A joint committee of the Health and Finance ministries recommends permitting the export of medical marijuana, a move that could bring up to $4 billion into the state coffers annually.
Health Ministry Yaakov Litzman said he would work to make sure that the revenue from such exports would be used to improve the country’s health system.
Israel’s medical marijuana industry is considered a world leader, with delegations from all over the world coming to learn from the country’s largest growers.
Because Israel has been providing medical marijuana products to Israeli patients for over a decade, its researchers have accumulated vast clinical experience along with substantial knowledge in developing strains, breeding methods and extraction, as well as maintaining quality control.
“Medical marijuana exports is an industry with significant economic potential for the State of Israel,” said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon.
“The exports will strengthen Israeli agriculture in general and agriculture in the Arava region in particular, and will be an opportunity for Israel to exploit its clear relative advantage in developing medical marijuana products.”
The Finance Ministry estimates the potential annual revenue from exports at between $1 billion to $4 billion annually.
According to the treasury, total world production of medical marijuana products in 2014 was 57.3 tons.
Israel’s eight licensed growers produce around 10 tons of marijuana products annually and the Health Ministry has no less than 500 applications on file from others seeking licenses.
The committee, which submitted its conclusions Sunday to Kahlon and Litzman, recommends allowing marijuana exports under the following restrictions: The exporting will be done by the Health Ministry itself or directly by the growers under strict government supervision; the exports will be approved only to countries that permit the use of medical marijuana and that approve imports specifically from Israel, and exporting will only be by farmers who have a Health Ministry license to grow and export the marijuana .
Export of all varieties of medicinal marijuana (smoking products, tablets, oils, and so on) will be permitted.
The panel also recommended that a team of Health Ministry, treasury and Agriculture Ministry representatives be formed under the Economy and Industry Ministry’s Foreign Trade Administration to brand and market Israel’s medical marijuana products.
Growers have been pushing to allow exports for years, saying medical marijuana could be an economic growth engine for Israel.
The treasury and Health Ministry were aware of this potential but wanted to be sure that exports would not undermine the supply to Israeli patients.
Opposition came mainly from the Public Security Ministry, which feared the ramifications of exporting a material better known as a recreational drug that in many countries is illegal.
According to Litzman, “The attitude toward marijuana must be the same as with any drug and we must remember that by law it is forbidden to sell or use it [for recreational purposes]. Nevertheless, the law permits the use of medical marijuana for serious illnesses in certain cases and under special restrictions.
As such, we have led a reform that will reduce the bureaucracy for those patients who have been approved for the legal use of medical marijuana so that they should not suffer in vain, and we have also lowered prices.
“Because of the international interest in medical marijuana from Israel because of its professional quality and given the inherent economic potential, we agreed with the Finance Ministry to permit the export of medical marijuana under certain restrictions and to countries where it’s legal.
We will work so that the move will bring additional resources to the health system as a result of the increase in state revenues.”