While the United States makes great strides in medicinal cannabis research, Israel has been doing the same for nearly 35 years.

Israel has become the recognized leader in medicinal cannabis research and innovation. In the US, legal states like California and Colorado opened the door for scientific and medical research in the late nineties. Israel, however, has a nearly 35 year head start.

Unlike in the US, the Israeli government has supported medicinal cannabis research, despite its prohibition among the general population. Israel’s recent decriminalization and pledge to support cannabis initiatives marked a shift in global attitudes toward cannabis and has drawn new investors looking to get into what could be a transformative industry for the nation.

A History of Cannabis Research in Israel

Israel has played a major role in the modern history of cannabis. It was an Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, who identified CBD and THC in the 1960’s, allegedly from a piece of Lebanese hash he obtained from police. His research served as the basis for Israel’s own medical cannabis distribution program that went into effect in 1992, years before California followed suit.

Along with decriminalization, Israel has announced its intent to provide additional funding for research with the goal of helping new cannabis products find their way to the market and to develop a further understanding of cannabis’ role in medicine.

Expanding and Progressing

The announcement made it clear that Israel is intent on greatly expanding the medical marijuana market. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development plans to invest approximately $2.1 million dollars into thirteen new cannabis projects including medicinal applications,  biochemistry and improving cultivation techniques.

One of the more exciting projects on the horizon is the development of national catalog of strain genetics. Mapping the cannabis genome and developing the ability to identify specific traits associated with genetic markers could have incredible implications for the development of new strains that target specific ailments.

The main difference between the US and Israeli cannabis research field, is that scientists in the US have struggled to work around federal law which has always had a strict prohibition on cannabis. The federal government’s inability to see past the politics of the drug war has set the US back decades in cannabis research.

Israel’s approach, while socially prohibitive, allowed researchers to do the work they needed to do to fully understand the potential health benefits of the cannabis plant. The result is that they are now the recognized world leader in cannabis science.

American Investor’s Dream

A medical marijuana market that has the full support of the government is an investor’s dream. In the US, the uncertainty of a future national market has held back large investors. Knowing that politics won’t get in the way of making a dollar in Israel’s medical cannabis industry, American investment firms are believed to have sunk at least $50 million into companies actively working to develop new products for the burgeoning market. Many involved in Israeli’s cannabis industry believe that it will grow to become a $100-million-dollar industry by the end of 2017.

With the past distribution system limiting the number of legal consumers to the 23,000 or so medical marijuana card holders, the industry itself was limited to around $20 million dollars on the high end.

The shift in public policy and investment in the industry as a whole will undoubtedly help the country reach its goal of $100 million dollars in sales, which itself seems like a conservative estimate. The industry’s recent developments come after decades of cutting edge research, which ultimately forced the government to recognize not only the incredible health benefits but the economic advantages to legalization as well.