Aside from being the home of numerous tech startups, security solutions, and agricultural innovations, Israel is looking to become a major force in the cannabis industry, thanks to efforts within the nation to decriminalize the drug, research about its medicinal benefits, and make it a medical export. After all, with more than 22,000 registered patients, Israel has one of the world’s largest and oldest medical cannabis programs.
“Israeli growers have agreements with companies in USA, Canada, Czech Republic, and Australia,” said Saul Kaye, the founder of Israel’s iCan and CannaTech. “It is easier to conduct cannabis research and clinical studies in Israel than in any other country in the world.”
Growers of cannabis in Israel are leveraging clinical trials to produce new strains of the plant and develop unique medical grade products. Similarly, many governments and multinationals are visiting the country to take advantage of its friendly clinical testing laws. This is in sharp contrast to the United States’ Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), which researchers claim is stifling medical marijuana research.
“Israel is playing a large role in clinical trials, and foreign governments and multinationals come to Israel for this purpose. In the US, the DEA does not allow for the transportation of raw materials. A company in New York cannot import enough raw cannabis to conduct the clinical trials,” said Dr. Tamir Gedo of Breath of Life, a manufacturer of active pharmaceutical ingredients.
Aside from a research-friendly environment, Israel also has a warm climate conducive for growing cannabis. It also has lots of know-hows in agriculture and farming, making it a viable player in the global medical marijuana market.
Israel’s Ministry of Health has also publicly declared and accepted the health benefits of cannabis—the only national FDA-equivalent body in the world that has done such. Marijuana has already been approved as a treatment for a wide array of medical conditions, such as epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and cancer.
“The Israeli government has started to understand the economic benefits of cannabis,” Gedo said. “I believe medical cannabis will be bigger and more profitable than all the arms exports combined.”
The nation is also in the position to become a world pioneer when it comes to implementing medical cannabis programs. “In the future, neighboring countries will almost certainly look to Israel to model their own programs. Israel now has the potential to export our knowledge and skills to these countries,” Kaye said.
Green Leaf party chairman Oren Leibovitz is confident of Israel’s potential to become a superpower in the pot industry. He also believes that the country is already moving towards a more liberal approach to cannabis.
“In the next few months, the exporting of medical cannabis might be approved by the Knesset (Israeili parliament), which will make cannabis the country’s number one export, superseding weaponry and, potentially, natural gas,” Leibovitz said. “I envision Israel to join the state of Colorado and other pro-legalization states by the year 2024.”
Indeed, a number of Israeli medical marijuana startups have now started developing their own products. There’s Syqe Medical, the developer of the world’s first precision metered dose inhaler for cannabis. There’s Cannabics Pharmaceuticals, which has a whole slew of cannabinoid-based therapies and treatments. For growers, there’s also BreedIt, which provides advanced agro-breeding technologies.
“We can provide products for specific purposes, for example tailored cannabis for cancer, MS, and other illnesses,” said Dr. Oded Sagee, founder and CEO of BreedIt. “Israel should export medical solutions, not narcotics. We don’t want to be in the business of exporting cannabis for recreational use.”
Perhaps it is only a matter of time before we witness Israel as a major force in the field of medical marijuana.
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