A worker carries sacks of newly harvested cannabis plants at a plantation near Nazareth.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
A group of 10 farmers interested in growing medical marijuana recently filed a petition to the Jerusalem District Court, demanding that the Health Ministry increase the licenses available for producing the crop.
Although a government decision was made on the subject in December 2013, officials have still failed to issue licenses for those looking to begin growing cannabis for medical purposes, the farmers argued in their petition.
Because they have not yet been able to join the industry, the farmers said that damage is being caused to themselves, to those patients who may need the marijuana, and to the principle of fair competition.
According to government decision 1050, which was approved on December 15, 2013, the ministry was assigned to serve as the government agency responsible for regulating medical marijuana. In this role, the ministry was tasked with streamlining all issues related to the substance’s growth and distribution, including the dispensation of licenses for the plant’s cultivation, in collaboration with other relevant ministries and agencies.
In their petition, which was filed to court on Thursday by attorney Chagit Winestock, the farmers explained that today there are only eight medical marijuana growers, and it remains entirely unclear as to how these farmers procured their licenses. The number of authorized medical marijuana users in Israel, meanwhile, already amounts to 22,000 and is expected to continuing rising due to the potential health benefits of the substance, they wrote in the petition.
The current situation, without proper monitoring or supervision, leads to a much lesser quality plant, the farmers said.
Winestock submitted the petition one day after the High Court of Justice ordered the government to reconsider its current cannabis program.
“It is clear to all that a small group of growers and marketers cannot meet the needs of so many, and that there is a public interest in developing the industry,” a spokesman for the group of farmers said.
The farmers are demanding that the government act upon its December 2013 decision and issue additional licenses without delay.
“Exercising the decision will create a new source of income and livelihood worth hundreds of millions of shekels, including in periphery areas, and would benefit the situation of the consumers,” the spokesman said.
In response, the Health Ministry said that the petition was not yet received, and it would be dealt with accordingly once it is in fact in the ministry's hands.