Milestones in the Medical Cannabis Program
Israel has allowed medical cannabis use with a physician’s prescription since 1973, but an industry didn’t begin to take shape until the 1990s.
Key Laws and Regulations
- Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1973
- Government Resolution 1587 of 2016
- Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, Amendment 16 of 2019
- Israel’s medical marijuana program has roughly 46,000 registered patients.
- Patients get their MMJ from pharmacies and a handful of dispensaries supplied by eight licensed growers.
- Roughly 50 growers have commercialized cannabis cultivation for research.
- Nearly 600 small farmers have applied for grow licenses, although it is unclear how many have been approved.
Medical Cannabis Products Available in the Market
North American Companies in the Market
- California-based Steep Hill Labs has a joint venture with iCAN: Israel-Cannabis in Bet Shemesh to operate a testing lab.
- Ontario-based Cronos Group opened Cronos Device Labs, a research and development facility based in Israel.
- MedReleaf, a Toronto-based licensed producer owned by Alberta-based Aurora Cannabis, has an exclusive alliance with MMJ producer Tikun Olam in Tel Aviv.
- Israel is one of the oldest medical marijuana research and business centers in the world, hosting dozens of cannabis companies and clinical studies pioneering how the plant can be used to treat cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other conditions. It has also been a leader in cultivation science.
- This has made for a buzzing medical cannabis economy that has drawn foreign investments. In June, for example, British Columbia-based Nabis Holdings—a cannabis-focused investment firm—agreed to buy a 49% stake in Cannova Medical, an Israeli cannabis biotech company. The Canadian company agreed to pay $1 million in cash and issue Cannova 5.9 million common shares of Nabis. The Israeli government permits foreign investment in the nation’s cannabis companies, although stakes of more than 5% require regulatory approval.
- Despite such developments, there’s a feeling of unfulfilled potential. Israel has only about 46,000 MMJ patients, despite the country’s advanced medical study of the plant and long association with cannabis. The government has, at times, been supportive of research but has also been accused of stymieing patient growth and business development.
- When it comes to medical marijuana business opportunities, Israel has been somewhat disappointing, given the low patient count and limited number of licensed commercial growers.
- There are signs that business opportunities could improve. After the government’s approval of exports earlier this year, growers in Israel (including North American companies such as Cronos) may finally take advantage of what’s considered a vast export market. And as medical cannabis gains credibility globally—with Israeli researchers leading the way—opportunity is growing in Israel’s already advanced cannabis cultivation science and technology sector.
- The Tel Aviv Stock Exchange lists around 30 cannabis-related companies.
Written by Omar Sacirbey
Marijuana Business Daily