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October 17, 2017 10:49 am

Israeli Medical Marijuana Goes Global

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.

After holding its third innovation conference in Tel Aviv in March, iCAN: Israel-Cannabis — an Israeli marijuana group — is hosting the inaugural CannaTech UK convention on October 26 at London’s Old Truman Brewery.

The Israeli organization’s stated mission is “to identify, invest, accelerate and showcase cannabis innovation for the global cannabis economy.” At the UK gathering, industry professionals and enthusiasts will network and enjoy a series of TED-style lectures; the event will be Britain’s first-ever international conference on innovation in this field.

Although CannaTech is an Israeli brand, the UK event has been curated specifically for a British and European audience, and will provide a broad overview of the latest cannabis research, medical applications and scientific innovations in Europe and globally.

Israel can offer European countries expertise on “how to grow [medical cannabis], how to build a sustainable industry that crosses into pharmaceuticals and regular distribution, [and] how to get medical access to patients before the science is in,” Saul Kaye, the CEO of iCAN, told JNS.org.

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The event will address cannabis regulation challenges that are unique to Europe, and help facilitate a special investor symposium, showcasing cannabis investment opportunities and start-ups.

According to Kaye, the UK was selected to host the first CannaTech conference outside of Israel in part due to Britain’s history of encouraging debate through its parliamentary style of government. The UK was also picked based on the belief that dialogue will lead to normalization of medical cannabis in the country.

“We chose the UK because they’re behind in medical cannabis policy and they have a lot to learn from Israel,” said Kaye. “We have patients [in the UK] that we know are in desperate need, and London is a financial hub of the world, so we felt it prudent to bring CannaTech there, and so far we’ve been proven right.”

He added that, “there’s a lot Israel can learn [about medical cannabis] from foreign countries as well.”

The UK event will feature presentations from Israeli experts such as Dr. William Levine, executive director of CannRx, and Lihi Bar Lev, founder of the research department at Tikun Olam, Israel’s first and largest medical cannabis supplier.

“As a pharmacist, my passion is in formulation, and we are working together with our partners to bring game-changing pharmaceutical grade cannabis products to market with innovative delivery methods,” Kaye said.

In countries such as the US, the ability to conduct research on marijuana is nearly impossible because of the status of cannabis as a Schedule I substance.

In recent years, Israel has become a hub for the study and distribution of medical cannabis. Hebrew University professor 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, all suffering from chronic or terminal conditions.

“Israel’s medical cannabis program is the oldest and most advanced in the world,” said 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.”

In addition to becoming a leader in medical cannabis research and development due to its unique regulatory environment, Israel stands to generate large profits from the industry.

In March, the Knesset passed a new law essentially decriminalizing recreational marijuana use nationwide, and in August, a joint committee of the Israeli Health and Finance ministries approved a new measure allowing for international exportation of the plant. According to some reports, Israel could earn up to $4 billion annually in revenue from medical cannabis exports.

Prior to the measure’s approval, several European countries expressed strong interest in importing Israeli medical cannabis and applied for permission to do so, including Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Cyprus; this makes the upcoming CannaTech UK conference especially timely, since it caters specifically to the medical cannabis needs of European nations.

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