Israel, a Medical Marijuana Pioneer, Is Eager to Capitalize

Article by Isabel Kershner, New York Times

Israeli scientists began their pioneering research to isolate the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana with a 10-pound stash seized by the Tel Aviv police. That effort, in the 1960s, helped propel Israel to the vanguard of research into the plant’s medicinal properties and lay the foundations for a medical marijuana industry.

Now the nation’s burgeoning pot business, backed by an unlikely coalition of farmers, lawyers, scientists, entrepreneurs and the country’s ultra-Orthodox health minister, is going mainstream — and eyeing markets abroad.

Marijuana, or cannabis, is still classified as a dangerous drug in Israel and remains illegal for recreational purposes. But the government is also at the forefront of efforts to develop and expand the fast-growing medical marijuana industry and make Israel a major center for it.

The Volcani Center, the Ministry of Agriculture’s research organization, is building a national institute for medical marijuana research. The chief scientist’s office of the Ministry of Economy has infused millions of shekels into innovative marijuana companies, much as government investment helped fuel the Israeli tech boom in the 1990s. The government is also setting standards for the cultivation, storage and use of medical marijuana.

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