Israel has the highest rate of medical marijuana use in the world, data presented during a recent Knesset discussion reveal, indicating also that the industry is plagued with severe violations.
According to the data, the drug often finds its way to the hands of criminals and cannabis fields are poorly secured. Moreover, the police is restricted in addressing these and other related issues due to the lack of set laws.
Officials speaking at the Knesset's Committee on Drug Abuse session blamed the chaos on the lack of a government body to deal with medical marijuana. Two years ago, the government decided to from such an agency, with the Health Ministry asserting that the body should be headed by a nurse. Dr. Bareket Schiff-Keren, a pain management specialist, appealed the ministry's assertion, and the decision was put on hold pending an inquiry.
A timeframe is yet to be set for the creation of the authority.
Growing fields insufficiently secured (Illustration photo)
Schiff-Keren said at the Knesset that per capita, Israel has the highest number of medical marijuana users in the world, but added that the disorderly nature of the industry must be curbed.
The police have learned recently that a large number of the marijuana fields aren't up to par with the required standards. The fields are often located near public sites, including parks and malls, and are protected by nothing more than low fences.
Moreover, Eyal Zilberman, a spokesman for the police, said that the ready product is contained in an inadequately-secured storage facility.
"For two years we have been sending letters and warning the Health Ministry that these places should be closed, but nothing has happened," he said.
15 tons of pot disappear annually
The police estimate that roughly 15 tons of marijuana disappear from the growing fields each year, reaching criminals and others who aren't premitted to use it. But the officers are unauthorized to enforce the issue. The police stressed that in order to bolster the security around the drug, it should be imported, instead of being grown locally.
Liat Benny, who heads a foundation promoting medical marijuana, claimed that the industry is insufficiently regulated, and that the growers do not undergo training.
"The Health Ministry's conduct is medically negligent," she said.
According to Professor Yehuda Baruch, a psychiatrist who heads the Health Ministry's dealings with the drug, the slack regulations could legitimize the illegal use of marijuana in Israel.
Hagay Hillman, a medical marijuana grower, told the Knesset's Committee on Drug Abuse that any requests for counsel filed with the Health and Agriculture ministries have gone unaddressed.
MK Talab El-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al) concluded during the session that the committee is to investigate the issue and tour a marijuana field in the coming months.
"The State of Israel definitely can and should be a global model for dealing with medical marijuana," he said. "If the Health Ministry sees fit to complain that the growing is unregulated and might lead to the legitimization of illegal marijuana use, it certainly shouldn't ignore the police reports that the fields aren't up to par."