Future of medical marijuana in Israel up for gov’t debate

Government expected to decide on establishing a state agency which will be responsible for authorizing, processing requests for medical cannabis.

311_Marijuana (photo credit: MCT)
(photo credit: MCT)
In two weeks, the government will decide whether to establish a state agency responsible for the authorization and processing of requests for medical marijuana for relieving patients with pain that responds to no other treatment.
At a conference on Wednesday at Hadassah-University Hospital, Ein Kerem, Dr. Yehuda Baruch, a psychiatrist at the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam who has in the last two years single-handedly been responsible for the matter, predicted the number of authorizations could reach 40,000 in five years.
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Currently, only 6,000 patients a year request and receive medical marijuana.
The event was attended by Health Ministry officials, doctors and Hebrew University’s Prof. Raphael Mechoullam, the researcher who discovered the structure of the active ingredient in cannabis that relieves chronic pain.
There is debate in the government over whether to allow local, supervised growers to continue growing it or to import high-quality marijuana.
The process must be strictly supervised to prevent marijuana from “leaking out” to drug users who have not been authorized to use it.
Most of the patients suffer from cancer, multiple sclerosis and other diseases involving serious chronic pain.
Prof. Elyad Davidson, head of Hadassah’s pain unit, said clinical studies have shown long-term side effects from medical cannabis-use are controversial and not clear.
Among the possible effects are addiction, psychosis and “gradiating” to more serious drugs. It is still not known, said Davidson, whether new forms of taking medical cannabis, including in the form of oil and cookies – are as effective as conventional means, such as smoking it.