Isabel Kershner has the Israel beat for the New York Times. On Sunday December 18, she provided an overview of the medical marijuana industry, dateline Jerusalem. “Israel, a Medical Marijuana Pioneer, is Eager to Capitalize” said the headline.

The government is building a research institute dedicated to Cannabis,  Kershner reports, “has infused millions of shekels into innovative marijuana companies,” and is weighing whether to allow exports.  The Health Ministry has approved “dozens of clinical trials.” 

Kershner quotes Raphael Mechoulam gently chiding the United States:

“Medicinal cannabis has to follow medical lines of thought and development and modern medical routes” in order to produce proper drugs, he said. Pointing to an international paucity of clinical trials, he said, “Israel has more than the United States at the moment, which is ridiculous.” In the United States, medical marijuana programs exist in many states but remain illegal under federal law.

A physician who advises the Health Ministry tells Kershner, “If we don’t do it right here, the specialists will go abroad with their knowledge.”

She poignantly notes that “Some Israelis are concerned that export, if allowed would stigmatize the country as one that dealt primarily in arms and drugs.” 

—Fred Gardner