Israeli-American partnership to launch cannabis sleep aid
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Israeli-American partnership to launch cannabis sleep aid

The product, the first of its kind, announced at annual CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

The annual CannaTech event held in Tel Aviv brings together cannabis professionals from Israel and abroad. March 20, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The annual CannaTech event held in Tel Aviv brings together cannabis professionals from Israel and abroad. March 20, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The American pharmaceutical company CannRx and accelerator iCAN:Israel-Cannabis have partnered to launch a sleep aid, called ican.sleep, made from cannabis extracts. The product will be the first pharmaceutical grade cannabis formulation for sleep on the market, and could be a boon for the pharmaceutical industry in Israel, said Bill Levine, the executive chairman of CannRx Technologies.

The product will consist of a precise cannabis formulation that will be inhaled by users for a rapid onset. The formulation will also determine the duration of users’ sleep.

“You take a puff or two, depending upon the dosage, and basically within ten minutes you’ll be drowsy enough to sleep,” Levine said. “We can give you a predictable, dose dependent response every single time.”

The companies announced the new product at the CannaTech medical cannabis conference in Tel Aviv this week. CannRx and iCAN plan to launch the sleep supplement globally following patent trials this year.

Similar, existing products are meant to be swallowed and are unpredictable, since medical cannabis products tend to be hard to control, Levine said.

Bill Levine (R), of CannRx, and Saul Kaye (L) of iCan, at the CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv, March 20, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
Bill Levine (R), of CannRx, and Saul Kaye (L) of iCan, at the CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv, March 20, 2017. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The sleep aid could provide an inroad to the US market, said Saul Kaye, founder and CEO of iCAN.

Israel’s progress in successfully medicalizing and controlling cannabis was a common theme at the CannaTech conference, which is meant to highlight the innovation and normalization that is happening with medical cannabis in Israel, Kaye said.

“We’re doing more research in Israel than anywhere else. We have destigmatized better than other places, and we have an approach to medicalizing cannabis, rather than legalizing cannabis,” Kaye said.

The focus on medical use contrasts sharply with the cannabis industry in the US, Kaye said.

“There really isn’t medical cannabis in the United States. There’s recreational cannabis used for medicinal purposes,” Kaye said.

Israel’s small domestic market means local companies need to expand outside the country’s borders, though, another common topic at the conference. Expansion to the US is especially problematic because decentralized, state-by-state regulations create legal problems.

Kaye highlighted the involvement of Netafim, Israel’s pioneering irrigation and agriculture company, as evidence of cannabis’ increasing normalization in Israel. Netafim has been developing greenhouse systems for growing cannabis for several years, said Avishay Lulav, the company’s global commercial manager.

The company is adapting technology from other crops and other fields for cannabis, said Omry Eiger, an engineer for Netafim. Cannabis growth also needs to be tightly controlled so the products will be uniform and consistent, unlike other crops, Eiger said.

“With most crops you want high quality and yield, like for vegetables. You don’t need the exact dimensions of tomatoes,” Eiger said. “The growing concept is not different, what’s different is accuracy and consistency.”

The company is now getting into full gear commercially, said Arnon Rosenbaum, head of Netafim’s global projects unit, and is looking abroad at both pharmaceutical and recreational business opportunities, although medicinal products will attract more advanced technological solutions.

The CannaTech conference brought together groups doing research, working with patients and offering growing systems. March 20, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
The CannaTech conference brought together groups doing research, working with patients and offering growing systems. March 20, 2017. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Israel’s Health Ministry, hospitals and universities support research on medicinal cannabis, unlike similar institutions in other countries.

“There’s a tremendous environment here and I believe that Israel, although it’s a small country, may have cornered the market in terms of being the epicenter of quality research,” said Andrew Salzman, CEO of Kalytera Therapeutics, Inc., a US firm involved in Israel’s medical cannabis market.

The CannaTech conference focuses on the technological side of the industry because that is where progress is being made in the industry, Kaye said, and because Israel is a center for cannabis-related science.

“You can do the science in Israel, and it’s accepted by the FDA. That’s how the cross pollination will happen,” Kaye said. “Real companies with real technology, real science, data. Those are the ones that are going to drive this industry forward.”

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