Israel gives final go-ahead for cannabis exports

Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen gives his final approval for the export of medical cannabis.

al-monitor An employee tends to medical cannabis plants at Pharmocann, an Israeli medical cannabis company in northern Israel, Jan. 24, 2019.  Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen.

May 13, 2020

Israel will soon begin granting licenses to companies wanting to export cannabis abroad in a move that could generate more than 1 billion shekels ($273 million) in annual revenue. 

Outgoing Economy Minister Eli Cohen issued a final approval for the sale of cannabis goods today in what he called “a significant step for exporters.”

"[It] will enable both the expansion of export opportunities for the sector and increase employment of new workers, especially in light of the great worldwide demand for Israeli medical cannabis products," said Cohen.

In January 2019, the Israeli Cabinet approved a measure allowing the export of locally grown medical cannabis to countries where its use is permitted, causing the stocks of eight cannabis-cultivating companies to skyrocket. It was “a long overdue, but welcome move,” said Saul Kaye, CEO of the Israel-based cannabis incubator iCAN. 

The law made Israel only the third country to allow for the sale of its medical cannabis products in global markets, after the Netherlands and Canada.

Once the order takes effect in 30 days, producers must seek a license from the Health Ministry to begin sales abroad. 

Marijuana with a prescription is legal in Israel, and last year the Health Ministry announced new regulations intended to make accessing the drug easier and more affordable for patients. In September, the first cafe allowing medical marijuana users to smoke indoors opened in Beersheba. 

The drug’s recreational use remains illegal in Israel.  

In April, neighboring Lebanon became the first Arab country to legalize cannabis farming in hopes that the lucrative industry would provide much-needed relief to its ailing economy. 

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