Medical Cannabis in Israel: Patients and Investments on the Rise


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Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, professor of Medicinal Chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, discovered THC as the first identified active compound in cannabis in 1964. Twenty-eight years later, in 1992, Israel legalized medical cannabis, and the country continues to be an international leader in cannabis research.


Increasing Number of Patients

Israel’s Medical Cannabis Unit is the government agency, authorized by the Ministry of Health, that issues permits to patients to use medical cannabis. According to the 2016 Global Legal Cannabis Markets report by New Frontier, “Medical centers, approved by the government and licensed, are able to distribute: flower, oils, edibles, and balms.”

In 2014, there were an estimated 14,000 medical cannabis patients in Israel; now, in 2016, there are an estimated 23,000. By 2018, the number of medical cannabis patients is expected to rise to approximately 40,000, as estimated by HAARETZ in 2013.

As the number of licensed medical cannabis patients increases in Israel, the rate of patient adherence to medical cannabis treatment regimens seems promising. A study in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, published on Jan. 14, 2016, reported, “a relatively high adherence rate for medical cannabis, as well as relative safety and high satisfaction among licensed patients.”

While the study may have been limited by a sample size of only 95 patients, the authors of the study explained, “This sample may be in fact representative, as gender and age distribution of the study population is similar to that of medical cannabis patients in Israel, as derived from official data of the Israeli MOH.”

If Israel can continue successfully educating patients and physicians, the program might be able to reach 40,000 patients by 2018.


Increasing Number of Investments

According to Reuters, since 2014, American firms have invested approximately $50 million into Israel’s medical cannabis industry, including related patents, startups and inhalers, among others.

“I expect it to grow to $100 million in the coming year,” said Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, a private cannabis research hub, at iCAN’s CannaTech summit in Tel Aviv earlier this month.

On March 10, 2016, following CannaTech, iCAN announced a new partnership with Breath of Life Pharma to form the first private cannabis research and development incubator in Israel.

According to Kaye, “We are confident our partnership will enable the most promising start-ups and innovators in Israel and abroad, to create world class products for the Global Cannabis economy.”

The staff byline designates content that has been written by a staff writer of MJINews.

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