In a widely expected move, the Israeli parliament, or Knesset, unanimously approved a bill to export medical cannabis on Christmas Day. The last catch is that the bill must be approved by the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers. However since the bill was drafted by the governing Likud Party, this is likely to be merely a (long overdue) formality. (So long as Donald Trump has dropped his objection or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is poised to ignore Trump’s objection if he remains opposed, maybe things have changed now that Jeff Sessions is no longer the US Attorney General.)
Significantly, the move comes just months before the widely expected close on the German cultivation bid (where many Israeli companies have already been rumored to have been directly involved in submitting applications) and right after the British government rescheduled medical cannabis to a Schedule II drug.
It is currently unclear how this development will impact the bid itself, repeatedly pushed back this fall via threat of another lawsuit.
What is clear is that Israel is absolutely targeting the European medical market (plus the UK) as cannabis by prescription. The government is estimating that this may generate north of $1 billion over the next five years for the country.
The bill also creates a budget for the country’s interior ministry and police to monitor track and control all cannabis due for export. Additionally, the bill limits foreign investment to just 5% of Israeli cannabis companies (with exceptions to be approved by regulators).
Israel’s medical market, and the R&D that supports it, is the most advanced in the world. The country began its research program into the drug (covertly supported by U.S. federal research money) over fifty years ago. (Jumpstarted by the Godfather of Cannabis Research, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who will be delivering the keynote address at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference in Berlin.) In the last decade of this century, the Israeli government program began to kick into higher gear with widespread tests on the military. In 2014, after being blackmailed by 15 families with sick children who threatened to leave Israel for Colorado, the government began its most recent program of relaxing access even further. Israeli patients now can buy cannabis from pharmacies as opposed to gaining access to more specialized pain clinics.
Israeli patients also only face a price of (at most) approximately $100 per month. National health insurance picks up the rest of the tab.
That, of course, is not the case in every other country where cannabis has become legal for medical use so far. In Canada, most insurance companies do not cover the cost of the drug and patients are already reporting difficulties with access just months after full legalization. In Germany, the current cost of “flos” or flower is currently running approximately $2,500 per month and public insurance approval rates are hovering at a mere 60%. The privately insured must foot the cost of the drug up front until reimbursed. In the UK, patients are facing costs of about ₤2,500 for three months, excluding of course the additional cost of import. When they can get a prescription at all.
The International Cannabis Business Conference will be heading to San Francisco, California, USA, this February 7-8, before heading onto Barcelona, Berlin, Zurich, and Vancouver. Early-bird tickets are on sale for all of our 2019 events.