In the 1960’s, Raphael Mechoulam, a young organic chemist residing in Jerusalem, discovered THC and its endogenous counterpart anandamide. In the 1960’s, as well as today, Israel stands at the forefront of marijuana research. Carrying the legacy of his name, researchers recently named a new strain of marijuana “Rafael”, which is also the name of the archangel of healing. Rafael alleviates many ailments, but does not get you high, which may sound like a bummer to stoners, but for people who need constant marijuana treatment and who may not be interested in spending the rest of their lives in an altered state of consciousness, it’s a Godsend. In a previous post I wrote about how for certain brain chemistries, marijuana can cause confusion, paranoia or depression, now people who suffer those side effects from marijuana can take an oral dose of Rafael to treat themselves with the wonder drug.
Recently Americans have woken up to some pretty strange “coincidences” in the United State’s cannabis policies. While we are happy to report that 25 states have legalized medical marijuana, marijuana is still illegal for medical use in half of the country’s states. The federal government classifies marijuana as a Schedule I substance which means that it is considered to have zero medical benefits. Meanwhile, the government holds the patent on certain medical uses of CBD and are themselves are issuing reports on different medical uses of CBD. Driving the hypocrisy right home, the U.S. greatly limits clinical research on medical pot for universities and other research organizations, making it nearly impossible for scientists to conduct research as they see fit. Take for example, Professor of botany, Lyle Craker of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He applied for a permit from the DEA to study cannabis in 2001. He was denied that year and every single year since because, as the Drug Enforcement Agency put it, it is a controlled substance with zero medical benefits.
Israel, on the other hand, has become a bastion for medical marijuana research. Indeed considered to be the world leader where scientists can research anything they see fit. Due to the discrepancies between the two countries permissiveness when it comes to research, some Physicians have relocated to Israel where the government does not interfere with the integrity of their research. America’s Dr. Alan Shackelford, also known as Dr. Cannabis, is one of these people.
Dr. Shackelford serves as the head of One World Cannabis, an American Israeli merger company that trades on the Nasdaq exchange as OWC Pharmaceutical Research. He says, “There’s definitely a medical benefit, and it’s not highly addictive, and the abuse potential is there. But the abuse potential is there for legal pharmaceuticals, like narcotic pain medicines. And the abuse of narcotics can be dangerous, because people die from overdoses of narcotics. No one has ever died of a cannabis overdose.” He is partially responsible for the swayed public opinion on medical cannabis away from taboo and towards acceptance. OWC is currently working on designing accurately dosed marijuana pills – a project is being funded by Australian company Phytotech. Even though many products are claiming to have specific dosages, that is largely false advertising and is very inconsistent. OWC is researching specific conditions and identifying which cannabinoid profile is best suited for treatment. They hope to provide pharmaceutical grade, consistent dosing forms.
While Israel is currently home to the most advanced marijuana expertise in the world, it is not yet legal to export any medicinal cannabis, even in liquid oral doses. Israel’s climate and know-how could allow it to join the global market alongside Canada and The Netherlands, but with relatively inexpensive exports. The current price of medical cannabis, as dictated by Holland, is 7.8 Euro per gram. Israel could supply it at about 2.6 Euro per gram, that’s about one third the going rate. At present, there are only eight legal marijuana farms growing medical pot in Israel, but that number is expected to grow.
So why isn’t Israel exporting ? While the ministries of health and agriculture are on board, the countries police and army do not want the reputation of ‘international drug dealers’. But while Israel can’t export the green goods themselves, they can export knowledge, by their continuation of the free publishing of much of their medical cannabis research.
Israel has developed industry specific equipment, new strains, and special techniques for growing which controls properties of the plant including the concentration of different active compounds and Israeli growers are often hired as consultants for growers around the world. One Israeli grower, who is considering moving his operation to Europe, said “The medical cannabis market is growing at a fast pace… It’s a market of billions that ought to be taken seriously by the Economy Ministry for its export potential.”
Gastroenterologist Timna Naftali treats patients suffering from Crohn’s disease at Meir Hospital. In 2011 she decided to take a chance and treat 30 patients with medical marijuana. She was skeptical, but “the results were dramatic, They didn’t need steroids or surgery or hospitalization.” In Israel, patients ailed with Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, multiple sclerosis, basal cell carcinoma, Parkinson’s, cancer pain, PTSD for war vets and many more can be treated with marijuana. Patients have their choice of ingestion, ranging from sweet treats like cookies or chocolates to smoking or vaporizing.
In 1992, a person suffering from severe asthma received the first treatment of medical marijuana in Israel. In the last 20 years the number of Israelis being treated with medical marijuana has grown to 20,000 and that number is expected to grow exponentially in coming years as Israeli research reaches new horizons.
Picture – Dr. Allan Shackelford, One World Cannabis