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Israel approves export of medical marijuana

Economy minister finally gives order more than a year after the cabinet approved law permitting marijuana exports 
Israeli woman holds marijuana leaves at legal greenhouse near Kfar Pines in northern Israel in 2016 (AFP/File photo)

Israel gave approval on Wednesday for exports of medical cannabis, paving the way for sales abroad that may produce hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

Companies interested in exporting cannabis goods abroad will be required to apply for a licence from Israel's health ministry once the order takes effect in 30 days.

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"This is a significant step for exporters and the Israeli industry, which will enable both expansion of export opportunities as well as rising employment ... in the field," said Economy Minister Eli Cohen.

Cohen gave final approval for the exports more than a year after the cabinet backed a new law to permit them. 

There are already more than 10 farms and five factories in Israel that meet health ministry standards, and some companies have reached agreements to sell cannabis to European countries or Canada once the licences become available, Reuters reported.

Within Israel, medical use of cannabis is permitted, and while recreational use remains illegal, it has been largely decriminalised

The Economy Ministry says about 60,000 Israelis use medical cannabis, consuming 25 tonnes a year.

Export markets

Many European countries and US states permit medical use. In 2018, Canada became the first G7 country to legalise it for recreational use countrywide.

It is unclear whether the EU or Canada will require medical marijuana grown in Israeli settlements to be labelled as such. 

Last November, a top EU court ruled in favour of requiring the clear labelling of products made in Israeli settlements, but until now, most of those efforts have been focused on food and wine.

Three months earlier, a Canadian federal court ruled that products produced in illegal Israeli settlements could not be sold in Canada under the label "Product of Israel".

Israeli farms, benefiting from a favourable climate and expertise in medical and agricultural technologies, are among the world’s biggest producers of medical cannabis and have a good chance to become leaders in the expanding industry.

"There are many investments that we are expected to see happening now, because investors were waiting for this approval," said Hagit Weinstock, co-founder of the Weinstock-Zehavi & Co law firm and a pioneer of cannabis regulation in Israel. 

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