The undisputed Old World leader in marijuana research, Israel’s plans to become the official cannabis dealer to the whole world are slowly becoming a tangible reality.
Last year, government ministers from health, public safety and (of course) trade gave initial approval to a plan that would see the country start exporting medical marijuana—the only country in the world to do so. Canada is currently the only other country with cannabis production sanctioned by the national government, but there is currently no international market for marijuana not handled by people with intimidating Instagram feeds.
Shipping marijuana around the world will require some cooperation from other countries—such as the United States, which has to date insisted loudly and stridently that states obey a 1961 United Nations convention that happens to ban such activities—but there’s also more domestic hurdles to clear.
As Reuters reported on Monday, a government committee signed off on the plan over the weekend. This step now means months of debate in the Knesset (Israel’s unicameral parliament) before any Israeli-grown marijuana can be crated up and sold.
To whom will Israel ship government-sanctioned weed? We still don’t know, though officials in December indicated that there are interested parties in “dozens of countries.” But in the meantime, Israel may want to be an importer. Demand for medical cannabis, for the country’s 23,000 to 25,000 patients as well as an increasing number of researchers, is far outstripping supply.
With such limits, the domestic market for cannabis in Israel is estimated at $20 million “at the most,” Reuters reported. If overseas sales were allowed, cannabis could be a market of up to $250 million, according to reports from last year.
In the meantime, Israel is still attracting plenty of investment. About 50 companies have attracted $100 million in overseas capital, according to Reuters, leading to inventions like the world’s first marijuana inhaler. If you sell it—and Israel can—it is no dream.