Israel’s cannabis market is finally moving into the recreational box this year. Some time this year, if all goes as planned, the country will implement a recreational system for adults over 21. In a page from the American state market, deliveries will be allowed, although cannabis edibles that resemble candy will be banned. There will also be state control of prices to ensure that customers do not return to illicit sales channels.
Public smoking of cannabis however will remain banned (so no coffee shops or clubs allowed). Home grow without a license will also still be forbidden.
Employment discrimination, particularly for those who require background checks, is also expected to come under review (particularly striking given the Biden Administration’s quick and rather embarrassing reversal on the same earlier this year).
This is a big move for Israel’s cannabis market– but it has been in the works for a while. In the meantime, medical cannabis at least has gone “mainstream” and is now widely available in national drug stores. Regular doctors can prescribe cannabis as treatment for a wide variety of conditions.
Why Is This A Significant Development For Israel’s Cannabis Market And Beyond?
The first interesting aspect of all of this is that Israel will again step ahead – this time on the recreational front – just as two European countries (Luxembourg and Switzerland) gear up for their own recreational programs next year.
What goes in Israel, in other words, will be closely watched and analysed in at least these two federally run programs in a region where recreational reform is increasingly a topic on the national agendas of several countries even if not yet at a point of critical mass.
Beyond this, of course, there is the United States – where recreational reform is increasingly a political football that the White House, and whoever is resident in it, cannot avoid.
But then, given the timing if not the advancements just in this century, it is hard for even the most diehard opponents to continue to oppose advancement of the obvious. Starting in the birth country of formal cannabinoid investigation itself.
Israel’s cannabis market is the oldest in the world. It came into existence after WWII. Pioneered by Holocaust survivor Raphael Mechoulam and largely funded by American federal research dollars (while the same kind of scientific investigation was banned in the U.S.), Israel became the global leader in cannabinoid research at a time when no other country would allow even preliminary basic scientific investigation of the plant and its chemical components.
During the first decade of this century, Israel also began rolling out trials that included the use of cannabinoids to treat brain injuries and PTSD, particularly in soldiers. This was notable for several reasons including that it occurred at a time when in the U.S. there was no established treatment for traumatic brain injury or TBI – also called the “signature wound” of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By 2014, families of sick children who could not access the drug threatened the Israeli government that they would immigrate to Colorado for treatment unless wider reform was enacted. The government changed its policy within weeks.
Ever since, medical reform within the country itself has gradually widened to become more mainstream. As of December 2020, Israel’s cannabis market also moved into the medical export column (although this too has remained controversial, starting with the availability of drugs for the domestic population).
The final move of this still highly religious and conventional country into the recreational space is also a sign that there is little holding the rest of the world back at this point – except political objections.
Why Is the Globalization of Israeli Medical Research Important?
There is unlikely to be any country in the world that does not benefit now from Israeli expertise – either on the cultivation or tech side of the discussion. This includes the news as of the beginning of April that an Israeli seed company launched a hemp farm in San Diego and less than a week later that an Israeli medical cannabis provider exported two tons of cannabis to Australia. Imports of Israeli cannabis and cannabinoid medicines are also starting to show up in Europe.
Beyond this, there is also a quiet revolution underway on another front – notably growtech. Low water and power cultivation facilities are beginning to be a necessity – and not only in places like California but also Africa. Israeli smart farming innovations generally applied to cannabis will almost certainly play a role in all future developments including of the GMP kind, globally.
Cannabis is the first crop to be widely grown inside – and as a result, may become one of the leading experiment crops in terms of smarter grow strategies generally as the world becomes increasingly polluted and less suited to what is considered conventional farming now.
The seeds of change, planted in a nation formed by refugees at the end of WWII, in other words, are finally blowing globally. And the world will never be the same again.