How Cannabis Research from Israel is Influencing the U.S.

Marijuana research is finally beginning to become mainstream throughout the world, with multiple nations at last considering marijuana as a medical option and pouring funding into investigating its medicinal properties.

The USA, normally the leading country in all things research related – especially medical – is surprisingly not the only top dog however when it comes to marijuana research. In almost every other form of medical research, you can be assured that the USA is blazing a solitary trail towards a brighter tomorrow – but this is not exactly the case with marijuana.

Oddly enough, Israel – the tiny, long-term ally of the USA – is right up there at the forefront of cannabis-based funding and quality scientific research.

How (and more importantly, why) is Israel leading the world in its medical research into marijuana? Let’s take a look…

What Has Israel Done For Marijuana Research?

It is very easy to assume that all medical advances in the world are conducted by strait-laced Americans working in labs in American hospitals.

In the case of Marijuana however, the majority of the fantastic medical advances were conducted and discovered in the nation of Israel.

The Endocannabinoid system, for example, (which is a network of naturally-occuring cannabinoids and receptors that exists in the central nervous system of all mammals), was discovered by Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli chemist who has spent the majority of his long research career delving into the mechanics and effects of cannabis.

It is the discovery of the Endocannabinoid system that has allowed essentially all medical cannabis research to occur. Without Mechoulam, medical marijuana research wouldn’t exist in any kind of capacity – never mind what is happening currently. Thanks to Mechoulam, research labs all around the world are holding tests and experiments constantly on the effects of cannabis (thanks, Dr. Mechoulam!)

Is It Just the Scientists?

However, the advances of marijuana-based research aren’t the result of one lone chemist; Israel’s policy of encouraging and funding cannabis research means that, when a politician or newscaster needs to quote a statistic pertaining to cannabis, they will be most likely quoting an Israeli experiment or government-based proposal.

Alongside that, due to the open legalisation of medical cannabis in Israel, it is extremely profitable for US companies to move to Israel or otherwise invest in already-existing companies overseas. Thanks to this, Israel is a veritable paradise for cannabis companies, promoting a huge amount of commerce and additional revenue for the Israeli government.

Thanks to all this investment and internal government programs, the Israeli agricultural department will generate roughly 4.5 billion USD in Cannabis-based transactions.

This means that, when arguing for cannabis legalization or decriminalization, politicians and activists can use Israel’s revenue and progressiveness as a goalpost, quoting their success to try and convince the opposition.

All this serves to influence people around the world in favor of Israel’s  progressive thinking on cannabis. The primary way in which marijuana is held back in the US is due to outdated beliefs on the supposed dangers of the plant, so the more other nations publish reports and openly discuss its benefits, the easier and easier it becomes for supporters of marijuana-based research to quote to their figures and convince the opposition.

What Is the Problem with the USA’s Marijuana Research?

Medical marijuana research in the USA has always been a fragmented thing. Instead of government-sponsored research and industries, you have a variety of exceptionally small-scale enterprises which are forced to compete with one another. Unlike the cohesive system in Israel, medical marijuana research is disorganized and ultimately not efficient.

For starters, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) tightly controls the ability of businesses and researchers to work with cannabis. For example, for several years, only the University of Mississippi was allowed to grow legal Marijuana for the purpose of experiment, necessitating every other researching body to purchase their samples from this one University.

Another hurdle is the waiting periods – in the USA, institutions are forced to wait upwards of two years on a waiting list to be able to obtain samples, due to the stringent yearly quotas of medical marijuana that the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) allows to be produced.

Alongside all these problems, the key issue with the USA’s view on marijuana is that it is still federally illegal (even if states more or less have their own jurisdiction with regard to laws).

To that end, individual states have the ultimate say on whether or not to allow substance use. However, the actual federal government still schedules marijuana as an illegal substance, creating a variety of problems for any researcher or grower.

The main issue is that, even if it is legal in the state you reside and grow in, you will always run the risk of being raided by the federal government, however slight that risk may be. This disparity of legality between the state and federal government means that you are constantly at risk no matter what you do.

You can be growing and researching perfectly legally in Colorado, for instance, then suddenly be raided by the FDA due to a federal warrant. There was a small saving grace in a Supreme Court appeal in 2015, which ruled the federal government would honor states’ rights, but it is still entirely possible they might break that agreement.

When a situation like this exists, it is understandable that so many people and companies would move overseas to countries better suited for research.

Why Does the USA Have These Problems?

There are many proposed reasons for the weird relationship that the USA and most of the western world has with marijuana, but the most likely culprit is due to the cannabis plant’s lesser known possibilities as a fiber.

Hemp is incredibly fast-growing, makes excellent rope, and even better paper. However, around the time of the criminalization of marijuana, both hemp and cannabis in general were grouped as a dangerous drug, in most part because of the efforts of one man, Harry J. Anslinger.

Whether it was because of a rising tide of racism towards Mexican-Americans, or due to the lobbying of the paper industry that sought to make their fiercest competitor (hemp) illegal, we’ll never know.

Whatever the reason, the USA has an unhealthy obsession with the supposed evils of marijuana, so it’s going to take a lot of work and examples set by other nations to change their minds.

Thankfully, Israel is doing a great job at promoting a different view of cannabis.

How is Israel Different?

Israel has allowed for medical marijuana to be dispensed through regular pharmacies, giving patients the ability to pick up their prescription in a similar way they would pick up any other medicine.

This helps both marijuana’s public image and its appearance to other nations. By allowing marijuana to be sold alongside other mainstream medicine, Israel lends legitimacy to both the drug and its industry and research.

Moreover, instead of having to obtain a special license to access medical marijuana, as well as having to purchase it from a special location and undergo intense scrutiny (as you need to do in the few states wherein it’s legal in the USA), you can get it easily.

Marijuana then ceases to be some strange “outlier”, and instead becomes normalized as something you take when you need it.

This is especially apparent when you consider the statistics of cannabis usage throughout the world.
One study found that 27% of all Israelis had consumed cannabis within the past year, which compares to the USA’s usage at only 16% (oddly enough, Iceland takes 2nd place at 18% usage).

All in all, the more people that imbibe Marijuana, and freely admit to it without any risk of shame, the more it legitimizes the drug and allows for its normalization to occur for the rest of the world.

Final Thoughts on How Israel is Influencing Marijuana Research

Medical marijuana has the potential to improve millions of people’s lives, both in its medicinal properties and in its recreational usage.

The USA, normally known to be at the forefront of any type of research, seems to be  struggling with an archaic opinion of marijuana, while Israel has managed to carve itself a niche as the leading country for marijuana research on the global sphere – both in funding and in global population usage.

The fact that a country other than the USA is leading the way (especially a country in the Middle East and close in personal relationship to the USA), however, can only be a good thing for the future of marijuana development.

As everyone knows, America always needs to be the best at everything – so if Israel holds the award for the most tolerant and progressive country with Marijuana research, who knows how long it’ll be before the USA tries to take it from them!

Article Sources: