Yohai Gild is on a mission to prove to Israelis how useful cannabis can be. And if he can make a living from it, all the better.
The son of Peace Now founder Prof. Galia Golan, Gild has spent the last decade growing marijuana for medical purposes in California, and returned home last year to found the company PharmoCann Ltd. and spread his knowledge as one of the Health Ministry's four licensed pot growers.
"Until last month, I was growing it in my mother's house in Ra'anana, in a little apartment downstairs. But around a month ago, we moved to a facility near Eilat which houses about 20 dunams of greenhouses," says Gild, who estimates that he's grown and donated approximately NIS 1 million worth of cannabis to the medical marijuana program.
Not entirely altruistic, Gild hopes that one day he'll be paid for his work if the medical marijuana program grows and retail centers are set up in various locations in the country, like in California, where patients with prescriptions can purchase cannabis in a similar fashion to a pharmacy counter.
"Because there aren't any centers set up here to distribute the medicine to the patients, I need to personally travel and deliver it to each patient. This has created a situation where the patients do not receive their medication on time, and for them, this time passes in pain," says Gild.
In addition, PharmoCann is banking on the likelihood that scientific research in cannabis studies will increase in the coming years, and universities and hospitals will pay for the quality-controlled, high-grade marijuana he's growing.
"It's an exact math. We create a very stable and exact cannabis, every time it's with the same makeup and same medical background. Each plant has its own dossier to make sure the patient is receiving the same product each time," says Gild, who regularly sends samples to the Hadassah laboratory of Prof. Raphael Mechoulam to test the potency levels of the plants.
"A patient gets used to a certain kind of cannabis. After a couple of weeks, he won't get as high any more, but it's still helping him. That's the required effect. If you change the potency, they're likely to start getting stoned again. But their objective is to not puke after chemo, not to get high," he says, adding that from the day the plants begin growing via cloning special medical strains he's imported from California until the day it's consumed by the user takes three months.
While Gild's mother funded the first six months of marijuana growing, Gild recently received assistance from a benefactor - the US-based Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which has been supporting medical marijuana research since 1986.
The $15,000 grant he received from MAPS as well as additional funding from a private donor has enabled Gild to establish his southern greenhouses and increase his marijuana production to a projected goal of supplying 500 patients over the next two years.
In addition PharmoCann is working on producing organic cannabis oil tinctures that can be used as a substitute for smoking for patients who prefer not to - or cannot - inhale smoke or vapors from a vaporizer.