- Which country is a trailblazer on the medical cannabis frontier?
- Where has cannabis been researched more than anywhere else in the world?
- Where is the cannabis greenhouse on the right located?
Israel has become a world leader in science on the medical uses of marijuana, and its producers could become major exporters of medical cannabis, experts say. But so far, the government has allowed them to export only their knowledge — not the actual product.Note: the photo of the cannabis greenhouse was taken in the Galilee mountains.
Michael Dor, the senior medical adviser in the Israeli Health Ministry’s cannabis unit, said that in ongoing government talks, agricultural officials support the export of Israeli medical cannabis, but top officials in the police force, army and executive branch oppose it. Exports face stringent international legal requirements, Dor said, adding that those officials “don’t want Israel to be seen all over the world as a country that exports weapons and cannabis.”
Even without being exported, Israel’s medical cannabis research and development is drawing global interest. PhytoTech Medical, an Australian medical cannabis venture that just raised $6 million in a public offering, announced a deal last week with Yissum, the technology transfer arm of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, to develop precisely dosed pills for the mainstream pharmaceutical market.
On Thursday, Israeli producers will hold a Jaffa investors conference, called Canna Tech Israel. It will feature Colorado doctor Alan Shackelford, whose patient Charlotte Figi experienced a dramatic decrease in her severe epileptic seizures after being treated with a medical cannabis, dubbed “Charlotte’s Web,” triggering a wave of American interest in the medical potential of marijuana.
Another participant, Syqe Medical, has developed a metered-dose cannabisinhaler — with the help of a $1 million state grant.
“It could be huge,” said Aharon Lutzky, the chief executive of Tikun Olam, a leading medical cannabis producer whose Galilee greenhouses spawned Rafael and other strains. “There is demand all over the world.”...If Israel does not export, there is a risk that “the knowledge will leak outside Israel, and the knowledge is worth a lot of money,” Dor said. “We would like to stay in the forefront.”
A government spokesman declined to comment on the export restrictions.
“Israel is truly at the forefront of medical marijuana,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington. “Why would Israel want to forgo its leadership?”
Several American states are pushing ahead with marijuana legalization for medicinal and recreational use, but U.S. laws make clinical research difficult or impossible. Israel, on the other hand, began cannabis research 50 years ago and studies its medical uses in a growing public-health program, although it has not legalized recreational use.
Shackelford, a Harvard-trained physician, said he is conducting research in Israel after seeing U.S. drug laws block clinical studies, even into promising applications for illnesses, such as ALS, that conventional medicine cannot help.
This year, he will lead studies in Israel on pain, skin disorders, seizure disorders, several types of cancers, migraine headaches and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“I went to Israel because I was frustrated,” he said. “Israel is the one place in the world that combines the scientific expertise, world-class universities and scientists. It’s so exciting.”