The Israeli Agriculture Ministry has classified medical cannabis as an official farming sector, the first official new crop recognized by the government in a decade. Under this new classification, between 15 and 20 cannabis farmers will gain access to government aid and grants, as well as training in crop growing. Ministry officials calculated that cannabis growing is only profitable on larger farms, where a farmer has at least 0.4 hectares to dedicate to cannabis plants.
“The use of cannabis for medical purposes is relatively new in Israel and worldwide, and its status is still controversial,” ministry officials said. “Dealing and using cannabis is still illegal in most of the world’s countries, but it appears that the use of cannabis for medical purposes is gaining popularity in many countries, and an increasing number of studies are confirming the positive effects of cannabis, while showing its risks and damage.”
The Ministry also allocated over $2 million to 13 new biochemical studies to research better methods for growing medical cannabis. “The studies are enabling researchers to conduct basic and applied research, and to develop tools and research infrastructure for the next generation of medical cannabis products,” officials said. The Agriculture Ministry projects that the market for Israeli cannabis exports will bring in between $250 million to $1 billion per year.
Meanwhile, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has initiated legislation to decriminalize recreational cannabis use throughout the country. The new legislation would fine users busted with 15 grams or less of non-medical cannabis instead of arresting them. Adult offenders would get “four strikes” before any criminal proceedings were brought against them. “We are promoting this policy as an important step forward, which will enable us to shift the emphasis from criminal enforcement to measures of education and public awareness,” Erdan said.