The Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave an initial nod on Sunday for the export of medical cannabis in what could be a windfall for companies in Israel, widely regarded as a leader in research in the field.The initiator of the bill, MK Yoav Kisch (Likud), said the approval of his legislation could boost the Israeli agriculture industry. “Exporting medical cannabis is pushing forward the economy and developing the agricultural sector,” he said. “My bill defines for the first time the whole field of medical cannabis and allows regulating its export.“Only last year Canada and Australia approved exporting medical cannabis and many countries that did so before them are gaining large profits. Israel is expected to gain over a billion NIS from its taxation, according to recent research,” Kisch added.The government statement announcing the vote said it could take months for the legislation to make its way through parliament.In the United States, 28 states have legalized cannabis for medical use and since 2012, Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington have approved marijuana for recreational use. The market there, by some estimates, will reach $50 billion over the next decade.Israel is widely regarded as one of the world leaders in medical cannabis research, even though the local market is small. Only 23,000 people have Health Ministry permits to purchase medical cannabis from nine licensed suppliers, creating a market of $15 million to $20m. at most.Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, a private cannabis research hub in Israel, said there are about 50 medical cannabis companies active in many aspects of the industry in the country, from agriculture to delivery devices, such as inhalers. Kaye estimated that international investments in Israeli companies reached about $100m. in 2016.Last month, Israel moved toward decriminalizing small-scale personal use of cannabis and authorities are supportive of research. Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman supports medical cannabis usage and has introduced steps to ease its prescription and sale.Israeli growers work together with scientific institutions in clinical trials and development of strains that treat a variety of illnesses and disorders.Reuters contributed to this report.