Americans may soon be able to get medical marijuana from an unlikely drug dealer: Israel.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that 2018 could be a big year for the country’s quest to become a global pot provider. Israel’s government is on track to pass regulations that would allow growers to export their products, and at least one company—Breath of Life Pharma—is aiming to submit an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in hopes of getting legal approval to bring its experimental treatments stateside.
It’s all part of a mission to capture a piece of a market expected to exceed $30 billion over the next seven years—and help patients worldwide get some much-needed relief from their chronic conditions.
“The seriousness with which the Israeli scientific community approaches this is incomparable,” Charles Pollack, a medicinal cannabis expert at Thomas Jefferson University, told Rolling Stone recently.
Marijuana is illegal at the federal level in the U.S., where the government considers it a Schedule 1 substance with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The FDA notes on its website that it hasn’t approved any botanical marijuana treatments, even as some 29 states have voted to legalize medical marijuana.
The plant is also outlawed in Israel, but the marijuana research industry there is thriving. Israel, along with Canada and the Netherlands, has a government-sponsored medical marijuana program, according to U.S. News and World Report. As of April, there were more than 100 cannabis-related clinical trials taking place there.
Scientists are looking into how marijuana could help people with conditions like autism, arthritis, epilepsy, Alzheimer’s, cancer and other conditions.
“The world’s best cannabis scientists and researchers are all out of Israel. No other country comes close,” American businessman Garyn Angel told U.S. News.
This summer, the Israeli government approved a plan to let its 30,000 patients access medical marijuana more easily. Then, in August, Israeli Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel said that he expects Israel’s farmers will be allowed to grow cannabis—and take it abroad—within two years, according to the Times of Israel.
In the meantime, Israel has continued to make advances in the field. Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem recently began offering a medical marijuana course that explores the history, laws, jobs, and pros and cons of the drug. And just last month, a company called Syqe Medical unveiled a medical marijuana inhaler that allows patients to take specific doses.
“When you go to get a medicine, even antibiotics, you know exactly what you are getting,” biologist Hinanit Koltai told Haaretz. “We want medical marijuana to be the same.”