Israel – “the land of milk, honey, and cannabis”?

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Ever since the isolation of THC (the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants) by an Israeli researcher Dr. Raphael Mechoulam in 1964, Israel has been quietly leading the cannabis innovation for decades, destigmatizing the field long before everyone else. As the movement for cannabis legalization gains its momentum worldwide in 2019, the country is stepping forward as one of the leaders in the medical cannabis industry. 

They have every right to it: marijuana is permitted for medical use by patients with cancer and pain-related illnesses since early 1990s, and was used as an experimental treatment for post traumatic stress disorder in the Israeli military as early as 2004. 

Such progressive approach enabled the massive increase in the number of medical cannabis facilities. Among them, the largest producer in Israel Breath of Life International Ltd. (BOL) owns one of the largest medical cannabis facilities on the planet. 

As the result, Israel is on its way to become one of the world’s leading cannabis exporters. So far it has exported cannabis mostly in form of seeds and high tech growth techniques, but according to the amendment to Dangerous Drugs Ordinance passed by the Israel Parliament on December 25, 2018, this is about to change. Israel is ready to export the actual plant.

That’s not the only major innovation on its way: Israel anticipates a new legislation which will allow local to purchase marijuana from pharmacies with a prescription from their physicians. This puts Israel in a direct competition with Canada: who is going to be the first one to enable the sales of cannabis in mainstream drugstores. 

Though Israel is only facilitating medical use of cannabis, this year it has made an important step, decriminalizing adult use of marijuana as of April 2019. Smoking in public and ownership of small amounts of cannabis now only results in a fine, instead of criminal charges, as the latter has failed to become an efficient anti-drug policy worldwide.

Israel heavily supports innovation in cannabis

Apart from beneficial regulatory and research initiatives, Israel can also boast an active infrastructure for cannabis startups, especially technology ones. 

A good example, iCAN incubates cannabis startups in Israel, as well as organizes the leading cannabis conference around the world CannaTech (the next events are in Cape Town, Davos, Tel Aviv). 

The most intriguing local cannabis startups are canntech focused: technologies for growing, consuming and delivering the plant-based medicines. 

  • GemmaCert – Home kit to test active ingredients content and cannabinoid levels of cannabis flower bud
  • iCanSee – Nanotechnology for cannabis-infused eyedrops
  • Kassi – Smart cannabis storage hub solution with IoT connectivity 
  • ReaGenics – Technology to extract cannabis oil without growing the plant 
  • Seedo – Automated mini-fridge-like technology for home growing 
  • Syqe Medical – Programmable drug delivery inhalers for medical cannabis 
  • Telegrass – Cannabis delivery app 

Some of the startups are more extravagant: 

  • Cannibble – Cannabis-enriched pizza and popcorn
  • Weedley – Cannabis dog treats for anxious pets

According to Saul Kaye (iCAN founder), Israel is already the second in the world in number of cannabis patents after China, and №2 in funding after Silicon Valley. This is a foundation for the robust new industry.

As former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak said on CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv in April, Israel is updating its motto, becoming “the land of milk, honey and cannabis”. And this seems to be true.

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