The Israeli cabinet is set to vote in the next few days on a bill allowing the export of medical cannabis. This is after the Interior (Public Security) Ministry, Finance Ministry, and Health Ministry reached an agreement regarding the security of cannabis products during export.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has now given his consent to a revised export plan. Under the revised plan, additional funds will be allocated by the Finance Ministry for policing cannabis exports when the time comes.
Erdan’s opposition to the original export plan had been a major obstacle to the exportation of the drug.
Prime Minister freezes export plan
The Israeli government first approved the medical cannabis reform in 2016 and established a plan to export cannabis products to other countries. This exportation program was approved by the Ministries of Health and Finance in August 2017.
However, the export plan had been put on hold earlier this year.
It can be recalled that in February, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly froze the country’s medical cannabis export program at the request of United States President Donald Trump.
A pioneer in cannabis research and biotechnology, Israel has been planning to begin exporting medical cannabis to other countries, including the U.S. Israel’s cannabis export program is expected to bring its economy up to $1.14 billion a year.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said that he did not want Israel to be a medical cannabis export pioneer if it meant drawing President Trump’s ire. Netanyahu froze the export plan despite the fact that Israel’s Finance, Agriculture, and Health ministries supported it.
Cannabis security agreement
The Public Security Minister had earlier demanded NIS200 million to be able to securely hold the medical cannabis in customs facilities at the Ben-Gurion Airport.
Under the agreement entered into by the ministries, the Public Security Ministry will get more funding that would enable it to monitor exports and to prevent medical cannabis products from falling into the black market. Aside from that, the agreement also provides for the employment of 25 police officers to monitor up to 50 cannabis growers full-time.
This means that only 50 cannabis growers will be granted licenses to export cannabis products for medical purposes. This is because not limiting the number of authorized growers would increase the risk of infiltration into the black market.
According to Erdan, he supports the use of medical cannabis, as well as its export to other parts of the world, especially given that Israel does have advanced knowledge in the area. However, he explained that it is his duty to make sure that growers and exporters do not cause cannabis to be illegally used by Israelis, especially the youth.
Erdan said he is glad that he and the Finance Minister have reached an understanding that will pave the way for the approval of medical cannabis exports.
The agreement also stipulates that exports will only include medical-use cannabis products like oil and capsules, and not raw marijuana, which comes in the form of plants, seeds, and stems. This is in order to avoid misuse or make a crackdown easier.
Advocates are not happy about the new agreement
Advocates for medical cannabis have laid out several problems pertaining to the agreement. One of these is the fact that the government will permit only 50 functioning cannabis farms in the country.
Around 300 farmers, businesses, and manufacturers had already previously been granted temporary permits for growing cannabis, and many of them had invested hundreds of thousands of shekels in the construction of secure greenhouses and in the procurement of fertilizers.
According to Oren Lebovitch, the head of Ale Yarok, Israel’s pro-legalization party, and the one who oversees the country’s first medical cannabis cooperative, this agreement sounds quite nice, but “what will the 51st company say?” He said that if the government will only pick 50, that means that the other 250 remaining companies will have to go to the courts and stop the procedure again.