Jeffrey Kahn used to be my Rabbi when he was in Rockford. He is now involved in other things.

Jeffrey Kahn, a Reform rabbi living in Washington, D.C., remembers several congregants who approached him over the years with the same dilemma: They’d heard that marijuana could relieve their nausea from chemotherapy or their pain from glaucoma or any one of a variety of other ailments, but they were unable to obtain the drug because it’s illegal.

The issue became personal when Kahn and his wife, nurse Stephanie Reifkind Kahn, watched her parents suffer and die—Jules Reifkind of multiple sclerosis in 2005 and Libby Reifkind of cancer in 2009. The Reifkinds’ doctors had recommended marijuana to ease their symptoms, but they lived in states where medical marijuana was illegal, making it nearly impossible for them to obtain the drug. Jules did use it a few times, probably getting it from a caregiver, his daughter remembers, and it reduced his pain and muscle spasms.

After the deaths of Jules and Libby Reifkind, the Kahns made it their mission to ease the suffering of others who might benefit from medical marijuana. For the past two years, they have been laying the groundwork for a legal dispensary for medical marijuana in Washington. Earlier this month, their efforts paid off: The D.C. Department of Health named four applicants eligible to register to operate such dispensaries—the first ones in the District—and the Kahns’ Takoma Wellness Center was one of them.

You can listen to a Dean Becker interview with Rabbi Kahn at Drug Truth Network. The interview is from July of 2012. There is also a transcript at the link.

Update: 2 April 2013 0827z

The Rabbi will be visiting Rockford, Illinois on the 12th and 13th of April 2013. If you would like to join him go here for details.