The Journey to Israeli Cannabis Export

Image: Rina Castelnuovo

The beginning of 2019 has bought with it the final approval for Israeli medical cannabis export. We at iCAN heartily welcome this decision that is set to bring extraordinary growth and development to Israel’s world-renowned cannabis ecosystem.

Over the last few decades, Israel has established itself as what some refer to as the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East”. This title has been earned through our strong start-up culture, game-changing technology advancements, novel agricultural inventions and, of course, our medical cannabis program and world-class research initiatives.

“Israel’s had a leading edge in being first in regulating cannabis for patients. Export is a big move for Israel. We’ve had it unopposed, which is pretty unique”

Saul Kaye, CEO iCAN and CannaTech

In spite of being years (in some cases decades) ahead of other countries with regards to cannabis medicine, cultivation and research, certain aspects of Israel’s cannabis ecosystem have been stunted by lack of export regulations. International investors have also been holding back until the law was officially passed. The bill to reform export laws was passed via an amendment to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. Despite attaining unanimous approval in late January, the journey to export has been an extended and arduous process.

Discussions regarding export reform were first presented in 2011, however, concerns from the Departments of Security and Health has caused lengthy delays. Apprehension regarding the potential of medical cannabis leaking into the illicit market from a security and public health perspective has been the main grievance from ministers from the Departments of Health and Security. While concerns for security and public health have validity, the benefits to the Israeli economy have also presented a strong argument for export reform.


External influences have also come into play, notably from Israel’s largest trade partner, the USA. Political changes in the US has had an appreciable impact over the last two years regarding export implementation. The advent of the Trump administration and its previous Attorney General Jeff Sessions bought further delays. During Session’s time as Attorney General, he made clear that Obama era attitudes including relaxed views and legislation on medical cannabis were against his beliefs, as well as the intention for the present government. Given Israel’s close ties with the States, export legislation that had been in the works for more than half a decade was sidelined.

In early 2018 Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put another block on the progress of export reform. The PM cited concerns for medical cannabis products spilling over into the black market. Additionally, he noted communication from President Trump, who expressed his “general opposition to the legalization of cannabis”.

Despite Netanyahu’s obstruction, support for export has been clear and strong from Israeli ministers of Health, Agriculture, and Finance for the past few years. Concerns presented by the aforementioned departments, as well as the Minister for Security have been allayed by commitments of additional funds for security measures, ensuring there is a clear separation between medical export and the still illegal adult use market.

Funding will also support the police department who will have powers to control and monitor cannabis farms and exportation of products. As well as police approval all companies involved in the cannabis space, including exporters, require approval from the Ministry of Health.

Israel is well known as a hub for medical cannabis innovation, as export reform comes into full swing later in 2019 tax revenue is likely to reach 1 billion shekel per year – equating to more than $250 million USD.

“Israel, already the most advanced nation in cannabis R&D will now be able to produce and market cannabis and cannabis-based products that will help millions of people suffering from illnesses including cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, epilepsy, and PTSD, to name just a few.”

Saul Kaye, CEO iCAN and CannaTech

Allowing export of Israel’s high-quality medicinal cannabis products will further contribute to global destigmatization and is likely to accelerate research both within Israel and internationally. Recent news of Israeli cannabis giants Tikun Olam entering the US also bolsters progress. The company will initially be introducing six of its proprietary strains in various delivery forms to multiple US states. Such moves point to the desire of Israeli cannabis abroad

Reports of cannabis export legislation in Israel have been coming thick and fast for the last 12 months, however, with this final approval, we are now mere months away from experiencing this reality.

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