• Laura Herschlag

Assessing Israel's Medical Cannabis Program

Updated: Jun 8

Israel is considered one of the most advanced medical cannabis markets in the world. This distinction is based on several factors, among them:

  • Israel is a pioneer in the field as one of the earliest adopters to treat patients with medical cannabis.

  • Israel is the site of groundbreaking research that led to the discovery of the endocannabinoid system as well as other significant scientific breakthroughs.

  • Over the years, medical professionals have acquired a great deal of knowledge regarding treatment of patients.

Let's take a look at some of the numbers:

The rules and regulations concerning Israel's medical cannabis program are encompassed in a document titled Procedure 106 that was published by Israel's Medical Cannabis Unit (the YAKAR) and is updated as needed. The most recent update was in January 2021. Currently, medical indications that warrant a medical cannabis license fall under the categories of oncology, gastroenterology, pain, infectious disease, neurology, palliative care, and psychiatric conditions. Within these categories is a wide range of conditions such as Crohn's disease, colitis, neuropathic pain, AIDS, Parkinson's disease, muscular dystrophy, end of life care, PTSD, and, of course, various forms of epilepsy.

Prior to the current version of Israel's medical cannabis program, known as the Reform, a doctor had to submit an application to the YAKAR for their patients. This process was time consuming and led to significant delays for patients to receive treatment. Frequently applications were denied and had to be resubmitted, extending patients' discomfort and pain.

The Reform introduced training for doctors to be approved by the Ministry of Health to issue a license directly to the patient. Doctors who are not approved to issue a license may submit a request to the YAKAR as in the previous version of the program.

Over 40 specializations and sub-specializations are represented by the 109 doctors approved to issue licenses. Many of these doctors acquired years of experience treating patients with medical cannabis. Their knowledge has contributed greatly to the collective wisdom among the medical community and to the development of Israel's program.

In Israel, products are dispensed at 142 pharmacies that are licensed to dispense cannabis for medical purposes. Israel's largest pharmacy chain, Super Pharm, has 61 licensed dispensaries. The rest are largely privately owned pharmacies. Products are available in the form of whole flower, ground flower, pre-rolled cigarettes, and sublingual oils. Treatments for children may include cookies.

Israel's medical cannabis program has evolved over the years and continues to evolve to meet the needs of patients and the expectations of medical professionals. Israel's doctors are among the most knowledgeable in the world regarding the use of cannabis to treat a wide and diverse variety of medical conditions. While there is room for improvement, in comparison to other parts of the world, Israel is clearly at the forefront of building the foundations for a successful medical cannabis program.

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