From Jaffa oranges to Waze to medicinal cannabis? Will medical marijuana be the next big Israeli export?
Israel’s burgeoning medicinal cannabis scene enjoyed a small victory on Sunday when a bill that would legalize the exportation of medicinal marijuana passed its first reading in the Knesset, the country’s legislative body.
First put forth by Member of Knesset Yoav Kisch of the governing Likud party on January 22 with the backing of 26 parliamentarians, the bill would allow for the exportation of medicinal cannabis products to countries like Australia, Germany, and other parts of Europe where medicinal use is permitted. If it passes the next two readings with the necessary votes to become law, it will open up extensive opportunities for Israel’s advanced medicinal cannabis industry.
Speaking with Saul Kaye, the CEO of Israeli medicinal cannabis hub iCAN, he tells Geektime that, “This is definitely a move in the right direction for the sustainable cannabis industry here in Israel.”
“We’ve been involved in the background for the past 6 months helping high-level officials understand the financial importance of allowing for exports,” he says, explaining that in order for companies here to scale, they will need to reach out to larger patient pools, so the move abroad will serve to nurture the entrepreneurship of this industry.
As one of the leading centers of research and development in the medicinal field for the plant, due in part to the groundbreaking research by Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of Hebrew University and a surprisingly progressive legal structure for research, Israelis have been able to run human trials far beyond what has been possible in other countries. It has led to a blossoming of companies developing not only new ways of growing the plants themselves, but also important aspects like delivery systems that can give specific dosages like a doctor could prescribe.
Kaye points out that in what he calls “emerging cannabis economies,” there is a need for higher quality medical cannabis products that suppliers in those locations are simply not able to bring to market at this stage. He hopes to build on Israel’s expertise in cultivating products geared towards treating specific issues like knee pain or side effects from chemotherapy treatments.
“I’m happy whenever legislation moves towards regulation since it gives us a rule book,” he says. With such a rule book in hand, it becomes far easier to build businesses and direct funding, as it removes significant risk for investors that lack certainty over whether they will face legal challenges down the road.
How long it will take exactly to get this set of rules hammered out is still in question. Kaye believes that it will take somewhere on the order of 60-90 days for the law to be written and implemented. Based on the strong economic arguments tied with the recent alterations to the moves towards general decriminalization, Kaye’s prediction could not be far off.
Until that point, as a hub and investor in the cannabis industry in Israel, iCAN will continue their work of nurturing the local scene. Kaye tells Geektime that he, “calls on the entrepreneurs to look at the global market across verticals like media, science, and others that can have an impact and change the world.”
For those interested in the opportunities of the ganjapreneur, the group will be hosting their upcoming CannaTech convention in March where they will be showcasing the next generation of cannabis technology.