Israel Ends Medical Marijuana Export Because of Donald Trump

Israel flag made of marijuana
Lukasz Stefanski/shutterstock

Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put Israel's medical marijuana export program on hold after receiving a telephone call from Trump voicing his disapproval. Netanyahu told reporters at channel 2 news that Trump objected to Israel's plans to export medical marijuana.  

The medical marijuana export industry in Israel was expected to earn at least $1 billion annually. One Finance Ministry official recommended that Israel continue with its export plans while simply not exporting any of its medical marijuana to the United States, but Netanyahu said that Israel should not go against the Trump Administration's policy, saying “I spoke with Trump and he told me about his general opposition to the legalization of cannabis, and I’m not sure Israel should be the export pioneer,” Netanyahu reportedly said.  

The United States Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions rescinded the federal protection that barred the federal government for prosecuting people in states with legal marijuana earlier this year, providing the probability of further action against legalization by the Trump Administration.  

The move by the administration to revoke the protection from prosecution angered both liberals and conservatives because Trump promised on the campaign trail that the federal government would not to interfere in states' rights regarding marijuana.  

Netanyahu made the announcement that he was putting the export project on hold during a meeting with the ministers of agriculture, health and finance last weekend. Netanyahu told the ministers about Trump's wishes before they could object. The decision comes just after the government opted last month not to include marijuana export licensing in the yearly budget.  

The reversal to appease Trump is sure to anger the international investors that have invested over $100 million into medical marijuana farms all over Israel, as well as the estimated 50 medical marijuana companies in Israel. According to the director of the Israeli Medical Cannabis Agency, Yuval Landschaft, more than 700 businesses have applied for a license to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana.

The Israeli Finance and Health Ministries Committee granted approval in 2017 for exporting medical marijuana, with Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon saying at the time that exporting weed would strengthen Israel's economy and agriculture. He added that Israel already had an advantage on the medical marijuana export market because of their clinical research efforts, climate and regulation.

The Committee recommended that Israel only export marijuana to countries that accept Israeli imports and have legalized medical marijuana. Recommendations also state that Israeli exports may only be from farmers with a license from the Health Ministry.

Israel to Be Pioneer of Medical Marijuana Export Market Before Trump Call

Prior to Netanyahu's call from Trump, Israel was planning to be the pioneer of the global medical marijuana industry. Israel has been conducting clinical research on marijuana, something the United States isn't doing because of federal regulations, since the 1960's. The first person to identify THC in marijuana was Israeli Professor Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He made the discovery in 1964, and Israel has been the at the forefront of cannabis research ever since. 

With new doubts about the future of the medical marijuana export industry looming, Israel Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked paid a visit to a norther-Israel medical cannabis farm with the Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel last Thursday.

Shaked sent out a tweet that expressed her support for medical marijuana and said that she would encourage Netanyahu not to "miss the train," and let Israel miss this opportunity worth billions of dollars. She added that marijuana should be considered medicine, not drugs.

photo: Lukasz Stefanski/shutterstock