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Israel marijuana seeds

First-ever export of Israeli medical cannabis seeds heads to US

Agriculture Ministry hails development as a major step toward country becoming a significant player in the global cannabis market

The first-ever export shipment of Israeli cannabis seeds has left for the US, the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement Wednesday, hailing the move as a major step toward becoming a global pioneer in the field.

Efforts to arrange the “experimental and initial” shipment, which departed on Tuesday night, have been ongoing for the past year.

The cargo contained seeds from the local BetterSeeds company, which has a research license from the Health Ministry.

They will be examined on arrival “to verify their suitability for the US market,” the ministry said.

“Israel has the ability to make its mark [on the industry] and be among the world’s leaders,” Agriculture Minister Oded Forer said in the statement.

“The export of cannabis seeds invites us to expand the diversity of Israeli agricultural exports and strengthens local agriculture,” Forer said. It also “exploits Israel’s relative advantage in an area that is still considered preliminary.”

If all goes well, “contacts will be held regarding the continuation of the export,” the ministry said. It “could lead to the opening of additional international markets for Israeli exports and significantly advance the medical cannabis industry in Israel.

“Increasing the range of exports and expanding it to cannabis products will enable the deepening of existing markets and penetration into new markets while riding on the growing wave of demand for cannabis products with medical-health value,” it added.

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Last August the government amended its medical cannabis export rules to allow for the export of cannabis seeds. The change came after intensive pressure from companies in the cannabis industry.

A woman works in a lab at a high-tech cannabis products start-up at a technological incubator center in the town of Yeruham in the southern Negev desert on February 1, 2022. (MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP)we

Touting Israel as a global expert in the research and development of the cannabis plant, the ministry noted that “contrary to popular belief, the cannabis industry in Israel has been active in the field of research for decades, but only in recent years has it gained momentum due to changes in Israeli policy.”

Israel’s medicinal cannabis market was valued at around $264 million in 2021, roughly $7 million less than the entirety of Europe’s, according to Prohibition Partners, an industry analysis firm.

However, Israel maintains tight restrictions on exports — particularly to major markets in Europe and North America. Israel exported a comparatively meager 663 kilograms (1,462 pounds) of cannabis last year, according to the Health Ministry.

Some lawmakers, such as New Hope MK Sharren Haskel, are working to pass legislation that will continue to loosen regulations they say would benefit both businesses and consumers.

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In Israel marijuana is an illegal substance, which is a little different than many other countries in the type or severity of punishment. When a person is caught with an amount of 15 grams for personal use, there is not a severe punishment and it is socially accepted. Cannabis paraphernalia is not unusual to see in places like cafes and there is a medical marijuana program for patients that meet certain prerequisites. These are usually patients that are suffering the effects of chemotherapy, MS or are in the later stages of medical conditions like HIV.

Marijuana is illegal to smoke, to buy, to sell or to grow in Israel, but with personal use defined as 15 grams, which is not severely punished, police will usually ignore a person with marijuana, unless they are in trouble for another offense. If a person is taken to the police station due to possessing an amount of marijuana normally the record that is made will be cancelled in a year if there are no other offenses, when the amount is what could be considered for personal use. Higher amounts of marijuana do carry a more severe punishment for the person smoking, selling, growing or buying the cannabis. This more severe punishment can include jail time and depending on the type of marijuana offense and the amount will determine the amount of jail time that will be issued.

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The Ministry of Health in Israel as recent as 2009 has been instructed to expand their regulations of the medial patients use and authorization of medical marijuana, which also included the number of authorized marijuana producers. The general marijuana laws have not been opposed by activists or political officials to change the laws making marijuana illegal and remain the same.