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Ophir Nevo, Israel Cannabis Association:

Israel: “Reduced regulatory burdens and increased patient access”

"It's an interesting time for the Israeli cannabis market with lots of developments. As a result of these developments, we're expecting the local market to grow," says Ophir Nevo, General Manager of the Israel Cannabis Association. Ophir explains that the country is shifting from medical cannabis licenses to getting a medical cannabis prescription. Moreover, regulatory burdens have been reduced for medical cannabis operators. "There are of course still challenges for the local industry, like the high amount of imported product. But lots of positive developments are happening as well."

Last month, Ophir organized the first Holy Flower Cup

Cannabis as a prescription drug
Since April 8th, the prescription reform has started which is expected to increase patient access. "The prescription process has changed. In the past, patients needed to obtain a license in order to receive a medical cannabis treatment. That special license is no longer needed for some indications," Ophir explains. "Medical cannabis is now treated similarly to other controlled medications and patients can obtain a prescription through their public healthcare providers. Normal doctors can give patients those prescriptions, as well as specialized doctors in clinics. While cannabis used to be a 'last resort treatment' that was challenging to obtain, this change is expected to greatly broaden the access for patients." Over time all medical indications will shift to prescriptions.

Reduced regulatory burdens
On the production side, there are some impactful changes as well. "We have a special Israeli IMC GMP certification that local producers need to adhere to. This makes it very hard for them to work in the international market. Because of regulation changes, EU-GMP standards will take place, which will be a relief for Israeli producers. It means fewer inspections and boosts export opportunities. For the local industry, it will make production easier and more affordable."

These changes are very welcome, as the industry has been through its fair share of challenges. "Many Israeli producers have struggled. But that's normal for an evolving market. At the start, everyone wants to be involved. Two years later, companies are already closing down. There were also some quality issues. Therefore, we've seen a shift from greenhouse production to indoor or hybrid facilities, as the quality of the greenhouse production was not good enough. Moreover, we are a big import country, which has created a lot of challenges for local producers," Ophir says.

"Becoming a licensed producer in Israel is a long process with strict regulations. Importing cannabis into Israel, however, is a much easier process," Ophir explains. "Canada is a great option for importers, mostly because of price. Canadian cannabis is much more affordable than Israeli cannabis because the regulation is not as strict and the costs of large greenhouses facilities are lower to produce in. Over the years, it has resulted in a significant quantity of Canadian cannabis imported into Israel that is often not of higher quality than the locally produced cannabis. While Israeli cannabis may be of better quality, it's much more expensive to produce it here." The Israeli Ministry of Economy announced an investigation into Canadian cannabis imports earlier this year.

The awards ready for the winners of the Holy Flower Cup

Industry events
While all these developments are happening, Ophir stays positive about the future of the Israeli market. "Challenges are normal for a new market and it's great that regulatory burdens are reducing and patient access is increasing." In order to bring the Israeli industry together, Ophir organized a cannabis cup in April, which marked the beginning of an annual event. "The first Holy Flower Cup brought the industry together and was a competition to find the best cannabis products available in the country. The next event will be held in December and we hope to make it an international event in Israel."

For more information:
Israel Cannabis Association

Holy Flower