While the demand has not changed at all, Israeli doctors have significantly cut back on the number of patients who receive prescriptions for medical marijuana, according to a report in Maariv.

Over the past three years, between 1,500-2,000 patients a year were allowed to use cannabis for battling illness and easing pain, but only about 200 approvals have been granted so far in 2012.

Dr. Yehuda Baruch, director of the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam and head of the Ministry of Health’s medical marijuana project, told Maariv too many people receiving medical marijuana should not be.

Baruch estimated that some 20% of Israelis who receive medical marijuana should not be on the list of recipients. He emphasized that while these people “suffer from very real pain, many can be treated in other ways.”

Until 2002, only one person in Israel had been permitted to use medical marijuana. Later, approval was given to terminal cancer patients who were not responding to morphine, as well as to people who suffer from Crohn’s disease and AIDS.

In 2004, the number of medical marijuana users rose to 66 and in 2006 Israel joined other developed countries in permitting the drug to be used to treat multiple sclerosis patients, further raising the number.

An unnamed source in the Cannabis project told Maariv that the drastic reduction in approvals given this year reflects both the “effectiveness of the drug as well as a sense felt by many prescribing doctors that many of their patients are taking advantage of them, and coming just to receive marijuana, not for treatment.”