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Health Ministry to look at legalizing use of cannabinoid CBD

Panel will look at potential benefits as well as oversight of the substance’s use in products; Knesset agrees to form a so-called cannabis committee

Illustrative: A worker tends to cannabis plants at a growing facility for the Tikun Olam company near Safed, August 31, 2010. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)
Illustrative: A worker tends to cannabis plants at a growing facility for the Tikun Olam company near Safed, August 31, 2010. (Abir Sultan/Flash90)

The Health Ministry said Tuesday that it had set up a committee to examine the implications of excluding substances or products containing CBD from the list of dangerous drugs.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabis compound that is widely considered to lack mind-altering qualities.

The ministry said it would be examining the possibility of removing CBD from the list, meaning that it would be possible to market products containing the compound in Israel, with an emphasis on oral and topical consumption.

The committee will examine legislation and policies on the matter from around the world, as well as looking at ways to provide oversight over the quality, quantity and concentration of the material in the products, as well as safety.

The committee will additionally examine any potential benefits in products containing CBD, as well as reviewing the testing and supervision processes.

Separately, the Knesset agreed overnight to form a so-called cannabis committee.

New Hope MK Sharren Haskel had pushed for the committee’s formation. “I welcome the establishment of the committee and promise to do everything I can to bring good news to cannabis patients and the public,” she tweeted Tuesday.

New Hope MK Sharren Haskel (center) seen during a vote on a law proposing reforms regulating medical marijuana, held in the Knesset, in Jerusalem, on October13, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The committee will discuss medical marijuana, legalization and other cannabis-related issues.

Recreational use of the drug is currently illegal, though the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalized it in 2017, setting fines and treatment for initial offenders instead of criminal procedures.

In June, Haskel’s bill to decriminalize recreational marijuana use failed to clear a vote in the Knesset plenum due to opposition from lawmakers in the coalition’s Islamist Ra’am party. Haskel hoped to have her proposal pass in a snap vote, as many opposition MKs were not present at the time. But opposition MKs quickly returned to the plenum to vote against the law, toppling it 55-52.

A previous vote on the bill had been delayed due to the opposition of Ra’am, after leader Mansour Abbas told Haskel the party needed more time to examine how legalizing the recreational use of marijuana would be received among its supporters in the Arab community.

After Haskel’s original bill fell, a new version of the legislation was drafted that would create major reforms in the medical cannabis industry in Israel and expand its ease of access, while not decriminalizing recreational use.

That bill passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset in October, with Ra’am’s support. Under the terms of the bill, those granted a license from the Health Ministry will be legally allowed to grow, distribute and possess cannabis for medical purposes. The new legislation is aimed at overcoming a chronic shortage in medical cannabis available to those with a prescription, due to strict regulations over producers.

Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.

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