Health Minister Yael German (Yesh Atid) is due to present a proposal to the
government to create order in the production, supply and authorization of
medical cannabis to patients with serious diseases, on Sunday.
grown for medical purposes in Israel and abroad, is provided by eight suppliers,
and is known to relieve pain and other severe symptoms from certain
However, its efficacy has not yet been scientifically proven,
and it carries with it several risks.
The law enforcement authorities are
concerned about transfer of the legal medical cannabis to criminal elements and
recreational users, whereas the Israel Medical Association is concerned about
patients trying to take advantage of doctors for access to the drug.
Health Ministry is adding manpower – nine additional physicians to the present
21 doctors who approve use – and funding to its Jerusalem-based unit for
supervising the use of medical marijuana and trying to reduce red tape and
Instead of a maximum fiveweek wait to get a request considered by
a psychiatrist at Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam – as it was
previously – the ministry says it aims to decide on the eligibility of
terminally ill patients within 48 hours and within a week for cancer patients on
In addition, the whole process of authorization, says the
ministry, will become more transparent. Its website – www.health.gov.il – will
supply information such as criteria for obtaining medical marijuana and other
data for all to see.
Yuval Lanschaft won a public tender a few months ago
to head the unit and is based at the ministry’s headquarters in
Lanschaft and his staff send SMS messages to applicants’
cellphones, the ministry says, instead of forcing them to call Bat Yam for hours
at a time waiting for a response.
Another reform to be proposed at the
cabinet meeting next week is to sever the connection between the suppliers of
marijuana to the patients.
Previously, would-be recipients had to be in
direct contact with the suppliers – led by Tikun Olam, which provides 25 percent
of the supply – this connection will be cut, and doses of cannabis will be
obtained at pharmacies (probably private ones and not those owned by the health
The Israel Police will supervise the transfer and supply of the
drug in the pharmacies so as to prevent criminal use of the drug, the ministry
Social Affairs and Health Committee chairman MK Haim Katz (Likud)
strongly criticized German, on Thursday, claiming that she “wants to destroy
medical cannabis use and to hurt patients who need help.”
He said that
German’s proposal is “scandalous and pushed through quickly to benefit one
private company without issuing a public tender.”
Katz also claimed that
if it becomes law, the proposal would retain control of the process and be able
to turn down desperate patients’ requests despite recommendations of medical
specialists that the drug be provided.
German’s spokeswoman said that the
minister “cares deeply about the welfare of patients and that the proposal will
improve the situation, bringing about more efficiency and transparency. In
addition she said, “not all patients want cannabis.”
Some 2,000 of them
have said that they prefer nabiximols (commercially known as Sativex), a
patented cannabinoid oromucosal mouth spray developed by a UK company for
multiple sclerosis patients – who can use it to alleviate neuropathic pain,
spasticity, overactive bladder, and other symptoms.
This product reduces
pain and other symptoms, much like marijuana, without providing users with a
“high,” German’s spokeswoman said.