The Israeli government has announced it will fund over a dozen research projects examining cannabis medicine, biochemistry and cultivation.
Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will be financing a collection of cannabis biochemistry and medical projects, The Times of Israel reports. The Agriculture Ministry, in collection with the Health Ministry, has reportedly allocated 8 million shekels ($2.1 million) to fund the selected projects.
Israel has long established itself as a global leader in medical cannabis research. Israeli scientist Dr. Raphael Mechoulam was one of the first researchers to identify major cannabinoids in the 1960s and pediatric neurologist Dr. Adi Eran just last month obtained permits to study medicinal cannabis’ effects on autistic children and adults. This is the first time, however, the government has financially backed that Israeli research projects. The Health Ministry had published a call for research proposals and eventually selected 13 projects to receive funding.
Seven of the studies will investigate biochemistry and medicine, including the potential therapeutic effects of cannabis on visual function, colon cancer, and multiple sclerosis, as well as the detection and characterization of new materials in medical cannabis strains. Other projects will explore cannabis’ effect on metabolic syndrome, its possible use to inhibit the development of harmful bacteria, and its potential ability to prevent organ rejection following transplants.
“It is our privilege to fund these studies, which are likely to save many patients,” Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel said, in a statement. “This is further proof that agriculture is an important foundation for every field of life, including life-saving medicines, and I welcome this step.”
The six remaining projects will be aimed at improving cannabis cultivation practices. The studies will explore methods for combating diseases and pests, planting and reproducing cannabis, and developing irrigation and fertilization technologies. Other projects will work at establishing a national genetic database for strains of medicinal cannabis and genetic engineering.
“The growth of the cannabis plant for medical use must comply with strict and appropriate quality demands from an agricultural perspective, which are suitable for a plant product intended for medical use,” said the statement from the Health Ministry. “Therefore, agricultural research is the first critical step toward characterizing and creating agricultural methods for implementing the growth of cannabis for medical use.”
Medical cannabis for relief from symptoms like pain and physical and mental stress has been legal in Israel since the 1990s. Doctors there have reportedly prescribed medical marijuana to about 25,000 patients. Last summer, the government approved Health Minister Yaakov Litzman’s plan to relax the country’s medical cannabis laws by expanding the number of doctors allowed to prescribe the substance, making cannabis available at pharmacies, and removing limits on the number of growers.
In the United States, medical marijuana is legal in 28 states. However, researching cannabis is more difficult due to the substance’s Schedule I classification. The Schedule I classification, reserved for the most dangerous drugs that have no recognized medical value, adds obstacles to researchers, significantly hindering scientific advancements. The government has recently been under pressure to reschedule cannabis to facilitate research, with lawmakers, the American Legion, and the nation’s top scientists making public calls to remove the harmful regulations. The DEA considered and declined to reschedule cannabis last summer.
You can read the entire report from The Times of Israel here.
Learn more about the decades of research discoveries about cannabis and its therapeutic effects by visiting our education page.