Farmers Fight to Cultivate Medical Marijuana in Israel

Farmers Fight to Cultivate Medical Marijuana in Israel

There are more than 22,000 residents of Israel currently authorized to use medicinal marijuana. However, there are only eight cultivators licensed to farm the plant. The Health Ministry has been slow to issue licenses, says a group of 10 farmers, despite a December 2013 ruling that was supposed to streamline the process.

In a petition filed recently, the farmers assert that the inaction of the Health Ministry is causing a multitude of problems for Israelis. Among them is the business hardship for farmers, a lack of a quality product for patients, and an inability for those in the industry to actively engage in fair competition.

Government decision 1050 gave the Health Ministry the power to set guidelines and regulate the booming medical marijuana industry. The intent was to streamline all efforts related to plant cultivation and distribution through collaboration by the Health Ministry and other agencies.

The farmers claim that this “streamlining” never occurred and that while eight Israeli farmers currently hold licenses to grow cannabis, it is uncertain as to how they were secured. Furthermore, those eight farmers are not going to be able to effectively supply and support the country’s skyrocketing number of medical marijuana patients.

A worker carries sacks of newly harvested cannabis plants at a plantation near Nazareth

A spokesman for the group of farmers stated:

“It is clear to all that a small group of growers and marketers cannot meet the needs of so many, and that there is a public interest in developing the industry.”

The farmers are additionally concerned that the lack of supervision and inadequate regulation of the medical marijuana industry spell trouble for the patients who rely on the substance for its medicinal properties. They argue that without standardization, the quality of the product, and therefore its medicinal abilities, will be negatively affected without necessary intervention.

Of the farmers’ urge for licenses to be issued immediately, the spokesman continued:

“Exercising the decision will create a new source of income and livelihood worth hundreds of millions of shekels, including in periphery areas, and would benefit the situation of the consumers.”

The Health Ministry has yet to issue an official response as of press time, citing that they have yet to receive the petition and will review it and respond accordingly once they have access to it in its entirety.

photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

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