The number of physicians allowed to prescribe medical marijuana will be raised
from nine to 20 by the end of this year, Likud MK Haim Katz said on
Katz, who chairs the Knesset Labor, Social Welfare and Health
Committee, said during a raucaus session that a subcomittee will be formed to
discuss patients groups’ demands to receive medical cannabis more easily to
relieve pain and other side effects of serious illness.
Cannabis is used
by sufferers of chronic ailments, including cancer, multiple sclerosis and
post-traumatic stress disorder to combat pain, insomnia, lack of appetite and
The Health Ministry will receive recommendations from the
subcommittee, while the ministry will provide it with ongoing reports to ensure
that “all patients who need it will get it. If there is a need, we will solve
the problem through legislation.
We want those who deserve it to get it,
while those who are not entitled not to get it.”
There is concern among
the law enforcement authorities that less rigorous control of medical marijuana
could lead to illegal supplies flooding the general market and being obtained
for nonpalliative use.
Health Minister Yael German and ministry
directorgeneral Prof. Ronni Gamzu said that the 11,000 patients who receive
medical cannabis will continue to do so according to existing regulations and
procedures, even if their illnesses are not included in new categories that the
ministry has announced. New patients who have medical conditions not listed as
eligible will have to apply as exceptional cases, and their requests will be
Ministry officials said that this was a temporary procedure
until the use of medical cannabis is arranged officially.
Zandberg (Meretz) and Moshe Feiglin (Likud Beytenu), who has a relative who
needs medical marijuana, said medical specialists should be able to decide
whether patients need cannabis.
“Have you fallen on your heads? It’s
important. It’s vital, and you’re taking it from patients. I don’t know if it’s
lack of sensitivity or evil or other interests,” said the Likud Beytenu
MK Miki Rosenthal (Labor) identified himself as having a condition
that has required him throughout most of his life to use narcotic drugs for
“Because of a small group of people who used it even through they
are not eligible, we have all become suspect in the eyes of the Health Ministry.
It’s terrible!” he declared.
Zvi Hendel, chairman of the Israel Anti-Drug
Authority, said he didn’t want Israel to be the highest-ranking country
per-capita in regards to medical cannabis use.
Many countries have made
it legal, but most of them reversed this position, he said.
personality Avri Gilad said that his father, who suffered from Alzheimer’s
disease, screamed day and night reliving the arrival of the Gestapo at his
“Then I met Alzheimer’s patients who smiled. There is arrogance by
the state that comes and takes from patients’ mouths the medication that helps
them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv University researchers who studied
mice have found that extremely low doses of marijuana’s psychoactive component –
THC or tetrahydrocannabinol – can protect the brain before and after
Although it is a well-known “recreational drug,” extensive
scientific research has been conducted on the therapeutic properties of
marijuana in the last decade.
Prof. Yosef Sarne of TAU’s Adelson Center
for the Biology of Addictive Diseases at the Sackler Faculty of Medicine said
that the drug has neuroprotective qualities as well. He has found that extremely
low doses of THC protect the brain from longterm cognitive damage in the wake of
injury from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), seizures or toxic drugs. Brain damage can
have consequences ranging from mild cognitive deficits to severe neurological
Previous studies focused on injecting high doses of THC within a
very short time frame – about half an hour – before or after
Sarne’s current research, published in the journals Behavioral
Brain Research and Experimental Brain Research, demonstrates that even extremely
low doses of THC – around 1,000 to 10,000 times less than that of a conventional
marijuana cigarette – administered over a week before or one to three days after
injury can “jumpstart” biochemical processes that protect brain cells and
preserve cognitive function over time.
This treatment, especially in
light of the long-term time frame for administration and the low dosage, could
be applicable to many cases of brain injury and be safer over time, Sarne
While performing experiments on the biology of cannabis, Sarne and
his colleagues discovered that low doses of the drug had a big impact on cell
signalling, preventing cell death and promoting growth factors.
finding led to a series of experiments designed to test the neuroprotective
ability of THC in response to various brain injuries.
In the lab, the
researchers injected mice with a single low dose of THC either before or after
exposing them to brain trauma. A control group of mice sustained brain injury
but did not receive the THC treatment.
When the mice were examined three
to seven weeks after initial injury, recipients of the THC treatment performed
better in behavioral tests measuring learning and memory.
The use of THC
can prevent long-term cognitive damage after brain injury, the researchers
One explanation for this effect is pre- and post-conditioning,
whereby the drug causes minute damage to the brain to build resistance and
trigger protective measures in the face of much more severe injury. The low
dosage of THC is crucial to initiating this process without causing too much
initial damage, Sarne said.•