U.S. firms invest $50 million in Israeli marijuana research

A cannabis leaf. Credit: The United States Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) American firms have invested about $50 million in licensing Israeli medical marijuana patents, cannabis agro-tech start-ups, and companies developing delivery devices such as inhalers, scientists say.  

"I expect it to grow to $100 million in the coming year," Saul Kaye, CEO of Israel-based iCAN, said at the private cannabis research hub’s CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv in March.

Although 23 U.S. states now allow the use of medical marijuana, with four states and Washington, DC, also allowing its recreational use, scientists claim stringent American rules set by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are limiting cannabis research in the U.S.

"In the United States it's easier to study heroin than marijuana," said U.S. psychiatrist Suzanne Sisley, director of Medicinal Plant Research at Heliospectra, who has been researching the effects of using cannabis on military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Reuters reported.

"With marijuana you have to go through added layers of government red tape. It highlights the way marijuana research is being shackled by politics," she said.

By contrast, in Israel, though recreational marijuana is illegal and few people are allowed permits to purchase medical cannabis, the government is much less stringent with regard to research. Cannabis growers work with scientific institutions in clinical trials to develop strains of cannabis that treat different diseases. Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman supports medical cannabis usage, and has introduced steps to ease its prescription and sale in the Jewish state.

"What you would spend half a million dollars on in the U.S., you could easily get for $125,000 or $150,000 in Israel, and it's going to be done efficiently and on time. The quality of research is world-class and the arbitrage of value is good,” said Seth Yakatan, CEO of California-based Kalytera Therapeutics.

Posted on March 30, 2016 .