As support for medical marijuana grows in America, a prominent medicine man in Israel has deemed the drug kosher for Jews.

Rabbi Efraim Zalmanovich, an orthodox rabbi of some reputation, has issued a religious ruling sanctifying the use of marijuana as a medicine prescribed by a doctor to treat pain or other symptoms. In Israel, health care providers may prescribe marijuana for more than 30 health ailments, including Parkinson's disease, cancer, and chronic pain.

Zalmanovich specified that smoking marijuana for a recreational high or as an escape from the rigors of life is not sanctioned by religion, however.

"Taking drugs to escape this world in any excessive way is certainly forbidden," Zalmanovich said. "However, if the drug is administered to relieve pain, then the person giving it is performing a mitzvah."

In the Jewish tradition, a mitzvah is a good deed one must collect to enter heaven in the afterlife.

The rabbi's ruling clarifies an opinion by Rabbi Hagai Bar Giora, of the Israeli chief rabbinate, who in March told reporters, "If you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever."

Today, Israel distributees 880 pounds of marijuana per year, according to the Israeli Health Ministry, in contrast to the Netherlands, which although known for marijuana tolerance distributes only 330 pounds of medical-grade cannabis per year.

In a country with 7.7 million residents, some 11,000 Israelis by 2011 held prescriptions for medical marijuana, although the government plans to place additional restrictions on the patient application process. Israeli researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem say the drug compound may be helpful for a variety of illnesses and conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and neuropsychological conditions.

In the United States, New Hampshire will soon become the 19th state, aside from the District of Columbia, to allow medical marijuana, though republicans in the legislature forced a last-minute concession on the bill to exclude PTSD as a qualifying condition for prescriptions.

Federal law in the United States technically forbids medical marijuana but is selectively enforced.