The first name that comes to mind when we think about the cannabis situation in Israel is Raphael Mechoulam, better known as the father of THC, the main active ingredient of the plant. This researcher and professor of medical chemistry and natural products, gained popularity for having isolated and determined the structure and synthesis of THC. As well as being a student of the endocannabinoid system, he was awarded the Israel Award for his work. Mechoulam began his studies in the 60s and fifty years on, Israel continues to be known as a pioneer of the cannabis industry in terms of research, genetic engineering, agricultural technology, the pharmaceutical industry and device design.
The Hebrew country is known to be one of the world leaders in medicinal cannabis cultivation. In fact, Israel is making giant leaps to reach the level of the US or European countries. It is estimated that more than a million Israelis consume cannabis. According to a study in 2017, 27% of Israelis between 18 and 65 years old had consumed the plant in the last year. In total some 9% of its 8.5 million residents are users of cannabis, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
Israel officially legalized cannabis for medicinal use in the nineties for a limited amount of diseases such as AIDS or pain relief in Parkinson's, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and untreatable cancer. Permitted methods of consumption are smoking, ingesting or application as a balm. Patients are required to have license from the ministry of Health and a prescription from an authorized doctor. In 2012 there were 10,000 patients registered to use medicinal cannabis, rising to 26,000 in 2017. It is believed this number will double in 2018.
According to Wikipedia, “there are eight cannabis cultivation operations sanctioned by the Israeli government that are being used to supply patients that have a license from the Ministry of Health and a prescription from an authorized doctor, through a dispensary or medical centre.
Another of the country's cannabis milestone was reached in 2004 when an experimental program with Tetrahidrocannabinol (THC) was launched with the Israeli army to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in soldiers.
In April 2017 the government of Benjamin Netanyahu decriminalized personal consumption and the possession of cannabis (with general cross-party consensus about the topic). So it is now normal to see people consuming cannabis on the streets even though there are fines and recreational use is not actually legal. Possession of cannabis carries a fine of 1000 shekels (250€) for a first offense. This fine doubles for a re-offense as well as attending therapy. A third offense leads to confiscation of the offender´s driving or arms license as well as leading to an investigation. The fourth time may lead to a formal prosecution. The money that is raised is going towards educational programs against drugs, rehabilitation programs and to state coffers.
The main and largest supplier of medicinal cannabis in Israel is Tikun Olam Ltd which in turn is known as a pioneer across the world. In Hebrew the names translates as “repair the world” and its work is highly important in research programs and clinical trials of patients across the planet. In 2018 it started to open the European market.
Israel stands out for its climate which is perfect for cannabis production. In 2017 the Ministries of Health and Finance predicted that the export of medicinal cannabis products could generate millions of dollars since world demand for the medicinal plant had grown and this measure was approved. However, the prime minister, Benjamin Natanyahu, suspended the reforms at the start of 2018 due to disagreements amongst the police.
Cannabis reform is currently underway in Israel and 25 new police positions have been provided to ensure there are no irregularities in the exports. The ministries of Health, Finance and Public Security published a report at the end of April In which they revealed that they would be allowing fifty cannabis farms to export therapeutic cannabis products and 25 pharmacies to sell prescription products. Currently it could be said that Israel is working towards legalization, including total decriminalization of the plant.