The Major Way Israel Is Putting America to Shame on Marijuana

December 9th 2016

Israel has long been at the forefront of marijuana research, and the country is budding into a hub for cannabis-related startup companies, Quartz reported.

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Crowds from around the globe flocked to Tel Aviv in March for the second annual CannaTech conference. The summit was aimed at attracting fledgling marijuana ventures to the country and included speakers from medicine, politics, science, agriculture, and investments.

“Everything is set up here to be the epicenter of cannabis research,” organizer Clifton Flack told Quartz.

Why medical marijuana research is blossoming in Israel.

The Israeli government's stance on medical marijuana research and the country's cultural landscape make it far friendlier to marijuana than the puritanical policies of the U.S. government.

Israel, the Netherlands and Canada are countries with government-sponsored programs dedicated to cannabis medical research. "There is even a Medical Cannabis Unit within the Israeli Ministry of Health," Newsweek reported.

Cheryl ShumanCheryl Shuman

Israeli medical marijuana patients are granted access to greenery through government subsidies.

The majority of Israel's research institutions test cannabis, the Observer reported.

Marijuana is not legalized as a recreational drug in the country.

But the Health Ministry granted 23,000 individuals permits to obtain medication through nine suppliers, Reuters reported.

Growers in the country cultivate plants for research institutions to develop clinical trials to treat a wide range of physical and mental illnesses, from cancer and arthritis to PTSD, with the support of Orthodox Jewish Israeli Health Minister Yakov Litzman.

Medical marijuana is available in many forms, including cigarettes, baked goods, and even inhalers, and can be administered within a state medical facility or taken at home.

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The Washington Post described an idyllic secluded greenhouse nestled in the mountains of Galilee, where lab techs tend to seeds to treat epileptic children.

Such initiatives are not only permitted by Israeli lawmakers, but also encouraged. Growers can develop marijuana-based treatments under Israeli Health Ministry cannabis unit senior medical adviser Michael Dor.

Meanwhile, over here ...

The DEA announced an August policy shift allowing growers to register to cultivate and distribute marijuana for research.

Previously, the agency only issued a license to cultivate marijuana plants for research to one institution: the University of Mississippi.

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From Newsweek:

"'Marijuana was an integral part of American medicine for more than 100 years, from the 1830s through the 1940s, and it was used safely and effectively for all of that time,' says Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Harvard-trained physician who prescribes medical marijuana in Colorado. But today, bipartisan legislation (the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act) meant to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug remains stalled in Congress, 'not for any scientific reason but pretty much out of ignorance of what is actually intended, which is to allow scientific inquiry and study,' Shackelford says."

More than half of U.S. states have now legalized medical marijuana as a result of this year's election.

Yet the U.S. government continues to classify marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with heroin, ecstasy, and LSD.

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The country's review process creates substantial barriers, Fortune reported. NIDA is the only organization qualified to supply plants for studies, making the process significantly more costly and involved than it is Israel, according to the Observer.

"In the United States, it's easier to study heroin than marijuana," U.S. psychiatrist Suzanne Sisley told Reuters. "With marijuana you have to go through added layers of government red tape. It highlights the way marijuana research [is] shackled by politics,"

Israel has led the charge on marijuana research initiatives, but the country is not permitted to export cannabis under current law.

A number of U.S. firms are cashing in on the overseas market. From Reuters:

"Since 2014, U.S. firms have invested about $50 million in licensing Israeli medical marijuana patents, cannabis agro-tech startups and firms developing delivery devices such as inhalers, said Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, a private cannabis research hub."

Marijuana in Israel is ingrained in its history and culture.

It is viewed as a compassionate medical treatment rather than a taboo street drug.

Israeli researcher Rafael Mechoulam in 1994 was the first in his field to isolate THC, the psychoactive element of cannabis.

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"I would add that the Jewish people also feel a responsibility to perform 'tikkun olam,' repairing the world and improving the human condition," Eliana Rudee wrote in the Observer. Rudee linked the nation's embrace of medical marijuana to its social and culture valuation of life, as characterized in the Talmud.

CannaTech CEO Saul Kaye linked innovation and survival with the cultural role of cannabis. “A brief look at the Jewish psyche… [reveals that] circumstance has forced us not only to survive, but to thrive,” he said at the March conference.

Watch ATTN:'s video on the issue.

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