Cannabis reform freeze: Court 'irresponsible, demagogic'

Following a petition submitted by the Medical Cannabis Association, the High Court of Justice issued an interim order temporarily freezing reforms to the supply of medical cannabis in Israel.

An employee checks cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel March 21, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
An employee checks cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel March 21, 2017
(photo credit: REUTERS/NIR ELIAS)
A High Court order to temporarily freeze the Health Ministry’s medical cannabis reforms left the state’s highest court in the “most demagogic and irresponsible place,” according to the CEO of one of Israel’s leading medical cannabis companies.
“Unfortunately, the court received a distorted and partial picture of reality, due to the manner in which the petition was field and the procedure was conducted,” Meir Ariel, CEO of Or Akiva-headquartered Bazelet Group, told The Jerusalem Post.
“Now, instead of quality material getting to patients, we are likely to see a surge in black market supply. I respect the court and am careful with my language, but the judges have fallen here to the most demagogic and irresponsible place.”

Following a petition submitted by the Medical Cannabis Association, the High Court of Justice issued an interim order on Thursday temporarily freezing reforms to the supply of medical cannabis in Israel, notably concerning the issue of price control between patients and suppliers.
According to the decision reached by the court, pharmacies and private suppliers will be required to return to a previous regulation limiting the sale of medical cannabis to license-holders for a maximum of NIS 370 per prescription, regardless of the quantity received.
In recent months, with the rollout of the reform by the Health Ministry’s Medical Cannabis Unit, prices of medical cannabis soared by hundreds of shekels as patients were required to purchase quantities directly from suppliers, via local pharmacies.
The decision will be effective from December 15 until the end of March, or until a further judicial ruling is delivered by the court.
“Talk about concern for patients? Someone here fell on his head,” said Ariel. “In the name of the ‘holy’ war over the price, what will happen now is that patients will receive cannabis that was not tested in the laboratory, which has not been monitored for pesticide use or another thousand quality control processes.”
Bazelet Group, the processor of cannabis grown by four out of eight legal farms in Israel, is the owner of a GMP-compliant manufacturing facility with the capacity to serve 100,000 patients. The construction cost of the 1,200-sq.m. facility exceeded NIS 100 million.
The group, which serves tens of thousands of patients every month with a wide range of cannabis products, consists of four pharmaceutical companies: Bazelet Pharma, Bazelet Nehushtan, Bazelet Technologies and Bazelet Know-How.
“In no country in the world is there a system of price control yet no limit on the quantity of grams,” said Ariel. “It is a crooked Israeli invention that was born in sin and there is no place to uphold it.”
The objective of the reforms, the ministry states, is to “medicalize” the field of medical cannabis in Israel and improve accessibility to licensing, occupation, research and procurement of the drug.
Rising prices led to the Medical Cannabis Association, established in 2016 to advance the rights of patients, to petition the High Court in March to freeze the reform. The association and the Health Ministry will return to the court on January 5 for an additional hearing.
Among other questions posed by the court ahead of next month’s hearing, the Health Ministry will be required to answer: “Why not set maximum prices for medical cannabis products?”
“I welcome the decision of the High Court on Thursday, which extended the previous regulation until March 2020,” Adv. Yasmin Mizrahi, who represented the Medical Cannabis Association, told Army Radio on Sunday. “In effect, the High Court maintains the therapeutic continuity of patients and protects them, something the Health Ministry was meant to do but failed.”
In a statement following the High Court’s decision, the Health Ministry said it had received the decision and would act to implement it.
“In fact, Justice Melcer emphasizes the importance of the price issue, something that the ministry is working on and supporting,” the ministry said. “The decision [on Thursday] advances the issue and obligates the [interministerial] pricing committee to make a decision.”