Israel: The Epicenter of Cannabis Research and Innovation
Israel is an OG when it comes to the marijuana game.
Published on March 28, 2016

When you think of cannabis and innovation, Israel likely doesn't come to mind. But as we've recently highlighted here on MERRY JANE, Israel is advanced when it comes to cannabis-related exploration.

Last week marked the second annual CannaTech conference, an international summit dedicated to accelerating cannabis innovation.

The three-day event held in the capital city of Tel Avi featured courses on Israel's so-called 'Green Rush' including entrepreneurship, best practices in growing and research on the region's unique relationship with cannabis. It’s easy to see Israel quickly becoming a hub for the global cannabis community - and rightfully so.

Often regarded as the world’s leading and foremost cannabis researcher, Raphael Mechoulam was the keynote speaker at CannaTech.

Mechoulam began researching cannabis (primarily CBD) in the 1960s. He soon was able to isolate cannabis’s primary psychoactive and euphoria inducing compound, THC.

His findings enabled both himself and fellow scientists to synthesize CBD and THC, paving the way to decades of pharmaceutical research and clinical trials on the efficacy and side effects of primary cannabinoids.

Today, this intersection of cannabis plant medicine and pharmaceutical research is opening the door for biopharmaceutical companies to emerge - and nearly everything is rooted in Israel.

Since the drug war began, the U.S. Government has made it notoriously difficult to research cannabis here in the States while the Israeli government has had a proactive stance on cannabis research since Mechoulam’s early days.

Israel doesn’t view cannabis with the stigma and staunch propaganda lens we see here in the U.S. That’s why American companies turn to Israeli researchers and organizations — and now Mechoulam works with some of the top U.S. companies developing cannabinoid drugs and products.

The California firm Kalytera had a profound presence at this year’s CannaTech, where Mechoulam is the head of research.

Piggybacking off of Mechoulam’s early works synthesizing cannabinoids, Kalytera seeks to create new and improved cannabis biopharmaceuticals.

According to their website: "By making systematic, incremental modifications to cannabinoid molecules, and molecules which regulate the endogenous cannabinoid signaling system, Kalytera intends to eliminate psychoactive properties, reduce or eliminate other unwanted side effects, and advance cannabinoid and cannabinoid-modulating medicines that target specific receptors, allowing for improved drug specificity in each proposed indication.”

Other presenters at CannaTech included Syqe Medical, an Israeli startup that aims to sell the world's first metered-dose pharmaceutical grade medical marijuana inhaler.

Doctor-prescribed joints might one day become a relic of the past if cannabis technology venture Syqe Medical Ltd. has its way.," the Wall Street Journal recently exclaimed of the startup.

It’s interesting to note Syqe just secured $20 million dollars in funding from big-tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

Even the U.S. government depends on Israel for medical marijuana research. The NIH, which rarely grants funding to offshore research projects, has been funding Mechoulam’s research for nearly 50 years.

The list of illnesses cannabis may be used to treat continues to grow globally year after year including PTSD, Multiple Sclerosis, migraines, cancer, nausea, you name it. As we see the expansion of new recreational markets here in the U.S. in states like Oregon, Alaska, Washington, we also see the purely medicinal side growing exponentially.

With government funding, big-tobacco, and even big-pharma entering the race - cannabis is on the precipice of a global maelstrom. And just like any other business, the product's consumers and patients see in the marketplace depend largely on the abilities of their CEOs and founders to secure financing and trade agreements.

Israel’s three day festival of “Cannabis Innovation” is a peek into the epicenter of this new cannabis frontier. What will come next depends largely on new federal and state regulations worldwide. For now, buy the ticket, take the ride.

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Zoe Wilder
Zoe Wilder is a media relations professional and business consultant orbiting cannabis, tech, wellness, music, art, wine and spirits. For 17 years, Zoe has worked with hundreds of clients across a variety of industries to develop and execute inventive promotional content and campaigns that capture the attention of tastemakers and influencers from around the globe.
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