Cannabis in Israel
Cannabis in Israel is illegal but allowed for some specified medical usages. Citizens caught using cannabis in public for the first and second times cannot be arrested if no previous record of Cannabis use, but may face fines ($275 for first timers and $550 for second timers), with the money collected from these fines going to education and rehabilitation programs.
On July 19th 2018 The Israeli Knesset finally approved the bill for decriminalization, although the Israeli Cannabis community insists that this isn’t a real Decriminalization. The law will go into place on April 1st 2019.
A survey in 2017 found that 27% of Israelis between the ages of 18 and 65 had consumed cannabis in the last year, the highest rates of annual cannabis usage in the world, followed by Iceland and the US at 18% and 16% respectively.
THC, the psychoactive chemical component in marijuana that causes a high, was first isolated by Israeli scientists Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem‘s Center for Research on Pain and Yechiel Gaoni of the Weizmann Institute in 1964.
Marijuana for medical use has been permitted in Israel since the early 1990s for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, other chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients can smoke cannabis, ingest it in liquid and caplet form, or apply it to the skin as a balm.
In 2004, the Israeli military began using Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), one of the active ingredients in cannabis, for experimental treatment of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of soldiers.
In 2012 the number of registered patients using medical cannabis was about 10,000. There are eight government-sanctioned cannabis growing operations in Israel, which distribute it for medical purposes to patients who have a license from the Ministry of Health and a prescription from an authorized doctor, via either a company’s store, or in a medical center.
The Tikkun Olam Company has developed a variety of cannabis strains and marijuana-derived products that are reported to provide medical benefits. These products contain different levels of CBD and THC for optimum efficacy, depending on the medical condition they are taken for. CBD is the Cannabis substance that is believed to be an anti-inflammatory ingredient, which helps alleviate pain. THC in low levels does not cause a “high”.  Tikun Olam has now developed a range of 230 different varieties and is considered one of the leading medical cannabis suppliers in the world, while the Israeli-American company Cannabics Pharmaceuticals is aiming to put the medicinal compounds of cannabis into a sustained-release capsule in standardized doses.
In 2017 it was reported that the Israeli medical cannabis industry could soon be worth “hundreds of millions of dollars”, with research innovation in the area being backed by Israel’s Ministry of Health. Currently there are about 26,000 registered medical cannabis users, with the number expected to double by 2018.
In April 2017, with global demand growing, Israel gave medical cannabis companies the green light to start exporting their products, with analyses estimating that the measure could generate Israel some $267 million per year. It was reported that formal legislation was coming but could take months to complete.
An inter-ministerial report said in August 2017 that exports could add 4 billion shekels to the Israeli economy.
Israel is considered to have a climate that is especially good for producing cannabis, with the “perfect level of humidity”, according to Tamir Gedo, the head of BOL Pharma, one of the companies authorized to grow and distribute medical cannabis.
Research and Innovation
Israel is considered a global leader in medical cannabis research and innovation. Research and innovation in the area is supported by the Ministry of Health and currently being dedicated 8 million shekels a year, making Israel one of three countries in the world where cannabis research is sponsored by the government. Cannabis researchers have relocated to Israel to pursue their studies, including entire firms which do their cannabis research in Israel to evade onerous regulations on cannabis research in the US, where it is “easier to research heroin than cannabis”. At least 15 US companies have moved their entire R&D operations onto Israeli soil.
According to iCan, an Israeli company which invests in the local cannabis market, more than 50 U.S. companies are doing cannabis research in Israel, and in 2016 they invested more than $125 million in Israeli cannabis operations.
Before 6 March 2017, cannabis for recreational purposes was illegal. Before March 2017, those charged with public cannabis usage could have faced heavy fines or incarceration, although it was reported that in 2015 the number of arrests that had been made for that law were under 200; The New York Times noted of the previous situation that cannabis usage had long been overlooked by enforcement in Israel, but there was notable enforcement against growers and dealers.
As of 2015[update], most Israeli political parties favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes. Parties represented in the Knesset that supported the legalization of medical marijuana in 2015 include the Zionist Union, the Joint List, Meretz, and Kulanu. The latter two supported decriminalization of the drug altogether. The Green Leaf Party, which had made cannabis legalization its raison d’être, has thus far never won a Knesset seat.
However, in 2017, it was the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, led by Likud and consisting of various right-wing, religious and Sefardi-interest parties that planned to decriminalize cannabis usage. Despite acute tension at the time between left- and the right-wing parties, the initiative was supported in the Knesset by parties across the political spectrum; right-wing Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked remarked that “whether one supports the use of cannabis or is opposed, it is wrong to judge cannabis users per criminal law and its derivatives”, while left-wing Meretz member Tamar Zandberg also applauded the decision, calling it a “message that millions of Israelis who consume cannabis are not criminals” and “an important step but not the end of the road”, while Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said it marked a change in policy toward a rehabilitation oriented approach.
Cannabis usage remains illegal and those found using it in public could face fines or, after the fourth offense, incarceration; offenses before the fourth result in fines which go towards education and rehabilitation efforts and do not result in criminal records; the third offense results in mandatory participation in rehabilitation programs. Enforcement appears to be lax unless cannabis consumption occurs in public, high-visibility places. Israel’s liberal stance on cannabis stands in contrast to the rest of the Middle East region where in some countries “drug trafficking” is still punishable with death.
In April 2017, it was reported that Israel’s government was considering further liberalization of laws concerning recreational usage. In November 2017, it was reported that Israeli Ministry of Health considering to withdraw its objection to making CBD component of cannabis legal. 
On April 20, 2018, Israeli pharmacies began selling cannabis oil legally under a pilot program.
In 2013, Hagai Bar Giora, an Israeli rabbi and member of the Kashrut Department, stated in an interview with Israel’s Cannabis magazine that “if you smoke it, there is no problem whatsoever.” Bar Giora noted that cannabis seeds, being legumes, are not kosher for Passover for Ashkenazi Jews, but are for Sefardic Jews who permit eating legumes on Passover.
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