Marijuana plants are seen in a MedReleaf facility..
(photo credit: ALEXANDER REPETSKI)
A number of farmers who would like to become legal cannabis growers petitioned the Jerusalem District Court on Sunday to force the state to make a decision on licensing requirements.
Currently, there are eight approved cannabis-growing companies in Israel. The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Hagit Weinstock, complain that the companies were chosen years ago without a tender, and that farmers who want to enter the market are finding themselves at a dead-end.
In a previous session, the court ordered the Ministerial Committee for Legislation to lay out guidelines for obtaining a grower’s license by May 22. The deadline came and went like smoke.
Oren Lebovich, chairman of the Aleh Yarok (“Green Leaf”) political party and editor-inchief of Israeli Cannabis Magazine, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that much of the legislative delay was likely due to a few clauses regarding the export of cannabis.
“[Exports] will be worth hundreds of millions of shekels, but the health minister isn’t ready to approve exports until reforms are in place [domestically],” Lebovich said.
One reason for the delay, he said, was the Health Ministry’s “backwards” approach in which it bases the number of approved growers on the number of patients actually using medical marijuana, instead of surveying the demand. He said that based on the number of current patients, the government feels there is insufficient demand.
“Instead of finding out the demand and then creating the product, [the ministry] thinks there needs to be enough sick people for it,” he said.
Although Israel is one of the leaders in medical cannabis research, Lebovich lamented that Israel lagged behind other countries in creating legal outlines for its use, both medical and recreational.
“It’s unfortunate that the State of Israel doesn’t understand the financial potential in this field,” he said, noting that it could bring an estimated $1.6 billion into the economy while bringing relief to the many people, young and old, who suffer from a variety of illnesses treated with cannabis.
“Every small delay sets us back greatly,” he said.
Lebovich called on the government to follow the court’s order and convene a serious roundtable discussion on the issue that would include the Health Ministry, companies that are already licensed, potential companies and members of the public.
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