Availability of Medical Cannabis in Israel to Reach an All-time High

According to approved government plan, there will be no limit on the number of growers, there will be more doctors who can issue prescriptions, and cannabis will be available in pharmacies.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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A worker tends to cannabis plants at Tikun Olam, Safed.
A worker tends to cannabis plants at Tikun Olam, Safed.Credit: Reuters
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

The government has approved a plan that will remove many of the restrictions on growing medical marijuana and make it more readily available to over 23,000 patients in Israel.

According to the proposal, initiated by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman (United Torah Judaism), there will be no limit on the number of growers, there will be more doctors who can issue prescriptions, and cannabis will be available in pharmacies.

For patients being treated with cannabis the new plan is supposed to remove many obstacles. First, additional physicians will be trained and authorized to prescribe cannabis, shortening the waiting time to see a doctor. Second, pharmacies will be authorized to provide medical cannabis

to patients who present a prescription, as with any other medication. The pharmacies will have to meet the strict standards of the Internal Security Ministry, as will the transportation companies bringing the substance to the pharmacies.

An additional, if more cautious, piece of good news is the possibility of significantly eliminating some of the red tape by switching from a policy of permits to a policy of prescriptions. In other words, the patient will need only a medical prescription in order to receive medical marijuana, rather than requiring a permit from the Health Ministry.

Also according to the new plan, there will be no restriction on the number of growers, and anyone who meets the standards of proper manufacture for medications and food products can get a license to run a company for growing cannabis, manufacturing cannabis products or transporting cannabis and its by-products to pharmacies to be established throughout the country.

The program creates a separation among four stages in the process of producing medical cannabis: development, growing, manufacturing and marketing. Accordingly, the growing will take place only in designated nurseries that will operate separate from the farm, and will be used for this purpose only, and not for research. The cuttings from those nurseries will be transferred to the farm for the purpose of mass cultivation.

“The government decided today on an important reform, which I announced a few months ago,” said Litzman on Sunday. “The reform will do justice to thousands of patients who need medicinal cannabis for medical purposes only. There’s no reason why someone who needs cannabis for medical reasons should suffer and confront unnecessary red tape, and therefore the present situation must be changed.

“I’m opposed to legalization. Make no mistake: Along with the easing of restrictions for those in need of medical cannabis, we will increase supervision and prevent any possibility of it trickling out. And the police will handle that. Medical cannabis will reach those who need it from the pharmacy, like a medicine, like morphine and other drugs. We will increase the list of doctors who approve medical cannabis and we will make life easier for the patients who are suffering.”

Until now patients who require the substance must wait months for one of a small number of authorized physicians to recommend it, then apply for a permit from the Health Ministry and renew that permit every three to six months.

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