Israel has always been the leader in modern medical cannabis, going back to the 60’s when THC was first identified by Professor Raphael Mechoulam, Dr. Yehiel Gaoniv and Dr. Habib Edery at their lab in Jerusalem.
For decades, funds from the US government and other international organizations supported the research and development of Israel’s medical cannabis system; this arrangement arose because marijuana is federally illegal in the United States, therefore prohibiting universities and institutes from doing research.
During the past few years, states such as Colorado and Washington have created their own laws, propagating scientific data which highlight the health benefits of cannabis; this runs contrary to decades of conducting research aimed specifically to look for the negative effects, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta proved to be the case in his illuminating documentary Weed, which emphasized the fact that only 6% of the research done on cannabis is for the positive health benefits the plant provides.
Medical Cannabis in Israel
Being a medical patient in Israel is not a joke. It is not like it is in California where there are 420 doctors readily available to write prescriptions. To get a medical card in Israel, patients need to go through a thorough background check of their medical history, proving that other forms of medication have not worked for them. Cannabis was seen as somewhat of a ‘last resort’ for pain relief, given primarily to dying patients, to ease their pain, but that looks to be changing with new regulations.
The first medical cannabis suppliers were granted cultivation licenses in 1992, and over time the national program has expanded, as more and more doctors prescribed cannabis to their suffering patients.
In a country of 8 million people, there are more than 20,000 medical cannabis patients, making Israel the highest country per capita of medical cannabis patients.
The latest news from Israeli website Ynet reported that local pharmacies in Israel will soon begin to distribute medical cannabis, pending a Supreme Court decision.
This is a very big deal, because as of now there are only a few designated centers, some located in hospitals, that distribute medication to patients but it is not a convenient or efficient system. The new law will not only allow for pharmacies to carry medical cannabis, but also further permit more doctors to write more prescriptions. There are still some technicalities to work out with cultivators and producers, but this is a major step in the right direction.
Al Jazeera – Israel at forefront of testing medical marijuana – March 25, 2012 (2:55)
The world looks to Israel as a leader in cannabis, not only for advanced research but also based on the fact that Israel is the only country where medical cannabis is integrated within the national health care system. Clinical trials consist of patients consuming cannabis in hospitals and other treatment centers, under guided supervision and instruction.
Israeli patients receive their prescriptions of 10, 20, 40, 80 or more grams per month, depending on their diagnosis and since citizens are granted health care, including medication at a minimal cost, it becomes affordable for those who need it.
If pharmacies around the country are able to fill prescriptions for patients, it will make the process much smoother for those who need their meds. At the moment medical cannabis patients must wait for specific dates, usually the beginning of the month, to pick up their monthly prescription.
JN1 – Israel leads the world in medical marijuana: more and more Israelis back use of medical cannabis – Oct 18, 2013 (5:19)
Recreational Cannabis in Israel
‘Aleh Yarok’ the Green Party, is Israel’s political action committee that has been leading the way in cannabis reformation and decriminalization. According to 2013 polls, 75% of the population supports medical cannabis, while only a third support recreational use for adults.
Earlier this year, I went to an activist event in Tel Aviv where politicians from both the right and the left wings, took to the mic and spoke at the rally.
None of the policy makers want to promote the use of cannabis by teens, further emphasizing the reason that regulated businesses need to step up and provide a product for consenting adults.
In Israel, hashish and cannabis are an issue of national security, since the hash is smuggled in illegally from neighboring countries, while the herb is either medical cannabis that spilled into the recreational scene or home-grown buds.
Having lived in Tel Aviv over the past few years, I have witnessed a transgression in the counter culture from hash to weed, directly related to the increase in security along the southern border with Egypt and northern border with Lebanon.
In Israel, hash trafficking is directly or indirectly connected to terrorist organizations, which is why I refuse to purchase hash here.
Cannabis needs to be treated like any other commodity, which is why it is important to keep the financial flow within a local economy as much as possible. In that way, the funds may be recycled: used again and again for more local purchases and sales, instead of being taken out of the economy. Especially, when the domestic product (cannabis flowers) is far superior to the imported goods (hashish).
Israel holds a special affiliation with cannabis as the pioneer in medical research and development. The connection runs deep throughout the subculture as well, being commonly found among groups of friends sitting on the beach, or in a night club rolling their own cigarettes with a bit of green. I find that Israeli culture is much more accepting of smoking in general, as so many people tend to enjoy cigarettes and hookahs aka nargilah. Cannabis doesn’t seem to carry the same burn-out stoner reputation that accumulated in the US since Spicoli proved how wasted he was.
Fast Times at Ridgemont High – 1982 (0:19)
For a more in-depth look at the history of medical cannabis in Israel follow the link to American Botanical Council, written in 2013 or watch the video below.