April 22nd, 2016
“Don’t forget to pack a bowl for Elijah!” enthuses a new haggadah (the Passover text) for a “Cannabis Seder.”
Although its creators, Claire and Roy Kaufmann, employ a lighthearted tone and are generous with the pot-related puns (“Were the High Priests high?”), the Cannabis Seder is intended to “spark” a very serious conversation around drug policy reform and the systemic racism of the US criminal justice system.
The Kaufmanns, who run “Le’Or” (Hebrew for “to light”), an advocacy organization dedicated to making marijuana reform a Jewish priority, operate out of Portland, Oregon, a state which has legalized recreational and medical marijuana.
“Because we as a Jewish community have always been for social justice,” Claire tells The Influence, “we were confused why this issue of drug policy reform and mass incarceration has fallen off the road.” They realized they needed to turn their skills—she works in marketing for a marijuana-industry research company, he does PR for a university— towards branding drug reform as a Jewish issue.
According to the Kaufmanns, marijuana has always been a part of Jewish culture (a hasidic rabbi declared it “kosher” yesterday), but Jews, Claire says, “like many white Americans, don’t always experience consequences of our actions.” The “story of passover is a story of freedom—and here we are where some people have freedom, and other people are incarcerated all over this country. That’s just fundamentally wrong. It’s fundamentally wrong that we incarcerate people who are mentally ill and need care and support, and I just can’t sit by and let that continue.”
The lead investor in the Le’Or Cannabis Passover Seder is Dr. Bronner (of Dr. Bronner’s Soaps), who now devotes much of his time to activism around marijuana legalization, and refers to himself as C.E.O (“Cosmic Engagement Officer”).
The Cannabis Passover haggadah embodies that passion. It opens with a sobering quote from Michelle Alexander: “Nothing has contributed more to the systematic mass incarceration of people of color in the United States than the war on drugs…Convictions for drug offenses are the single most important cause of the explosion in incarceration rates in the United States.”
It then goes on to adapt many of the traditional seder elements to a weed agenda. Throughout the evening, four bowls are smoked, in place of the usual four cups of wine. A marijuana leaf or bud is used for the “karpas” (green vegetable) on the seder plate. (“Marijuana is a vegetable,” Claire Kaufmann says.)
Kaufmann says that her favorite part of their haggadah is probably the revised “Ten Modern Plagues of the Drug War,” a riff on the traditional 10 plagues of Egypt. The new 10 plagues include “the radically undemocratic and unequal application of laws (#4) and “the destruction of families” (#7).
This year, as Jewish families gather to remember their own people’s exodus from slavery thousand of years ago, they can use the Kaufmanns’ haggadah to remember the millions of parents and children currently locked in cages in their own country today.
You can download the Cannabis haggadah just in time for the first passover seder tonight at the Le’Or website for a tax-deductible $4.20. They do recommend, however, that the cannabis seder should be “adults-only.”