A quick foray into the world of Jewish cooking reveals a surprising amount of CBD and marijuana products, from Orthodox Union certified edibles like the ones Mitzvah Herbals offers to Jeff the 420 Chef’s ouvre to kosher-certified industrial hemp producer GenCanna, all created with this trending non-psychoactive form of weed. While the world waits for weed to be legalized, and the restaurant industry plays catch up, it’s all about CBD, or cannabidiol, a form of cannabis that won’t get you high but might keep you calm.
On the legalization of CBD, Catherine Goldberg, who calls herself a cannabis entrepreneur, says “it’s babysteps. Necessary to get it going. And it’s basically free money.” Indeed, the CBD industry is poised to be worth $2 billion by 2022 and Bloomberg is already making lists of companies poised to list their products on the market.
Goldberg created Chai Havdalah, a weed-infused dinner party where Jewish chefs are encouraged to reinvent their great grandmother’s recipes. “Jews are anxious people,” says Goldberg, who uses cannabis instead of Adderall, “and I’ve noticed this trend where lots of Jews don’t like to drink and they like to sit and get high and debate philosophy instead.” Goldberg is one of those alcohol teetotalers, choosing instead to medicate her genetically inherited anxiety with marijuana. And thus her pot Shabbats, which she’s been privately having since she was sixteen, became her public Chai Havdalahs, which she’s been having for over a year in Oakland, LA, and Denver, Colorado. (Naturally, she’s got her eye on Park Slope, Brooklyn.)
“I think Judaism and cannabis are deeply connected,” says Goldberg. “So it’s nothing new that the chefs are using their grandma’s grandma’s recipes and kind of reinventing it with cannabis.” Goldberg encourages Jewish chefs to explore their heritages in a different way (see Joan Nathan’s weed-infused roast chicken recipe for a prime example) and for Goldberg, CBD is an excellent way to start experimenting with the food of the future.
These parties are hosted in private homes as a way of getting around the fact that THC, the fun, psychoactive part of marijuana, is technically classified as a schedule 1 drug, making it difficult to serve without a selection of permit, both state and local. Selling CBD, or Cannabidiol, which is technically already legal, means buying from federally-approved sellers and using CBD derived from hemp and not cannabis. And while state agencies like the New York City Health Department have recommended legalizing weed, the federal government have proven taciturn even to hemp. But as statutes of marijuana consumption weaken across America, more and more restaurant owners and chefs are privately tweaking their menus and getting ready for the day when people will request a CBD or THC-infused tuna sandwich for lunch.
For Ron Silver, Bubby’s, his 28-year-old Tribeca restaurant was the perfect place to experiment with putting CBD on the menu. These days almost anything drinkable on Bubby’s menu, from an Americano to lemonade, can be infused with Azuca, which is Silver’s personal brand of CBD edibles, oils and sweeteners. “As powerful as penicillin is, as many lives as it has saved, I think CBD and cannabis has the potential to be even greater than that,” he said. Silver takes a daily dose of CBD and is convinced it has lowered his blood pressure. “My uncle has rheumatoid arthritis that just went away,” he said. “Part of that is because of the way CBD affects inflammation in the body.”
Silver is a man with a vision of a world where weed is legalized. He believes with every fiber of his being that cannabis is a human right and every tourist pouring off the High Line and into his restaurant should be given the ability to try it. In his vision of a world where weed is easily accessible, it ceases to be a tool for harassing people of color. “You can walk through any prison and see what that means,” he said. “That alone is a reason to get rid of this insane law.”
“I’d bet good money we’ll be seeing weed legalized within the next two years,” said Silver. He did, in fact, start Azuca, a company dedicated to artisanal edibles, so it looks like he did bet good money on it. And he’s far from the only restaurateur waiting to make money off the burgeoning cannabis industry. The world is waiting.