As if further proof was needed that the marijuana business is big not just here in Long Beach, but globally too, the Los Angeles Times in May profiled how Israel is making strides into the cannabis industry too.
The country sees legal production of medicine based on cannabis as its next big industry, hoping to tap into a global market that research organizations estimate at $17 billion a year and growing.
Israel has emerged as one of the world’s leading research centers for medical uses of cannabis, according to industry experts.
Unlike here in California, where the boom in medical marijuana has been a pathway to legalization for recreational use, Israel allows production for pharmacological purposes only.
There are several factors that make Israel especially well-positioned to capitalize on the drug’s medical promise.
Blessed with mild weather, lots of sunshine and sophisticated research-and-development sectors, Israel also has a tradition of educated farmers through the kibbutz system who can easily implement the “precision agriculture” necessary for high production standards.
Israelis have dedicated thousands of acres and millions of dollars to cultivating the plant under controlled conditions. Potential investors from as far away as China are visiting Israel to explore opportunities, which so far include nearly 100 start-ups producing cannabis-based medicines and other products.
Researchers say the Israeli government has given enthusiastic support to the industry for decades. Medical marijuana was legalized for use with a prescription in 1973, and this year, the government voted to permit exportation of the drug, opening up a global market for Israeli producers.
Medical cannabis is one of the fastest growing sectors on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange; 26 listed companies have a combined value equivalent to $952 million.
Israel, along with Canada, is at the forefront of cannabis research and development, outpacing the United States. The regulations for clinical trials in Israel are more relaxed, which also speeds up the development of cannabis-based drugs.
Inside the country’s cannabis greenhouses, conditions are strictly monitored. The farmers who tend the plants and the workers who handle and process the flowers, leaves and stems wear white lab coats, hair covers and blue latex gloves, and must clean their shoes before entering. So do visitors. The plants do not touch the ground.