Photo via U.S. State Department
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has blocked exports of medical marijuana to other countries over growing concerns that some of the product could end up being sold for recreational use. The prime minister reportedly made this decision after meeting with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who urged him to delay these exports due to possible “spillover” of medical cannabis into the black market. Netanyahu has directed the National Economic Council and the Health Ministry to conduct separate studies on the issue before he will approve these exports.
A joint committee of the Israeli health and finance ministries recommended allowing exports of medical cannabis to other countries last year, which they predicted would bring the country as much as $4 billion a year. In response to this decision, many canna-businesses throughout the country opened large-scale grows in hopes of selling their product overseas. But now that exports have been delayed, these companies have to choose between letting their new cannabis crops rot in storage, or selling them off illegally.
Cannabis industry attorney Hagit Weinstock believes that Netanyahu's decision will increase the supply of marijuana available to the black market, not decrease it. Cannabis cultivators “have no other choice because people are growing tons of cannabis,” Weinstock said to the Jerusalem Post. “What are they going to do with it? Are they going to be drug dealers?” The attorney said that she will petition the High Court of Justice against the prime minister's decision. “The ministers are busy scaring the prime minister that the streets of Israel will be covered with marijuana, detached from the reality in which we live where tens of thousands of people smoke and consume marijuana without interruption,” she explained to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
MK Tamar Zandberg, the chairwoman of the Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse, also criticized Netanyahu's decision, calling it “a destructive one stemming from ignorance and fear.” Medical cannabis is “good for the economy, it’s good for agriculture and it’s good for the sick,” Zandberg told Haaretz. “We will live to regret the decision to stop such important progress that Israel has already started making, which will erase the competitive advantage that Israel has developed in the marijuana market that is breaking ground now worldwide.” Zandberg said that she will hold an emergency meeting of her committee to address the issue.
Israel is not the only country scared about legal weed flooding into an illegal black market. U.S. border officials have recently been reaching out to their Canadian compatriots to ensure that none of the Great White North's soon-to-be-legal recreational product will make its way south of the border.