While the concept of medical marijuana has been around for years, prescribing the same has been considered as unorthodox by most societies around the world. But Israel, for one, has never been anti-pot when it comes to medicinal uses. Israel was among the first countries to legalize medical marijuana – it remains illegal for recreational use – and is one of just three countries with a government-sponsored cannabis program, along with Canada and the Netherlands.
In another head-turning move by the government, the Agriculture Ministry recently announced it is classifying medical-grade-cannabis growing as an official farming sector. What does this mean for the country’s burgeoning cannabis industry? Government aid, grants, water quotas and training in crop growing for 15-20 marijuana farmers. The last sector to be classified within farming was horse sector, almost a decade ago.
The ministry said, “Dealing and using cannabis is still illegal in most of the world’s countries, but it appears that the use of cannabis for medical purposes is gaining popularity in many countries, and an increasing number of studies are confirming the positive effects of cannabis, while showing its risks and damage.”
Marijuana definitely has medical uses, but the problem lies in the fact that because of its availability, it is widely abused for recreational purposes, spurring most administrations to prohibit any use of the plants. This has in turn stunted worldwide research in the regard as well, owing to strict regulations with testing strains and so on.
In this respect, Israel has hence, grown into a hotbed for scientists and researchers wanting to look into the uses of marijuana for medical purposes. Recognizing the potential growth of the marijuana farming sector, the ministry recently allocated NIS 8m for 13 biochemical studies for improving medical-cannabis growing.
"Cannabis is what brought me to Israel," says Angel, a Florida-based entrepreneur named to CNBC's "Next List" of innovators shaping global commerce. "The world's best cannabis scientists and researchers are all out of Israel. No other country comes close."
These doors to research are trickier to open in the U.S., where eight states have legalized marijuana and 28 states carry some form of medical marijuana law, but using the substance remains illegal under federal law. And this only points to just how much harder it will be in other parts of the world, especially in Asia.
However, owing to Israel’s stance on the matter, countries like the US are now outsourcing their research to Israel. This means that the research required to properly gauge how effective marijuana really is for medical purposes is underway, albeit in very concentrated regions. This could lead to revolutionary discoveries for treatment of diseases like schizophrenia, diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis, to name a few.