Israel, A Cannabis Pioneer, Takes First Steps To Decriminalizing Weed

By: Kathleen McLean

Starting in the 1960’s Israel has been a pioneer in cannabis research. It’s a tiny country, approximately the size of New Jersey; it’s the home of Tikun Olam, one of the largest cannabis companies in Israel. It claims to have one of the most extensive medical patient databases in the world. The company currently has several research programs including medical cannabis for childhood cancer and autistic children.

Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Harvard-trained physician, and medical marijuana specialist, was based in Colorado. He became frustrated by federal restrictions on cannabis research and relocated to Israel in 2014. He has since moved back to the States looking for funding for additional studies. He was quoted as saying, “Unlike the U.S government, the Israeli government has had few restrictions on cannabis research, whether basic science or clinical studies.” He also noted that Israel “is leading the world by instituting government policies that make it possible to conduct scientific investigations into the potential medical uses of cannabis with a minimum of restrictions and with sensible regulations and by not putting roadblocks in the way of conducting legitimate  research.”

Israeli media say the Prime Minister has approved a measure that would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana. People who are caught smoking marijuana would pay a fine rather than be met with jail times. The Prime Minister believes a new enforcement policy should be drawn up in a cautiously controlled manner.

Growing and selling marijuana, which is widely used in Israel both recreationally and medicinally, would remain illegal.