Pubdate: Thu, 05 Dec 2013
Source: Jewish News Weekly (CA)
Copyright: 2013 San Francisco Jewish Community Publications Inc.
Author: Emma Silvers


If you want to traffic in stereotypes, Elie Green, Ramona Rubin and
Daniel Kosmal - the founders of Doc Green's, which makes healing
cannabis ointments and lotions - look pretty much like what you might
imagine when you hear, "Berkeley-based medical marijuana

That is, of course, until they open their mouths and tell you they're
observant Jews.

"It's been interesting dealing with [appearances at] weekend
festivals," says Rubin, 36, over an almond milk latte at a Berkeley
cafe. "Being shomer Shabbos, it means just working on Friday and
Sunday ... it's a constant balance between serving our own religious
needs, doing keruv [outreach], telling people about what we're doing
with cannabis and how it could help them."

The company's co-founders, who have been producing lotion made from
marijuana plants grown in Northern California and selling the product
online and through dispensaries for more than four years, say the
average customer is an older person who suffers from chronic pain such
as sciatica.

"Maybe [consumable] cannabis isn't for everybody, because there are
psychoactive effects that not everybody wants to experience," says
Kosmal, 40. "But topical cannabis really is for everybody. There are
no psychoactive effects. It's just for pain relief. And everybody gets
bumps and sore muscles and aches and pains."

"You don't have to get high to be a cannabis user," echoes

Green, the company's 35-year-old namesake, is the son of a retired
Orthodox rabbi - Rabbi Simcha Green, who lives in Berkeley and has,
alongside his wife, Margie, taken on the role of company spokesperson.
The couple, who are in their 70s, help with presentations about Doc
Green's at conferences; earlier this year the rabbi spoke at the
Rossmoor retirement community in Walnut Creek at an event that also
featured former state Assembly speaker Willie Brown. After that talk,
the younger Green says he was "bombarded by grandmas basically
throwing money at me, going 'If this stuff works...' "

It might sound unorthodox, but the rabbi's desire to spread the word
about the medicinal benefits of cannabis is rooted in ancient Jewish
text; he points to at least a dozen instances where the Bible mentions
the healing properties of what he believes to be a marijuana plant.

"I grew up in a time when it was taboo," says the rabbi. "But when you
see how many seniors, how many people [medical marijuana] has helped
. it's so impressive. After our son introduced us to it, I went with
him to a dispensary for the first time and I saw firsthand how clean
it was, how well run, and I realized it was on the up-and-up."

The catch, of course, is that it isn't - at least, according to
federal law. Though California voters approved the "compassionate use
act" decriminalizing medical marijuana in 1996, it is not recognized
by the federal government - a situation that has led to periodic raids
on cannabis clubs and marijuana advocacy centers, such as Oakland's
Oaksterdam University.

But with Colorado and Washington state leading the way, the founders
of Doc Green's and other medical marijuana advocates say the tide is
turning in their favor.

The strides that Israel has made toward recognizing marijuana's
healing properties give advocates further hope.

"Right now, Israel is quite a bit ahead of us as far as their
legislation and having a central government that supports medical
marijuana," says Kosmal, who just returned from a two-week trip to
Israel, where he met with advocates and growers in the country's
blooming medical marijuana industry. He says Doc Green's is "in
negotiations" with Tikun Olam, one of Israel's biggest distributors,
to collaborate on products (see main story).

"The doctors there don't have any history of stigma," he says. "They
see something that helps their patients and they want to go forward
with it. The whole community is looking at it with honest and fresh

Evidence of medicinal cannabis use goes back thousands of years and
spans cultures. On the Doc Green's website, satisfied users have
reported the lotion improves conditions ranging from eczema and other
skin problems to repetitive stress injuries, migraines, fibromyalgia
and more. Lavender, vanilla and unscented varieties are available for
purchase at dispensaries throughout California; the company also ships
directly to consumers who can provide proof of a prescription.

A quick scan of those leading the charge on medical marijuana - in
California, Israel and elsewhere - begs the question: When did this
become a Jewish cause? Ed Rosenthal, the go-to expert on growing and
the history of the movement, is a Bay Area-based Jew. A bill now
before the state Legislature that envisions a better-regulated
prescription and distribution system was penned by Senate majority
leader Darrell Steinberg and Sen. Marc Leno - both Jewish.

Elie Green just returned from a medical marijuana business conference
in Seattle, where he reports that "half the place was Jewish." Rubin,
who holds a degree in public health, can name a number of dispensaries
with mezuzahs in their doorways; one club run by Orthodox Jews in Los
Angeles holds popular "pre-Shabbat" sales before closing their doors
for the Sabbath.

In his view, says Kosmal, it's pretty simple.

"In Jewish law, as I understand it, it's a very simple question: Does
the medicine have healing effects? And what are the risks of using the
medicine?" he says. "If the healing effects outweigh the risk of using
the medicine, use the medicine. Not only use the medicine, doctors are
required to prescribe you the medicine. That's our legal and ethical
responsibility to each other, to Jews, to anybody in pain."

"Of course, as Jews we are also required to follow the law of the
land," Green adds. "But the law of the land is changing."
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MAP posted-by: Matt