In the Season 2 premiere of his Netflix series Bill Nye Saves The World, the beloved scientist devotes the entire episode to an examination of cannabis and its usage in the United States on “The Marijuana Episode.” This co-signing by a family-friendly TV star may be further cultural proof that mainstream U.S. acceptance continues to grow and is showing no signs of slowing down. Nye’s whimsical look at cannabis and its rich history also serves to underscore how far behind the U.S. remains compared to the rest of the world when it comes to the scientific study of this mysterious plant — and what we can do to catch up.

Ever since Israeli organic chemist Raphael Mechoulam first isolated the THC compound for scientific study more than 50 years ago, Israel has led the world in medical marijuana research. In 1996, Israel began its national medical marijuana (MMJ) program, the first one in the world.

Ironically, Israel created its MMJ program the very same year as California, a U.S. state that dwarfs Israel in population and economy. The amount of knowledge and advances that could have been gained from applying the Israel model of patient care and study to California’s gargantuan market is simply mind-boggling to imagine.

I celebrate the strides being made in Israel around the continuing research and study of cannabis on a molecular level. But here at home, I witness firsthand the roadblocks that are depriving U.S. patients not only the access to this potentially life-changing medical treatment but the very information that every patient deserves to have when making their own decisions for their health.  

The largest cannabis farm in all of Israel — which supplies many of the country’s 30,000 registered patients — is privately owned and operated by Tikun Olam but is licensed and supervised by the Israeli national Ministry of Health. As explained to Nye’s correspondent by Tikun Olam CEO, Aharon Lutzky, this longstanding cooperation between the Israeli government and private industry has led to unprecedented scientific advances and allows producers to genetically engineer strains that show real efficacy in treating patients suffering from such devastating illnesses and conditions such as cancer, Crohns and Colitis, PTSD, Epilepsy and Parkinson’s Disease.

Bill Nye notes that, here in the U.S., medical marijuana is stuck in an endless “Catch 22” created by the DEA listing it as a Schedule 1 drug because they have determined it to have no medical benefit and therefore cannot be legally grown in order to be studied. In Nye’s own words, “It is literally easier to study meth.”

Israel has no such roadblocks, and through its national MMJ program, Israeli doctors and patients are better informed due to the information obtained from clinical trials and research studies being performed by companies as well as leading Israeli Hospitals and universities. The Israeli model highlighted on “Bill Nye Saves the World” should be an example for other markets, and certainly the United States, to follow.

Stephen Gardner is the CMO of Israel-based cannabis brand Tikun Olam USA.

cannabis The Israeli model highlighted on “Bill Nye Saves the World” should be an example for other markets, and certainly the United States, to follow. Photo: Pixabay