The Ministry of Health recently gave its stamp of approval to an Israeli company producing marijuana vaporizers, possibly becoming the first country in the world to certify such a device for medical purposes.
Tel Aviv-based Kanabo Research, a medical-cannabis R&D firm, announced on Tuesday that the ministry certified the company’s VapePod vaporizer for the use of medical cannabis extracts and formulations, reportedly making international precedent.
“This approval is a significant announcement for the medical cannabis patients in Israel who will be able to use the medical vaporizer for the first time,” said Avihu Tamir, Kanabo’s co-founder and CEO.
Administering cannabis to patients has long frustrated doctors due to the lack of a precise dosage. It’s a problem that Kanabo says it can circumvent with the VapePod’s consistent and accurate gauge.
Founded in 2016, Kanabo employs 12 people. The firm expects to reach $10 million in sales within three years in the Israeli market, while the overall local cannabis trade could reach revenues of $100 million during that time.
An estimated 50 Israeli medical marijuana companies work in cultivating plants or producing delivery devices such as inhalers, along with exporting cannabis cosmetics and skin-care products. In 2016, international investors poured more than $100 million into Israeli marijuana firms, according to Reuters.
“The Israeli market is a platform to deliver our technology to global markets in North America and Europe,” Tamir added.
While many medical cannabis patients today inhale by smoking – with all its known carcinogens – a vaporizer can reduce health risks and make inhalation more effective. Kanabo has also launched pre-clinical trials of the vaporizer for the treatment of sleep disorders.
The company’s next version will gather real-time usage data that will be provided to caregivers, doctors and researchers.
Israel leads the world in medicinal marijuana R&D – with nearly 300 Israeli growers, entrepreneurs and manufacturers receiving licenses to produce medicinal cannabis. Bureaucratic roadblocks and ministerial infighting, however, are undermining the country’s position, leaving much potential marijuana exports held up.
The government reportedly told medicinal marijuana companies that their exports would be approved by 2018, according to industry employees. That persuaded the companies to embark on multi-billion-shekel investments, some of which could now be in jeopardy.
Israeli media reported that US President Donald Trump called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month to object to the planned medical cannabis exports; his objection could not be independently confirmed.
The Health and Finance ministries project that marijuana exports could bring between NIS 1 billion to NIS 4b. ($290 million to $1.1b.) in revenue annually. The country is one of the only places in the world where it’s possible to do clinical research on cannabis production.
Yet because of all the delays, including from the Public Security Ministry, it is likely that actual exports won’t start until 2019. Despite the regulatory gridlock, Israeli cannabis firms are still meeting with companies to export their crop to Germany, Canada and the Czech Republic.
Israel has long taken medical marijuana seriously, ever since pioneering Prof. Raphael Mechoulam, who was then at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, became the first researcher to identity the plant’s main psychoactive compound, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), in the 1960s.
Patients in Israel can get a prescription for medical marijuana if their condition did not improve after trying traditional drugs within the past year. Unlike California’s notoriously lax rules governing medical marijuana, where complaints of a backache can cajole a doctor into writing a prescription, Israel restricts the drug far more stringently.
Treatment with marijuana is available for, among other conditions, patients with chronic neurological pain, those with a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and individuals undergoing chemotherapy.