The push to legalize medical cannabis exports from Israel to other countries was a long road. In late 2019 Israel’s government finally rescinded the moratorium on medical cannabis exports, however, the rescinding of the moratorium only came about after a year-long battle with the Trump administration.
According to several media reports in 2018, then-U.S. President Trump asked then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to prohibit the export of cannabis flower from Israel, which Netanyahu agreed to for a year. Fortunately, the medical cannabis export prohibition did not remain in place throughout both men’s tenure as leaders of their countries.
Of course, both leaders are now out of office and one would have thought that with Israel’s rich cannabis history, largely unparalleled cannabis research, and new laws in place that Israel would have quickly been catapulted to the title of world’s top cannabis exporter. Unfortunately, that has yet to happen nearly two years after exports began.
Israel’s Cannabis Industry Going In The Wrong Direction
Earlier this month a report was released by the Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel. The report analyzed the effect of law reform on Israel’s legal medical cannabis exports. The report found that Israel’s medical cannabis exports were much lower than expected. So low, in fact, that the report estimated that Israel’s medical cannabis exports failed to meet 86% of the Israeli government’s initial export goals.
Israel’s government set specific cannabis export goals via Government Resolution 4490. If the goals were met, it was projected that it would add NIS 4 billion to Israel’s budget. Out of seven actionable items listed in the resolution, over half of them were never followed through on at all. Only 14% of the provisions listed in the resolution were implemented.
To make matters worse, as of July 2020 Israel surpassed Germany as the top importer of medical cannabis on earth. Israel’s medical cannabis industry is literally trending backward. The country importing more cannabis than any other nation is indicative of a greater problem.
The reason why Israel is importing so much cannabis is that there clearly is not enough domestic medical cannabis production, which makes no sense given Israel’s long history as a cannabis policy and research leader. Until Israel can boost its own domestic production, it will never take its rightful place as an international cannabis export powerhouse.
Cannabis Export Changes Are Needed
Under Israel’s current export rules and regulations, essentially only companies with very deep pockets can obtain an export permit. The process to obtain an export license is full of hoop-jumping and fees, which is likely why only one company (Panaxia) has a license so far, giving them a monopoly on all legal cannabis exports. Obviously, the current model is not working.
It is abundantly apparent that Israel needs to further reform its medical cannabis export rules and regulations. The barrier to entry needs to be reduced considerably to make it easier for companies to get in on the action. Until that happens, Israel will always lag behind other countries when it comes to international medical cannabis exports.
Johnny Green is the Media and Content Director for the International Cannabis Business Conference. Upcoming conferences include Berlin (August 25-27), Zurich (August 31-September 1), and Barcelona (October 7).