Springfield, Illinois – Oh how I’ve missed, thee…

I am often asked if I miss working for State of Illinois government (“State”).  I do.  Sometimes.

I worked for the State for 5 and 1/2 years, and in full disclosure I truly loved it – the crisis management, the public policy debates and decisions, and the asbestos-ridden ceilings.

My first State job was as a Springfield-based attorney for the group health insurance program for state employees and retirees.  In truth, I got the job more for my willingness to relocate from Chicago to Springfield, IL, than for my exceptional healthcare law chops (though I had some of those too).

I spent the next 16 months living in Springfield (initially on a borrowed inflatable mattress, later on a borrowed full-sized mattress, and then upgrading to my own apartment), and the experience was roughly what you might expect.  When the legislature was in town, Springfield had an unmistakable electricity.Ghost Town

When they were out of town – it looked something like this===>

Fine – Springfield has less tumbleweeds than that.

For the following four years I worked for the State out of a Chicago office, but frequently headed down I-55 South towards the State Capitol.  I really do hold some fond memories of S-patch (it’s too small for a field, so it’s more like spring-patch, get it?).  Perhaps most of all, I miss the exceptionally gracious people that live there year-round, and very much long for the days of eating authentic buffalo chicken horseshoe sandwiches (see below – YUM!).  If that surprises you, you must not have read my earlier post about Olive Garden.

horseshoe sandwhich

This week I will return to Springfield after a hiatus from traveling there.  My emotions have varied between nostalgic excitement, to deep thoughts on how to advance progressive policy issues, to sadness to have to be away from my family – even for one night.

I will use this trip to start rekindling my long-lost Springfield friendships and legislative advocacy – so look for me in the halls of the Capitol, and perhaps at my old horseshoe sandwich haunts.  It’s time to get back in the game.  Springfield, here I come.

Kosher Kush (it’s a real thing)

Cannabis1 - Theo Star of David - MAMJODH12959548834_ebd8c1d19a_m

There is an insatiable press appetite to write stories about cannabis.  That appetite quickly turns into an obsession when you add another hot topic into the mix – pot and guns; pot and cash; pot and politics.

The latest odd combination?  Kosher pot.  That’s right, it has come to this.  We now have national press stories extolling the kashrut elements of reefer.  Predictably, the press jumped all over the story as if Donald Trump had said…well, anything.  It was covered in Newsweek.  Vice had a piece.  Even a local Chabad weighed in.

A number of the cultivation centers and dispensaries in Illinois have Jewish owners or investors, leading me to wonder how soon we will see a hechshered Purple Kush?  I hear some Kosher Kush is already on the shelves.

Full disclosure: although I’m Jewish, I don’t keep kosher.  Yet again, I don’t eat pork (it’s long story – but I do make an exception for the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden, and anything in France).  Along comes Kosher cannabis – it’s hard to conceive a more salacious topic for me to delve into.

zuppa toscana - queennepy
Zuppa Toscana – YUM!

For those of you that don’t know, “kosher” generally refers to whether the ingredients within a product meet Jewish food preparation restrictions.  Big Mac = not kosher (mixing milk and meat).  Sausage pizza = not kosher (despite how good it tastes).  Lobster Bisque = big no-no.  But what about cannabis?  In general, a cannabis plant would be “kosher,” but it gets more complicated when you add in processing equipment, and especially when you introduce cannabis-infused foods and the ingredients have to pass muster.

I appreciated River North Chabad’s take, delving into the broader issue of Judaism’s approach to a banned substance used for medical purposes:

“Obviously, none of these reasons [of forbidden drug use] would apply in a case where a patient takes these substances following the ruling of their doctor in a controlled and legal environment. On the other end of the spectrum, they would most certainly apply to youths using illegal drugs. For those in the middle, it would be advisable that the individual present his or her case to a competent rabbi before proceeding.”

It struck me as a similar analysis that we are seeing more broadly with cannabis.  On one hand, use is still strictly prohibited by the federal government.  The U.S. Controlled Substances Act makes clear it is “not kosher.”  But if we are to consider cannabis for its medical benefits, shouldn’t we consider it “kosher” in the broader sense?

Pragmatically, there is only a sliver of the population that will be impacted by a kosher designation on pot, but I am pleased to see the dialogue intersect my religious world (Judaism) and professional world (cannabis industry).  It is a conversation I look forward to having in Illinois as the industry matures – so long as we have the conversation at the nearest Olive Garden.

Photo courtesy Flickr users Theo, MAMJODH, Quennepy, and Cannabis Culture under this Creative Commons license.