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August 18, 2017 4:56 pm

Israel Hopes for High Profits as Committee Approves Medical Marijuana Exports

avatar by Adam Abrams / JNS.org

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Israelis gather at the Rose Garden in front of the Knesset legislature to smoke marijuana on April 20, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush / Flash90.

JNS.org – Israeli companies and the Israeli government itself stand to earn large profits from the country’s burgeoning medical cannabis industry. On August 13, a joint government committee approved a new measure allowing for international exports of the plant.

According to some reports, the state could earn up to $4 billion annually in revenue from medical marijuana exportation, an industry that Israeli Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said has “significant economic potential for the state of Israel, and will strengthen Israeli agriculture.”

Saul Kaye, the CEO of iCAN — an Israeli pro-cannabis organization, said that the Israeli government’s move “will significantly increase investment as well as entrepreneurship” in the country’s cannabis technology sector.

“Numerous jobs will be created throughout the country, in areas such as ag-tech, pharma, and packaging and transportation, as well as all the support services required like legal and accounting,” Kaye told JNS.org. “The economic impact will prove to be a tremendous benefit to Israel and produce many winners.”

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Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman initially opposed medical cannabis exports, due to concern that they might encourage recreational use of marijuana within the Jewish state. And following the ministerial measure’s approval, Litzman vowed to work to ensure that a portion of the revenue from medical cannabis exports will be applied to improving Israel’s healthcare system.

The joint committee that recommended approving the exports also recommended certain restrictions, including limiting the privilege to the Israeli Health Ministry and licensed growers that are under direct government supervision.

Israeli medical cannabis will only be exported to countries where the plant is approved for medicinal use, and countries that already have trade relations with Israel. The new measure allows for all forms of medical cannabis to be exported, including raw buds for smoking, oils, tablets and edibles.

Prior to the measure’s approval, several countries had already expressed strong interest in importing Israeli medical cannabis and applied for permission to do so, including Australia, Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Cyprus.

“In view of the general trend in the industry, it is expected that additional countries will potentially be interested in Israeli exports,” the joint committee stated.

Ma’ayan Weisberg, head of foreign relations at Tikun Olam Ltd., Israel’s first and largest supplier of medical cannabis, said that her organization “has received hundreds of requests throughout the years to export our products internationally.”

Weisberg noted that her “[patients] have reported an improvement in their health and daily functionality, a decrease in need for medication and an increase in overall well-being.”

The medical cannabis supplier had already established various international “collaborations” in Canada, the US and Australia — and now hopes for many more.

Tikun Olam is one of eight licensed medical cannabis growers in Israel, which combine to produce some 10 tons of the plant annually. More than 500 additional growers have applied to produce medical cannabis for the purpose of international exportation.

In February, an Israeli government committee took the first steps toward allowing the export of medical cannabis from Israel, and in March, the Knesset passed a new law essentially decriminalizing recreational marijuana use nationwide.

In recent years, Israel has become a hub for the study and distribution of medical cannabis. Hebrew University’s Raphael Mechoulam initially discovered THC, the primary psychoactive compound in the cannabis plant, in the 1970s. Since then, Israeli hospitals have demonstrated a willingness to perform clinical trials on the effectiveness of cannabis in relieving the symptoms of tens of thousands of patients suffering from chronic or terminal conditions.

“Israel’s medical cannabis program is the oldest and most advanced in the world,” said iCAN’s Kaye. “Our regulatory environment allows for clinical trials to test efficacy on a variety of illnesses, and our government has even provided grants for several cannabis companies. This is in stark contrast to the United States, where the ability to research the plant is nearly impossible because of cannabis’ status as a Schedule I controlled substance.”

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