Medical marijuana is about to become a whole lot more accessible in Israel with pharmacies across the country expected to soon start providing the substance. Israel’s largest pharmacy chain, Super-Pharm, which has 225 branches across the country, has been meeting with health ministry officials over recent weeks to allow prescription dispensation of cannabis, Israeli newspaper Haaretz Thursday.
Cannabis use in Israel remains illegal, with 20 people a day arrested for soft-drug use. It is legal for medicinal use and in recent months there has been an easing of restrictions, leading to a surge in people being treated with marijuana from just a few dozen a decade ago to 27,000 this year.
Pharmacies cannot yet sell marijuana, with patients currently receiving the substance direct from growers via distribution centers or home delivery. But authorized doctors and pharmacists could soon be allowed to prescribe it. And Super-Pharm is actively exploring both the distribution and sale of marijuana.
“Super-Pharm strictly observes Health Ministry guidelines and is participating in reforms that improve the lives of Israeli patients,” read a statement from the company. “We are currently studying all aspects and consequences of the subject [at hand], with the intention of taking part in this field later on.”
Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, an ultra-orthodox rabbi, has been pushing for medical marijuana to be made far more widely available, even if it doesn’t make him a universally popular figure.
“I'm not sure that my people, my voters are so [happy] about what I did," he told CNN in March. "If I have to look strictly at how I can help sick people who need this cannabis, I think I did the right thing."
As well as helping those suffering from a range of diseases, the changes could also mean big business. Since publishing a road map for those wishing to participate in the cannabis industry in July, the health ministry has received over 200 applications for permits to grow and sell the substance.
“The Pharmaceutical Society of Israel encourages the sale of cannabis in drugstores,” Miki Ofer, a former chairman of the organization and a current member of its committee studying the issue, told Haaretz. “We think that this is the right place for dispensing the substance, just as it is for other narcotic drugs. Also, economically, we think that this will be a potential source of profit point for the pharmacies.”
He added: “After the program comes into effect and more doctors are certified to issue prescriptions, the number of patients using the plant will skyrocket to around 100,000."