Israel Gears Up To Distribute Cannabis In Pharmacies
4 min

Israel Gears Up To Distribute Cannabis In Pharmacies

4 min
Legislation News

The Israeli government has decided to allow national wholesale marijuana distribution to pharmacies across the country.

Israel, long the global leader in cannabis research and medical use of the drug, will soon allow medical marijuana to be dispensed from regular pharmacies rather than specialized pain clinics. The clinics have reportedly become overwhelmed in the last few years by registered patients seeking to obtain the drug through limited facilities.

In addition, the country’s largest drug store chain, Super-Pharm, has been meeting with the government recently about how and when to begin both distribution and sales of medical marijuana in over 225 of its pharmacies across the country.

According to the government, there will be no limit on the number of drugstores licensed to carry medical pot, although they will be required to comply with strict requirements for storage of the drug on premises.

About 27,000 Israelis are currently allowed to use marijuana to treat various chronic conditions.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Israel also is backing the government’s new proposal.


Israel has the oldest cannabis industry in the world. In fact, it was Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who discovered not only the key compounds in the drug in the 1960’s, but later established the existence of the endocannabinoid system within the human body. The Ministry of Health established a medical cannabis program in 1992.

Cannabis medicine

This year in June, the Israeli government announced it would establish guidelines for national regulations on the use of cannabis as medicine and for research. The government also announced that the Health and Agriculture Ministries would cooperate on all things cannabis by establishing a new facility – the National Centre for Research in Medical Cannabis, which is scheduled to open in 2017.
There are also plans afoot to finally decriminalize recreational use, although non-medical users would still be fined for possession.
Israel, like every other country except for Germany, still has no plans to reschedule the drug from a schedule I. That may also however be in the offing. Israel, land of start-ups, is clearly looking at the potential of the drug to change not only the pharmaceutical, but agricultural industry.

That means that the country’s start-up ecosystem will be immeasurably affected by the same. According to some experts, every accelerator or incubator in the country will have at least one cannabis-related start-up in its mix within the next ten years – from agricultural innovation to tracking systems, to medical devices.


The new initiatives, including widespread distribution and facilitation of greater access for medical patients are seen in Israel as the next step to fully integrating the cannabis economy into the mainstream, with far-reaching implications for both entrepreneurs and the government. Over the last few years in particular, Israel has been the centre of all things cannabis-related research on a global scale. U.S. firms in particular, have invested over $50 million in researching the drug via Israeli-based R&D efforts.

At the end of July, the Israeli Health Ministry published guidelines defining the terms for participating in the Israeli cannabis industry. As a result, they have begun receiving applications from all over the country – from individual farmers to organized kibbutzim and moshav collectives – to begin growing the high-cash crop. In just the last two months, the National Health Ministry has received more than 200 applications from companies hoping to grow, distribute, or sell medical cannabis.

The economic potential of cannabis is also one of the reasons the government is finally and formally establishing rules and guidelines for the budding industry for commercial medical purposes. It is not known at this time, however, whether Israel will also begin exporting the drug. Up until now, the government has fiercely resisted the idea, at least in public, insisting that technology to grow cannabis rather than the plant itself was the main focus of Israeli exports in this area. In August, however, the Agriculture Ministry appeared to backtrack, and announced that it was in fact, investigating the concept.


Global cannabis

On one hand, Israel is just ensuring that its long-established industry is keeping pace with reforms in the rest of the world. Canada has already established a federal cannabis agency and is now exporting medical grade cannabis internationally. Germany and Australia are both not far behind on the regulation front. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that after Germany, in particular, sets up its own regulatory infrastructure, it will investigate exporting cannabis just like it exports cars.

However, unlike other countries, Israel’s R&D infrastructure and its long investigation into the medical properties of marijuana put it ahead of every other country when it comes to both clinical research and testing.

If Israel decides to begin exporting the drug, much as Canada has recently decided to do, it is unclear how this will impact the development of other countries efforts to establish domestic agricultural production facilities – even if only for medical use.
Imported cannabis is, of course, more expensive than that obtained from domestic sources.

From a strictly medical perspective, importing the cannabis used domestically in any country makes no business sense. The drug is used to treat the sickest (and almost by definition, poorest) patients, whose medical needs are either covered by national healthcare insurance or government support.

Israel itself, which began importing cannabis from Holland for its medical patients, began growing the drug domestically precisely because of the lower cost. By exporting a drug which is needed by Israeli patients, the government may also end up creating additional domestic shortages.

Canada, which just entered the export industry this year, only did so because the country’s largest producers could not find enough medical customers.

Israeli exports, however, make far more sense for the ultra-high end developing global connoisseur marketplace, particularly as global trade in cannabis becomes more mainstream, and recreational use finally becomes as accepted as medical use.

Israel also may become a world leader in pioneering new strains for research and development elsewhere.


What this current government initiative clearly will do, however, is move one more country, albeit the one that has experimented with the drug for the longest period of time, into a space where cannabis, albeit if only now for medicinal purposes, is considered a legitimate agricultural and medical commodity.

This in turn, like Canada’s recent decision to export its own crops abroad, particularly to Europe, will force greater international reform for the global cannabis trade – even at first even “just” for medical use.


  Guest Writer  

Written by: Guest Writer
Occasionally we have guest writers contribute to our blog here at Zamnesia. They come from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences, making their knowledge invaluable.

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