Tel Aviv, Israel — New Israeli laws regarding cannabis plants decriminalize possession of the plant and its buds. In accordance with the new laws, the possession of a home grown marijuana plant is no longer punishable by law. Civilians found to be carrying small amounts of cannabis in public without medical authorization will now face fines rather than be subjected to criminal proceedings.
Israel decriminalized adult use on April 1. On the same day, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak was a keynote speaker at the fourth annual CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv.
Barak, who incidentally is currently chairman of the Israeli medical cannabis company Canndoc/Intercure, spoke about the benefits of medical marijuana, quipping that Israel is updating its motto, becoming “the land of milk, honey and cannabis.”
The former prime minister’s involvement highlights yet another career politician who has made the shift from cannabis prohibitionist to proponent ala Former U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Barak lends his voice to the significant global chorus of former government leaders, such as Mexico’s former president Vicente Fox, who are calling for a change in perception of how the world currently views cannabis.
“Some 35 countries have already legalized cannabis to a certain extent, either for medical or sometimes even recreational use,” Barak said during his keynote. “Two-thirds of U.S. states have approved medical cannabis; one-third [have approved] recreational use.”
With the typical alpha-male machoness one expects from a decorated former member of the military, Barak asserts, “The future of cannabis belongs to the bigger, faster and more assertive players which will enter directly into the markets.”
The Israeli Parliament (the “Knesset”), passed the 16th amendment to Dangerous Drugs Ordinance on December 25, of last year, that concerns the governance and regulatory aspects of exporting medical cannabis from Israel. Subsequently, Israel is poised to be a top-earning, global hub in the marijuana market.
The Israeli cannabis industry is already among the “more assertive players”, with companies like Tikun Olam —Hebrew for “repair the world”— at the forefront, with a 40% market share.
“If one is to look at a county that is at the forefront of the cannabis industry, they need to consider Israel at the top of their list. From the early discoveries from Dr. Mechoulam to the significant work in identifying the endocannabinoid system, Israel has been leading the path for some of the most significant advancements in cannabis science. As the first nation to legalize medical cannabis over a decade ago, Israel has allowed companies like Tikun Olam, as well as medical, research and educational institutions, to undertake the groundbreaking research that has created the basis for some of the advancements in this fast-growing industry,” said Stephen Gardner, Chief Marketing Officer of Tikun Olam, USA.
Meanwhile, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health, over 550 farms have submitted requests for licenses to grow medical cannabis in anticipation of new guidelines that will allow more Israeli patients to purchase pot at pharmacies with a prescription from a physician. Medical marijuana is currently available to patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, epilepsy, cancer and other terminal illnesses.
The new laws were delayed past the initial roll out on April 1, but are expected to go into effect, imminently.