In January 2019, the Israeli cabinet approved the export of Israeli-grown medical cannabis to the thriving international legal market – a market that was valued at $8.3 billion in 2017 and is expected to surpass $28b by 2024. The country’s pioneering cannabis producers have long awaited this news.
Though Israel is famous for its pioneering cannabis agronomy and extraction technologies, the government delayed granting export approval for several months leaving producers frustrated.
However, when push came to shove, the Knesset passed the bill unanimously. This bill will provide for medical cannabis export and the implementation of regulations licensing the business.
The cabinet said in a statement that the decision is expected to escalate the quantity of Israeli manufacturers, investment in agriculture, research and production, and to create new jobs in the associated fields.
Only the Health Ministry will be able to grant licenses, and police approval will be required. To-date 780 cannabis growers have received initial approval to move ahead into planning stages.
Five farmers have already obtained final approval to grow 90 dunams (22 acres) of marijuana, and another 18 are in the final procedural phases.
According to Israeli financial newspaper Globes, over 100 companies are currently active in the field of medical cannabis. While it may seem that this industry sprang up overnight, it has been quietly growing for years, mainly in the direction of exports.
The paper says that over the last five years, especially in the previous two or three, the attention has primarily been on the 12 companies in the industry traded on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. However, most are at the beginning of the road and are focusing on processing and growing cannabis.
They develop drugs based on cannabinoid, technology for plant growth improvement, delivery methods, and so forth. Their knowledge and expertise are also export-worthy.
Israel’s then Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, said that he had always supported the producers and that medical cannabis export would give Israel a massive advantage in connecting development and research with agriculture and the cannabis industry.
He added that it would bring substantial foreign currency returns into the country. It is estimated that the state could earn around $1.09 billion a year from exports. Also, some of that money will be directed to the health system.
In Israel, there are eight companies currently cultivating cannabis for medical purposes, and many more have applied for approval to start work. The support from the cabinet immediately raised stocks in medical cannabis companies on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange and many corporate executives lauded the government’s decision.
The hi-tech industry is also sitting up and taking note. However, exports will probably only begin later this year once the administrative procedures overseeing the export process are set up.
Beurocracy hasn’t dampened the excitement. Saul Kaye, CEO of Israeli medical cannabis producers iCAN, commented that the country is precisely positioned to enter and disrupt the burgeoning medical cannabis arena. He estimated that just in Israel it is predicted that sales to interested countries will quickly reach over $1 billion.
The legalization announcement came just in time for the 4th Annual CannaTech conference held in Tel Aviv, March 31 – April 2. The premier global medical cannabis event, which showcases the best in science and technology, finance, regulatory policy, and entrepreneurship, drew 1,000 participants from 45 countries. The professionals gathered came from the fields of biotechnology, pharma, medicine, business, and agriculture.
Kaye, who is also CannaTech CEO, said the message of this year’s conference was “Normalization in legalization,” adding that while cannabis is normalized in the medical society, the next discussion is that everyone can use it. He says that Israel is finally ready to discuss it.
The long-awaited approval paves the way for Israel to become a primary exporter of medical cannabis and a pivotal player in the worldwide cannabis arena.