Hemp products now kosher, thanks to Kentucky company

A Kentucky-based industrial hemp producer has announced that all of its hemp-derived products are now certified as kosher by Kentucky Kosher International.

Meeting with The Jerusalem Post in Tel Aviv on Sunday, leaders of the company explained that this is an important step in their effort to raise awareness about the benefits of hemp.

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“Many people are very aware that kosher means quality,” said GenCanna president Steve Bevan. “We are demystifying cannabis and calling it food.”

Along with the kosher certification, GenCanna’s process and products are non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, and registered and inspected by the Food and Drug Administration and the Kentucky Food Safety Branch.

“In a market that is really the Wild West, having standards like that matter. The problem with the evolution of cannabis, whether it’s recreational, medicinal or hemp, is that the levels of quality are not always there,” said Brett Goldman, a director in the company.

Newton Cohen, the director of external affairs, added that consistency was another important factor that the kosher certification provides customers with. “It allows us to serve a market that hasn’t been served before,” noted the executive vice president of GenCanna, Garrett Bain, who observed that there had been a vocal demand for it from various European countries.

“Most people associate cannabis with smoking, and because of the great work done over the past 40 years there’s been a lot of positive attention to hemp,” said Cohen. “In most parts of the world it’s a controlled substance which makes it seem like it has to have special regulations. We found a way to grow cannabis legally outdoors on farms, like plants are supposed to be grown.”

GenCanna ensures its hemp is low in THC, the principal psychoactive constituent of cannabis. In Kentucky, hemp has a special classification as an agricultural product because of section 7606 in the 2014 Farm Bill which allows for the federal legal production of industrial hemp.

“We can use a low THC substance to provide a lot of ingredients for many other consumer products. Because it’s so new, the ability to have quality certification really matters and that’s why our kosher certification is a badge of honor,” said Goldman, predicting that many companies will soon follow suit.

Rabbi Avrohom Litvin, who supervised the process, said: “All products manufactured by GenCanna in Winchester, Kentucky are under the strict supervision of Kentucky Kosher and are accordingly kosher and pareve. The kosher certification is a tremendous step for GenCanna, further establishing its track record of industry-leading compliance and innovation.”

The GenCanna team came to Tel Aviv for the CannaTech conference on cannabis innovation.

While hemp is currently illegal in Israel, the company is hopeful this will change in the not-so-distant future.

“A lot of it is about educating people to understand the differences [between cannabis and hemp] and stigma that cannabis has attracted,” Cohen told the Post. “Israel has been a Mecca of cannabis research and I think there’s a good opportunity for collaboration on that front.”

“We are here driving awareness,” emphasized Bain. “Israel might not be an option at the moment, but around the world there are brands and products that can us and we can help them make hemp kosher. And when Israel is an option, it will be an easy transition.”

Pointing to Dr. Ruth Gallily and Dr. Lumir Hanus, who are the leading researchers of CBD – a non-psychoactive component of cannabis – and renowned cannabis researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, Bevan said that in the end of the day, “all roads lead back to Hebrew University [of Jerusalem].”
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