“No One Has Ever Died From Cannabis”: Israelis Roiled After Pot Export Ban

Dina Al-Shibeeb
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (R)from the Jewish Home party visits a cannabis farm in southern Israel alongside party member and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. (Image via Twitter)

Following Israel’s halt of its much-anticipated move, exporting marijuana abroad, an emergency meeting on Monday ensued and hundreds of farmers are now preparing to file legal cases in courts.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly made the decision to halt the exports last week due to U.S. President Donald Trump’s phone call, telling him he doesn’t agree with the whole trend legalizing marijuana.

However, others say the U-turn decision was due to the lack of infrastructure and fear of spillover of medicinal marijuana into the recreational side of the business, which is outlawed in Israel.  

But critics and supporters of the export move dont believe this reasoning.

Screen Shot 2018 02 13 at 4.05.09 PM - “No One Has Ever Died From Cannabis”: Israelis Roiled After Pot Export Ban
Israeli lawmakers and CEOs from the marijuana industry attended an emergency meeting on Monday discussing the decision not to export pot.

Emergency Meeting

On Monday, both government representatives and top heads of marijuana businesses attended the stormy session at the Knesset’s Drug Committee.

Israeli attorney Hagit Weinstock was one of the attendees. Weinstock, in 2016, successfully led the fight for cannabis growing licenses in Israel and is now representing a dozen clients in the current battle, reported the NoCamels website.

“These people have the licenses, they have the farms, they put in a lot of money, we can’t go back now,” Weinstock told NoCamels.

“The train has left the station, so to speak,” she lamented, “and there is no way that Israel is not on it.”

According to Weinstock, the average initial capital investment in a cannabis farm is between $2-4 million and “people are forging ahead with this investment and going to court to demand government plans for exports go ahead.”

Weinstock says she is petitioning the Supreme Court on the matter later this week.

Initially, industry employees said the Israeli government told medical marijuana companies that their exports would be approved by 2018. Also, the Israeli cabinet gave its green light that it would approve exports of medicinal cannabis during the 2019 state budget vote.

While there are only eight farms in Israel that are growing marijuana for medicinal use, by the end of 2017 about 400 farmers applied for licenses through the Israeli Health Ministry. Additional 400 others have also later applied for cannabis nurseries, pharmacies, and processing plants.

Screen Shot 2018 02 13 at 4.04.57 PM - “No One Has Ever Died From Cannabis”: Israelis Roiled After Pot Export Ban
A screengrab showing the meeting.

No Reported Death Because of Pot

The CEO of Tikun Olam, the largest supplier of medical cannabis in Israel, said he hoped “cooler minds would prevail” and the government would finally permit exports.

Aharon Lutzky said:

“When we are talking about medical cannabis here and warning of spillover, it’s important to stress that no one has ever died from [a] cannabis [overdose] and it doesn’t have the side effects that medications do.”

MK Tamar Zandberg from the left-wing Meretz party, the chairperson of the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse criticized the halt as “a destructive one stemming from ignorance and fear.”

She said the decision “could be a death blow to the idea of exporting [medical cannabis],” adding: “We could be weeping about it for generations.”

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked from the Jewish Home party also supported Israel’s move to start exporting marijuana.

Shaked visited a cannabis farm in southern Israel alongside party member and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. She tweeted that Israel could “become a medical cannabis exporter with revenue worth NIS 4 [$1.4 Cdn] billion a year. We must not miss the train.”

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