Israel has been at the forefront of cannabis research and development for decades. The small middle-eastern country also boasts a robust and comprehensive medical cannabis program.
While Israeli politics remain mostly volatile, there is a general consensus among politicians that medical cannabis is a good thing and one that benefits many people. With that said, recreational cannabis is not legal in Israel, and consumption in public is punishable by a fine.
Israel’s Prime Minister has plenty on his plate with upcoming elections in a month, but it’s his wife, Sara Netanyahu, who is in the news headlines at the moment. Israel’s “first lady” is active on social media, and she posts regularly on her dedicated “We Love Sara Netanyahu” Facebook page.
In a video posted recently, Mrs. Netanyahu is seen cooking vegan meatballs alongside the new government adviser on animal affairs, Tal Gilboa. At one point during the nine-minute video, Gilboa turned to his host with parsley in his hand and asked, “How about cannabis?” The first lady’s response was clear, “[Cannabis] is a very important thing for sick people, for those who are in pain,” she said.
As the pair cooked, they spoke more about medical cannabis and how it helps people. “There are really people who need [cannabis]… and medical cannabis is something they are blessed with, and I just hope that as many people as possible can get it,” she added. Her comments come as Israel’s Health Ministry issues new rules and regulations to make medical cannabis access easier for patients.
Around a month ago, Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman announced the changes, telling reporters “We are attentive to criticism and to improving in order to ease the suffering of patients,” he said. “We will continue to promote further activities on the matter,” according to a Jerusalem Post report.
In July, the ministry released a statement offering guidance on the matter. “A large proportion of the patients will pay less than what they currently pay in the old system,” they wrote. The ministry also announced that a maximum fixed payment of around $120 will be set for oncology patients, to cover their medical cannabis needs within that fixed price. Patients holding existing medical cannabis licenses will also be able to benefit from the new system which is aimed at easing the burden and making access to cannabis simpler and cheaper.
Prescription splits will also make up part of the new system, whereby registered medical cannabis patients will be entitled to take part of their prescription from one pharmacy and the other part from another. However, a report carried out by a medical cannabis patient named Harry Rubinstein was damning.
His report on BOL Pharma, a medical cannabis supplier in Israel, noted that up to 50 people had complained that their medication was “contaminated with mold,” and past its expiry date. Some people also complained that their medical cannabis would “arrive extremely dry with a smell akin to grass clippings.” One of the main drives from the health ministry is to ensure good quality cannabis at fair prices for qualifying patients.
According to Shay Arad, a consultant for medical cannabis firms, the new regulations from the government ministry are a step in the right direction. “With all the pain of the patients, the authorities must listen to them,” he said according to the same JPost report. Arad also noted that the proposed changes need to come slowly by surely, rather than in big steps. “We’re talking about a complicated process,” he said. “We will go by step, doing changes, getting feedback from the patients. It’s very important.”