Israel: The Epicenter Of Medical Cannabis


Raphael Mechoulam | Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) | ResearchGate

Raphael Mechoulam | Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI) | ResearchGate

 

Isreal: The Grandfather of Medical Marijuana: Raphael Mechoulam, a professor, and researcher at Hebrew University, the man behind the discovery of tetrahydrocannabinol, commonly known as THC; the psychoactive compound in Cannabis. It all started in 1963 when Mechoulam secured 11 pounds of Lebanese hashish, which he used to identify, isolate and synthesize THC and study its medical use. He was also the first to decode the structure of CBD, the plant's primary non-psychoactive ingredient. In 1992, Mechoulam and his team at Hebrew University in Jerusalem made a groundbreaking discovery on the physical reason why humans get high when using Cannabis, now known as the endocannabinoid system, and that the human brain produces its own cannabinoids – compounds that stimulate the body almost exactly the way THC does. "It turned out that the cannabinoids in the plant actually mimic the compounds that we form in our brain," says Mechoulam.

 
Over the past 50 years, Israel conducts the world's largest number of clinical trials testing the benefits of medicinal cannabis and has become a global destination for medical cannabis research and development. Israel was among the first countries to legalize the medicinal use and is one of just three countries with a government-supported medical cannabis program. On the other hand, recreational use remains illegal, however, the Israeli government has approved the export of medicinal cannabis products making it an offshore greenhouse for American cannabis companies seeking to overcome the federal roadblocks standing in their way.
 

 
While importing cannabis into the United States remains illegal under federal law, companies can still import from Israel by acquiring drug approval from the FDA by meeting the agency's requirement for drug approval. The FDA has approved 3 drugs containing synthetic cannabinoids but it has never approved a product derived from botanical cannabis. According to the agency's guidelines, "Study of marijuana in clinical trial settings is needed to assess the safety and effectiveness of marijuana for medical use." Since initiating a clinical trial in the US is difficult, US companies resulted in partnering up with Israel's pharmaceutical company to use their medical research facilities in Israel and conducting clinical trials there and applying for FDA approval of the botanical cannabis drug they are developing.
 
With one million square feet of cultivation fields, a 35,000-square-foot production plant, and 30,000 square feet of grow rooms and labs, Dr. Tamir Gedo's company, Breath of Life Pharma (BOL), is about to open the world's largest medical marijuana production, research, and development facility. According to Gedo's estimates, BOL will produce 80 tons – more than 175,000 pounds – of cannabis per year.
 
Israel's research on Cannabis has a great impact on the US cannabis industry, medical marijuana is now legal in 29 U.S. states and this is a direct result of Israeli research which made the study and research on Cannabis legitimate. Paul Armentano, deputy director of the D.C.-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said. Without this research, "We wouldn't have the scientific interest we have now around the world,". He also added, "That really opened the door to making the study of cannabis and cannabinoids a legitimate avenue for more conventional scientists and researchers."
 
Even if U.S. companies want to do a clinical trial on U.S. soil it is nearly impossible and time-consuming. In Israel, a cannabis clinical trial can get off the ground in a matter of months. "There's a lengthy and arduous regulatory process for getting approval for doing studies, and limited resources at these agencies for processing those requests," says Pollack, of Thomas Jefferson University. "It's deliberately made very difficult for us."
 
"I think they have approached the issue in a more even-handed and genuine way than the U.S. government has," says Armentano of NORML. "There are onerous restrictions on conducting this research in the U.S. that don't exist in Israel."
 
"There's a lengthy and arduous regulatory process for getting approval for doing studies, and limited resources at these agencies for processing those requests," says Pollack, of Thomas Jefferson University. "It's deliberately made very difficult for us." In Israel, on the other hand, a cannabis clinical trial can get off the ground in a matter of months.
 
"I think they have approached the issue in a more even-handed and genuine way than the U.S. government has," says Armentano of NORML. "There are onerous restrictions on conducting this research in the U.S. that don't exist in Israel."
 
Dr. Gedo is optimistic but, on the other hand, he is also realistic. He knows that the FDA will never get behind cannabis the plant as medicine, since it can't be controlled as a consistent drug given that there are 140 active compounds in cannabis, and the composition of the flowers plucked from one branch can fluctuate wildly, by up to 300 percent and can’t have the same effect day in and day out.
 
 
 

Reviews

2 Reviews
Eddie Wright
Sharpsburg
Individual

Excelent article. I can't wait for a follow up on the clinical trials.

January 2018

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Kat Rae Kat Rae
Denver, CO
Very Informative.

This is something I did not know! Very informative.

January 2018

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21 Nov 2017


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