoffnung, Chief Executive Officer of Vireo Health of New York. “Today’s announcement sends an important message to New Yorkers of all faiths and backgrounds that using medical cannabis to alleviate pain and suffering does not in any way represent an embrace of ‘pot’ culture. Patients should never feel guilty or ashamed for using a product recommended by their physicians.”
“We are pleased to grant kosher certification to Vireo Health of New York’s medical cannabis products which were developed to alleviate pain and suffering in accordance with the New York State Compassionate Care Act,” said Rabbi Menachem Genack, Chief Executive Officer of OU Kosher. “Judaism prioritizes health and encourages the use of medicine designed to improve one’s health or reduce pain. Using medical cannabis products recommended by a physician should not be regarded as a chet, a sinful act, but rather as a mitzvah, an imperative, a commandment.”
“We are thrilled to be the first medical cannabis company in the world to join companies like Novartis and Pfizer that choose the OU for their kosher certification,” said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, Chief Executive Officer of Vireo Health, the parent company of Vireo Health of New York and Minnesota Medical Solutions. “Vireo and the OU both share a deep commitment to rigorous quality standards, and we look forward to broadening our relationship as we expand our operations into other states.”
“We are delighted to have Vireo’s medical cannabis products join nearly one million other products worldwide that we certify as kosher,” said Rabbi Moshe Elefant, Chief Operating Officer of OU Kosher. “In a life or death situation, Jewish law clearly sets aside the kosher status of a medicine, but in other cases, it is preferable and sometimes recommended that a medicine be certified kosher. We commend Vireo Health of New York for taking this step and making this commitment to the Jewish community.”
Prior to being awarded kosher certification, OU Kosher leadership held extensive conversations with the company’s senior management. OU Kosher’s rabbinic field representatives then visited Vireo’s medical cannabis cultivation and lab facilities, located in Fulton County, New York, for inspection and verification, to assure that all OU Kosher standards and policies were in place.
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing the medicinal use of cannabis. Nationally, more than 1.1 million patients have registered for their state programs, and nearly 150 million Americans live in states with laws allowing for the medicinal use of cannabis.
About the New York State Compassionate Care Act
New York State Governor Cuomo signed the Compassionate Care Act into law on July 5, 2014. It allows patients to use medical cannabis if they have been diagnosed with a specific severe, debilitating or life threatening condition that is accompanied by an associated or complicating condition.
The law identifies several severe, debilitating or life threatening conditions including: cancer, HIV infection or AIDS, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and epilepsy. The associated or complicating conditions are cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or severe or persistent muscle spasms.
Physicians must complete a four-hour New York State Department of Health approved course and register with the Department to certify patients. Practitioners must consult the New York State Prescription Monitoring Program Registry prior to issuing a certification to a patient for medical cannabis.
Patients who are certified by their practitioners must apply to the Department to obtain a registry identification card in order to obtain medical cannabis in accordance with any recommendations made by the patient’s practitioner. During the patient registration process, certified patients may designate up to two caregivers, who must also register with the Department, to obtain and administer medical cannabis products on behalf of the patients.
Registered organizations may only manufacture medical cannabis products in forms approved by the Commissioner. Approved forms currently include liquid or oil preparations for metered oromucosal or sublingual administration or administration per tube, metered liquid or oil preparations for vaporization, and capsules for oral administration. The Compassionate Care Act expressly provides that a certified medical use of cannabis does not include smoking. For more information, visit https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/medical_marijuana/.