Israel seeks to let general practitioners prescribe cannabis
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Israel seeks to let general practitioners prescribe cannabis

Move would ensure ‘dignity’ of patients, could be implemented within six months, health minister says

File: Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
File: Health Minister Yaakov Litzman. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Israel could be just six months away from allowing general practitioners to prescribe cannabis, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman said Wednesday.

Litzman is leading a reform of the Health Ministry’s medical cannabis policy that seeks to devolve the authority to prescribe the drug from the ministry’s centralized medical cannabis unit to the nation’s 23,000 doctors, a move that would dramatically ease access to the drug.

“If the reform, which is expected to go into effect within a few weeks, moves ahead without problems, I’ll allow practicing doctors to give cannabis prescriptions to their patients in keeping with Health Ministry regulations,” Litzman, of the United Torah Judaism party, told a joint session of the Knesset Health Committee and the Knesset Committee on Controlled Substances Wednesday morning.

“Patients should be able to receive the cannabis in a dignified way, without waiting or having to run around” because of Health Ministry bureaucracy, the minister added.

A worker tends to cannabis plants at the Tikun Olam growing facility near Safed (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)
A worker tends to cannabis plants at the Tikun Olam cannabis growing facility near Safed (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90)

Litzman rejected the notion that the move would turn cannabis into a recreational drug in Israel, and insisted the ministry would not allow the export of Israeli-grown cannabis to other countries. It would also put an end to the distribution of cannabis by the growers, he vowed.

“I want to emphasize that we will implement strict oversight on this issue, and we will make sure that only those who need cannabis will get access to it,” he told lawmakers.

Litzman noted the high rates of cannabis use in Israel, with some 23,000 known consumers of medical cannabis, suggesting the reform might rein in that use.

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