Who are the former public officials cashing in from medical cannabis?

In Israel, the increasingly common retirement resort for public officials appears to be the country's growing, profitable medical cannabis industry.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Police Chief Yohanan Danino (photo credit: REUTERS/GALI TIBBON/POOL)
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks with Police Chief Yohanan Danino
After dedicating decades to serving their country, former prime ministers, senior politicians and leading public officials across the world often spend their retirement from public life in the nonprofit sector, writing books and delivering lucrative after-dinner speeches.
In Israel, however, the increasingly common retirement resort for public officials appears to be the country’s growing, profitable medical cannabis industry.
The government’s long-anticipated decision last month to approve exports of home-grown medical cannabis to the booming worldwide legal market could mean big money for Israel’s cannabis producers. All they need is someone who can open the right doors to the right deals.
One former politician set to enjoy the fruits of future exports is a regularly vocal critic of the current government, former prime minister Ehud Barak.
In September, Israeli medical cannabis and therapeutic company InterCure appointed Barak as its new chairman.
Barak will be responsible for managing global growth strategy and the development of international business at InterCure, which acquired medical cannabis company Canndoc shortly before appointing the former prime minister.
While Barak will earn $10,000 per month for approximately 40 hours of work, he will also benefit from a share-option scheme worth up to 5% of the company.
Listed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, InterCure’s share price has more than doubled from approximately NIS 500 to more than NIS 1,250 in the last month alone.
Since his departure from the frontlines of Israeli politics in early 2013, Barak has focused on his portfolio of business interests. He is also chairman of Carbyne, a national emergency communication platform. In July, cybersecurity startup Toka, which he co-founded, raised $12.5m. in funding, only two months after it was founded.
Earlier this week, former Israel Police chief Yohanan Danino joined Barak in the medical cannabis market when he was appointed by Together Pharma as the company’s new chairman.
Similarly tasked with opening doors for deals, Danino will lead the company’s international business development, recruit investors and promote collaboration agreements with global players in the medical cannabis field.
He will also dedicate 40 monthly hours to the company, earning approximately $10,000 for his efforts in addition to 1.5% equity in the company and a further 3% in stock options.
Danino initially made a name for himself in the police as commander of the Investigations and Operations Branch, overseeing high-profile investigations into former prime minister Ehud Olmert, former president Moshe Katsav and former finance minister Avraham Hirchson.
In his final year as police chief in 2015, more than 20,000 people were arrested for drug use as well as a further 10,000 for possessing drugs not intended for personal use. Yet, only weeks before leaving the force, he surprised many by calling on the government to reevaluate its long-held stance regarding recreational cannabis use.
And while the Knesset decriminalized cannabis use for almost all Israeli citizens in July, Danino said legislators can still do more.
“I expressed my opinion on recreational cannabis use while I was in uniform,” Danino told financial daily Globes this week.
“I am not in favor of full legalization, but am in favor of greater decriminalization than has been done today.”
Since hanging up his blue police uniform for the final time four years ago, Danino has served as chairman of the Migdal Insurance Company and as a senior adviser to McKenzie. He also serves as a senior consultant for technology and cyber companies including Black Cube and SOSA NYC, and as chairman of CyberD.
Although operating somewhat more quietly, Israeli media revealed last month that a third former public official has been involved in the medical cannabis industry.
Dan Naveh, a former Likud Knesset member and health minister from 2003 to 2006, has reportedly served for five years as the inactive chairman of Tel Aviv-headquartered Better, currently merging with Tel Aviv Stock Exchange-traded shell company Whitesmoke.
Since leaving politics in February 2007, Naveh has established healthcare venture capital company Agate Medical Investments, and has served as chairman of Clal Insurance since June 2013.
As the legal cannabis market continues to expand, we are likely to see more politicians – not only Israelis – joining the industry leadership.
In recent months, former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney, former US speaker of the house John Boehner and former Massachusetts governor William Weld have all joined the advisory board of British Columbia-based cannabis investor Acreage Holdings.