Litzman withdraws support of medical cannabis export, calls it 'shameful'
Joining Public Security Minister Erdan in his opposition to turning Israel into exporter of medical cannabis, Deputy Health Minister Litzman says he will only support the move if revenue goes to Health Ministry, more funds be allocated to preventing it from 'spilling over' to the black market.
After Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan expressed his opposition to the export of medical cannabis, Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman also withdrew his support for the move.
"I think that cannabis is a drug like all other drugs, there is no difference, the public is wrong," Litzman said in an interview on Army Radio. "It's shameful that the State of Israel exports cannabis because it's a drug."
Litzman added that he will remove his objections only if two conditions are fulfilled—a significant portion of the export revenues will be transferred to the health system in Israel and significant manpower will be added to monitor possible leakage of medical cannabis to unauthorized persons.
Last week, a meeting was held with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the export of medical cannabis.
Minister Erdan expressed his opposition, claiming that the cannabis could "spill over" and be sold by criminal elements.
At the same time, despite Erdan's arguments, no cases have been filed in the past year for such incidents.
"Israel is a medical cannabis power, Israeli research in the field precedes all countries of the world in 5 to 7 years. Turning Israel into an exporter of cannabis will first of all make it easier for the sick, provide a livelihood for our excellent farmers and bring in billions into Israel," said Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel.
It is estimated that if Israel approves exports of medical cannabis, it will be able to generate NIS 1 billion to NIS 4 billion a year in profits.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked reiterated Ariel's assertions, stating that "medical cannabis is important to medicine, and to date, there have been 0 indictments concerning spillover from the farms for criminal purposes.
"Israel is the only country in the world that can grow cannabis with a breakthrough clinical method. There is no reason why we should not act for both global medicine and the Israeli economy."
According to estimates by growers and other experts in the industry, the total global market size for medical cannabis is more than NIS 100 billion a year.
Export approval is expected to provide work in agriculture, production and agricultural research, to strengthen Israeli exports and to increase state revenues.
The market size of medical cannabis in countries that have shown an interest in importing medical cannabis from Israel is between NIS 1 billion and NIS 4 billion a year.
Yuval Landschaft, Director of the Israeli Medical Cannabis Agency at the Health Ministry, said this is an "opportunity that comes only once every 50 to 100 years," and stressed that not seizing it is tantamount to "not approving Internet in the nineties."