Pot and prayer: rabbi’s cannabis plan

By Jennifer Lipman, August 16, 2010
The Kahns want to use a hamsa as their logo

The Kahns want to use a hamsa as their logo

A rabbi and his wife are attempting to set up the first medical marijuana centre in Washington DC.

According to Rabbi Jeffrey Kahn, decriminalising use of the drug “is an important religious issue.”

He and his wife Stephanie, a nurse, have applied for a licence to open the “zen-like but simple and classy” Takoma Wellness Centre in America’s capital.

And rather than a traditional marijuana leaf motif to identify their shop, the Kahns want to use the Middle Eastern hamsa symbol as the logo.

Rabbi Kahn, who has led Reform communities in New Jersey, Australia and Israel and until recently sat on the board of a group called the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, said that America’s zero-tolerance drug laws caused suffering, especially for minorities.

He said: “I think scripture is very clear that when we have the opportunity to help people, we must do it.
“There’s a need for our dispensary here.”

His wife added: “We wanted to do something different but still within the framework of trying to help people.”

“This is an important religious issue” - Rabbi Kahn

The Kahns will probably not know whether they will receive permission until January 2011. If they are successful, their shop would be Washington’s first official medical-marijuana centre.

US federal law still sees marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, but 14 states, including California, have decriminalised it for health use.

However the Kahns face a number of legal obstacles as well as mixed reactions from local residents, who have told Rabbi Kahn: “fine, but please not near me.”

But Mrs Kahn said they just want to help the community.

She added: “We are very straight-laced people”

Last updated: 3:00pm, November 2 2010