Cabinet ministers on Sunday approved the export of medical cannabis, paving the way for Israeli marijuana growers to begin international sales.
A cabinet statement said the decision is expected to increase the number of Israeli manufacturers, investments in agriculture, research and production, and create new jobs in the related fields.
The move caused stocks in medical cannabis companies to surge, but exports are not expected to begin until later this year, after the bureaucratic procedures governing the export process are put in place.
“With the approval of the export of medical cannabis, a new department will be opened for Israeli farmers, which will strengthen the whole of agriculture, thereby creating a winning combination of agro-medical and high-tech,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel tweeted, saying it was a “historic day.”
Israel’s top justice official also heaped praise on the decision, thanking her colleagues in the agriculture, health, finance and public security ministries, all of whom historically had marijuana categorized as an illegal drug and had squabbled for years over the details of how to make its medical use legal.
“Israel, which leads in the most innovative technology, joins other developed countries today in the export of medical cannabis, which should have happened a year ago,” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said.
Israel joins the Netherlands and Canada as nations allowing the legal export of medical cannabis.
“Israel is perfectly positioned to enter and disrupt the medical cannabis market that is expected to soar to $33 billion worldwide in the next five years,” Saul Kaye, CEO of iCAN, an Israeli medical cannabis company, said in a statement last month. “In Israel alone, we quickly expect over $1 billion in sales to countries interested in our products.”
Medical cannabis exports should bring significant foreign currency revenues, said Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, warning that additional delays could cost Israel its competitive advantage.
“Many farmers, factories and distributors have made large investments based on our intentions and will now benefit from the fruits of their labor,” Kahlon said. “The resolution that was approved today dragged on for too many years without any real justification.”
Ariel said his ministry has now recognized medical marijuana as a legitimate crop and 780 farmers have received preliminary approval to advance in planning stages. Five growers have already received final approval to cultivate 90 dunams (22 acres) of marijuana and 18 additional farmers are in the final stages of the process.