In February, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu halted plans for Israel to be the fourth country in the world to export medical cannabis. Now, Israel’s marijuana companies are threatening to flee and share their expertise with international partners if the restriction on export continues.
Netanyahu reportedly put the plan in place for fear of upsetting US President Donald Trump, but the move has garnered backlash from the robust domestic cannabis industry in the middle-eastern nation. A government committee in Israel estimated that cannabis exports could bring between $285 million – $1.14 billion annually.
“The government is missing out on a massive opportunity to become the world leader [in cannabis.]” said Saul Kaye, CEO of CannaTech and ICAN Israel. “This is a mature, robust, R&D-focused opportunity that is looking to globalize. So, if the government misses out, we’ll all end up working in Slovenia.”
It is estimated that Israel currently has 50 medical marijuana companies involved in cultivation and manufacturing, and some of them are circumventing the ban by setting up joint ventures in other countries. By doing so, Israel loses out on both tax revenue and jobs in the sector.
Kanabo Research, an Israeli tech company involved in cannabis, is already sharing its technology with other countries due to the restrictions in place.
“We are partnering on production with one company in Europe and another company in Oregon, so we are actually doing technology export out of Israel,” said Avihu Tamir, the founder and CEO of Kanabo. “We are taking Israeli technology we developed here, and producing it outside, affecting Israel obviously, by losing jobs and income.”
Israeli cultivator Medivie Therapeutic also shared that sentiment, as the company recently closed a $110 million deal to grow cannabis for a European buyer. The company said the location of the grow facilities will depend on whether Israel approves cannabis export, warning that they wouldn’t hesitate to do business abroad if need be.
Currently, Canada, Uruguay, and the Netherlands are the only countries in the world that have approved cannabis exports, and Australia is preparing to join the elite group.
Canada dominates the global cannabis export market at the moment, as it ships products to countries that include Australia, Brazil, the Cayman Islands, Chile, Croatia, Germany and various others. The Great White North is also poised to legalize recreational cannabis in the coming months.
Jon Hiltz was a journalist for Marijuana.com for two years and is now director of content for INDIVA, a licensed cannabis producer in Ontario Canada.
Photo by Rob Bye