Rafi Gamson, head of IQC

“The revolution has begun in Israel"

Since the 1990s, Israel has been one of the most important countries in the research on the healing properties of cannabis. The reasons lie in the fact that, exactly in those years, cancer patients were allowed to utilize medical cannabis for the treatment of pain-related issues, thus driving the research to achieve better results for the well-being of those cases. On December 2018, a cannabis export bill was passed in the Israeli parliament, adding another puzzle piece to the “revolution” the country is currently experiencing, as Rafi Gamson, head of the agricultural department at the Institute of Quality Control (IQC), points out. IQC is the largest accredited ISO/IEC17065 certification body for the GLOBAL-G.A.P. standard in Israel. The company issues IMC-G.A.P. certifications which are necessary to each Israeli grower that wants to start a medical cannabis business.

According to Rafi, this revolution will create a proper cannabis supply chain, where every player has to comply with specific requirements specifically related to one’s place within said chain. This system very closely resembles the medicine industry, “In the past, patients received their supply directly from the farms which grew the cannabis. Now, things have changed.” Rafi explains. “The plant based raw material will be processed by a drug factory. A licensed distributor will distribute the product, which will be prescribed by a doctor to a patient, who will be supplied by a pharmacy.”

Applying for the correct certifications
In order to achieve such a goal, the Israeli Medicinal Cannabis Agency (IMCA) in October 2016 published the Five Green Books, which establishes the certifications necessary to each link of the supply chain. “All the units involved in the supply chain need to be different legal entities. The certifications are five, in total. These are:

  • IMC-GAP: Good Agricultural Practice;
  • IMC-GMP: Good Manufacturing Practice;
  • IMC-GDP: Good Distribution Practice;
  • IMC-GSP: Good Security Practice;
  • IMC-GCP: Good Clinical Practice.”

Rafi explains that, “Each unit must comply with the relevant IMC – Good Practice for that specific stage, and, on top of that, with the IMC-GSP too.” As Rafi suggests, “When the Israeli government adopted this system in an official resolution, the revolution finally begun.”

Assessing the farms
Rafi takes care to explain what the stages to assess medical cannabis farms entail: “New and old MMJ farms are evaluated in two stages. Initially, the farms’ infrastructure is checked, in terms of physical infrastructure in addition to the quality management system, risk assessment, procedures, and so forth. Additionally, in this stage, the farm must already comply with the IMC-GSP. Once a farm’s compliance has been assessed, the business can apply to the IMCA for purchasing approved plant propagation material (PPM) from another IMC-GAP certified farm. Alternatively, it can be imported from another country, but the material must come together with a phytosanitary certificate.”

After this, the farm will start growing a limited number of plants and will record all the processes, from the growing and the harvesting, to the post-harvesting. “An IMC-GAP full inspection will be carried out and all the farm’s activities will be examined. Once the farm has submitted the corrective actions the analysis report asks for, IQC will issue a GAP certificate for that business.”

As we can see, the medical cannabis industry in Israel is undergoing really big changes. According to Rafi, the opportunities for growers are numerous, especially because Israel is producing more produce than necessary to satisfy the internal demand. Therefore, export will surely represent an interesting activity for MMJ entrepreneurs, considering also the fact that they can rely on a great research tradition which raises the bar of the competition for other countries. “The government authorization for the export of medical cannabis products is a great boost to this market, in Israel.”

For more information:
Institute of Quality Control


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