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Pot-themed Passover haggadah lights up new kind of bitter herb

Pass the bud for Passover. A new cannabis-themed edition of the Jewish text focuses on 420, but its creators say the point isn't about just getting high.

A guest inhales (we think) at last year's cannabis seder in Portland, Oregon. "Let my people go, dude."

Le'Or

Want to give your Passover seder a higher purpose? Perhaps adding a sprig of cannabis to your seder plate and sprinkling in some reefer references will do the trick.

That's what Roy and Claire Kaufmann suggest.

The husband and wife from Portland, Oregon, have created a cannabis-themed Passover haggadah prayerbook in hopes of sparking discussion about US drug policy (yes, expect even more pot puns) as measures related to medical and adult-use marijuana are set to appear on ballots across the country. Voting on the drug will soon take place in states including California, Florida, Ohio and Rhode Island.

The Jewish holiday, which starts Friday, commemorates the Jews' exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt, and this year it comes just two days after 4/20, the annual celebration of all things ganja. Passover's so close that by now seder hosts may have already scoped out hiding places for the afikomen, but it's not too late to download the Cannabis Passover Seder Haggadah as an e-book -- for $4.20 of course. More than 100 people from 43 states have done that so far, said Roy Kaufmann, a PR professional.

The Kaufmanns run Le'Or (Hebrew for "to light"), a nonprofit organization that seeks to illuminate Jewish perspectives on drug-related issues like medical cannabis and the legalization of recreational marijuana.

Last year, they hosted their first Le'Or Cannabis Seder for a New Drug Peace (adults only), which brought 40 Jews and non-Jews together to retell the exodus story, complete with a local crop sample in the form of cones, edibles and topicals. The new haggadah is an attempt to roll out such seders to more celebrants.

"This seder is an enlightening experience for both the cannabis curious and the cannabis connoisseur," the Le'Or site reads.

It's easy to fire up the pot puns, but the Kaufmanns ("High-Minded Jews" on Twitter) have a serious mission with their modern seder text -- drawing attention to a national drug policy that statistics show has led to jail terms that disproportionately affect the poor and people of color.

The cannabis haggadah, for example, contains all the traditional elements of a full Passover seder, but adds 10 Plagues of the Drug War and readings from the book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." There's also humor, such as the reminder to pack a bowl for Elijah (the prophet who's said to visit the ceremony in spirit) and suggestions for livening things up with costumes, drums, tambourines and hand bells.

Striking a balance between light-hearted and serious elements was challenging but essential, Roy Kaufmann said. "That's why the document is intentionally not just 'Wet Hot American Summer Does Passover,' and it's also not a very heavy, very depressing tome on the toll of the drug war."

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Last year's cannabis seder counted a number of drug-policy activists as guests.

Claire Kaufmann/Le'Or

Alternate seders, such as the freedom seders of the 1960s and modern-day gatherings that highlight issues like women's rights or human trafficking, have become common. Passover this year comes at an apt time for those concerned with drug policy, as a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem is under way this week in New York.

But a cannabis seder is also sure to appeal to those who simply appreciate the idea of a little marijuana with their matzoh ("we think a minimum of 1-2 grams per guest is best," the haggadah advises). The publication also includes legal disclaimers about guests consuming at their own risk and reminders to drive sober.

But Kaufmann is quick to stress that attending a cannabis seder does not require taking a toke.

Passover, after all, is a holiday that celebrates liberation. And "nothing," he said, "really says freedom like choices."

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