Israel Delays Medical Cannabis Exports – But Why?

Medicinal marijuana exports in Israel
Image: Left - eujava| Right: Public Domain

A decision by Israel’s Prime Minister to continue preventing medical cannabis exports for the time being has some puzzled and others rather angry given the alleged circumstances.

Widely viewed as progressive on medical cannabis, Israel’s reputation has been threatened somewhat by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent decision that an export ban would remain in place pending new reviews by the Health Ministry and the chairman of the National Economic Council.

However, a couple of words are commonly appearing in various news articles on the ban – President Trump. According to reports, including on JPost, The Prime Minister said U.S. President Donald Trump had called him prior to a meeting on related reforms, stating his views against marijuana exports.

President Trump has expressed conflicting and sometimes cryptic views on medical cannabis. In the leadup to the last election, he said was in favor of it “a hundred percent” and knew people who had benefited from it. Once President, he made comments that gave him ample wiggle room to potentially crack down on the sector.

Assuming the exchange between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu did occur, and in the fashion reported, whether the former’s views were based on the product itself or on the cha-ching the U.S may miss out on – or a combination of both – is anyone’s guess.

There are many angry industry participants in Israel as a result of the announcement. According to NoCamels, nearly 400 farmers applied to the Israeli Health Ministry for permits to grow cannabis for exports by the end of last year. Many have received initial approval and some have already invested heavily.

Court action regarding the situation is taking place says NoCamels.

An Israeli ministerial committee gave the green light last year for the country to export medical marijuana. While it was expected to take some months to get it through Parliament, few would have expected this outcome. The value to Israel of exports of medical cannabis by some estimates is put at hundreds of millions of dollars to USD $1.1 billion a year.

As for within Israel, medical cannabis was first made legal for use in treating particular conditions in the 1990s and tens of thousands of patients are currently registered.

Australia’s government recently decided it would permit medical cannabis exports – it will be interesting to see if Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull gets a similar (alleged) call. It may not be a phone call – a visit between the two leaders will take place on February 23.