After years of delays, Israel's medical cannabis industry may finally be allowed to export their products to other countries.
Israel has been at the forefront of medical marijuana research since the 1960s, and the country's open-minded laws have allowed researchers to innovate a number of creative new cannabis products. Lawmakers quickly realized the economic potential of allowing their homegrown pot industry to sell their products overseas, and in 2017 they proposed to legalize the export of medical cannabis products.
Later that year, several Israeli cannabis cultivators broke ground on large-scale grow-ops, in hopes of selling their products internationally. But early in 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu crushed these hopes, blocking the export bill over concerns that Israeli-grown weed would end up on the black market. Regardless, lawmakers persisted with their proposal, and officially legalized medical marijuana exports last December.
The passage of this law renewed foreign investors' interest in the Israeli cannabis industry, but that quickly faded as the prospect of exports was delayed again. At the request of President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu worked to further delay the execution of this law for almost an entire year. This month, these delays may be coming to an end, as the government has finally granted its final approval to the export law.
Israeli medical cannabis firms are now technically allowed to export their products, but there's still a catch. Before international exports are allowed, the local cannabis industry must first be able to meet the domestic demand for medical weed. Unfortunately, there has been a shortage of medical cannabis in Israel ever since one of the country's largest cultivators, Tikun Olam, was temporarily shut down over concerns about its drying process.
Laura Kam, president of Kam Global Strategies, a communications firm with many clients in Israel's cannabis industry, described the current situation to Forbes saying: "There has been significant investment in cannabis farms and technology in Israel over the past several years with the view to export, but due to bureaucratic infighting and now, with a caretaker government that is unable to give the final regulatory nod to export its crops as flower, oil, or in other forms, there is much angst within the Israeli cannabis ecosystem.”
Kam explained that many foreign investors “have decided to invest their funds and technological know-how outside of the country, setting up farms in places like Malta and Uganda and investing in or founding cannabis companies around the world, from Poland to the United States to Australia and elsewhere."
This may all change now that the export moratorium is lifted, but Israeli cannabis firms must still overcome a number of other regulatory hurdles before they can start selling their wares overseas. In order to import goods into Europe, for example, businesses must comply with the Good Manufacturing Practices certified for Europe (Eu-GMP) — and many Israeli cannabis companies are not yet compliant with these complicated regulations.