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Israel is A Medical Cannabis Research Mecca

Israel is A Medical Cannabis Research Mecca

Posted by Marijuana Doctors on 10/18/2016 in Medical Marijuana Research

Israel is a small nation. Some of our states are bigger. But Israel is a global leader in medical marijuana research. Fifty years ago, an Israeli scientist, Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, was one of the first to discover the key compound cannabidiol or CBD and the structure of THC, and Israel’s pioneering research and development has continued to this day.

Cannabis use in Israel is illegal unless it is for medicinal use. Israeli law allows the legal use of medical marijuana to treat pain, appetite loss and nausea in cancer patients, and for other ailments like epilepsy, to name a few. Over twenty years ago, Israel’s Ministry of Health created a formal medical marijuana program, and about 25,000 Israelis are receiving treatment through that program. Israel has experienced a significant increase in medical cannabis use over the last several years. Subsequently there has also been a significant amount of marijuana research in Israel, whereby the country legally allows for the study and research of marijuana in Israel.

Israeli researchers are true trailblazers, with research like that of Dr. Adi Eran, who has formed the first clinical trial for use of medicinal cannabis on people with autism. The private company Tikun Olam conducts ongoing cannabis research programs studying the effects and use of medical marijuana in children afflicted with diseases like cancer and Crohn’s disease.

And very recently, Dr. Pesach Shvartzman, a palliative medicine specialist and expert in pain control, presented his findings from a cannabis study started in 2013. The study focused on after-effects of cannabis use by medical patients. The study is not yet published but was presented at the 6th International Jerusalem Conference on Health Policy this summer.

Shvartzman noticed that the nearly 25,000 patients using cannabis had no formal monitoring or follow-up program, so he designed a study to do just that. Shvartzman stated that the main uses of medical marijuana in Israel are for neurological pain, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence to show that medical cannabis may be useful—for example, cancer patients say that it helps with their nausea and loss of appetite. “There is also anecdotal evidence of cannabis’ negative effects, such as severe cases of psychosis,” said Shvartzman.

Shvartsman’s study was designed to collect actual data on the positive and negative effects. The study followed new cannabis users for two years. Researchers looked at patients’ disease profiles, medical indications for use and dosage, and non-cannabis treatments. Researchers recorded response to and effectiveness of cannabis treatment as well as side effects. The majority of patients smoked cannabis versus ingesting oil or other ingestion methods.

Results are promising. Most patients showed improvement in painnauseaanxiety, and appetite. While 77 percent reported minor side effects, only about 6 percent had to stop cannabis treatment due to overwhelming negative side effects. Interestingly, side effects reported were dry mouth, hunger, elevated mood, sleepiness, fatigue, red eyes, and blurred vision. These side effects pale in comparison to the sometimes devastating side effects of prescription drugs. Nearly all (99.6%) of the patients in Shvartsman’s study sought medical cannabis treatment after other conventional treatments and medications had failed or caused debilitating side effects.

Shvartsman showed with this study that it is important to monitor medical cannabis use. He hopes that it will shed light on and influence future decision for this scientifically controversial issue. Outcomes of medical cannabis studies like this one have important implications to health policies around the world.

Israel’s approach to this research funding is that there is minimal political and legal meddling, so there are very few restrictions on cannabis research. Their policies have sensible regulations without roadblocks. This summer, Israel formed an umbrella agency for cannabis research, the National Center for Research in Medical Cannabis, to be completed in 2017.

Senior research scientist Nirit Bernstein is thrilled about the government’s latest endeavor, stating that there is so much more to be discovered about this miracle plant. THC and CBD are the most prominent cannabinoids, but cannabis contains over 100 additional cannabinoids, as well as over 300 secondary compounds. Bernstein, who has been studying cannabis for three years, says there is “more unknown than known” about the plant’s medicinal impact.

The Israeli government, corporations, and private groups all fund this cutting-edge research, but more funding is needed. Israel’s government recently made a renewed commitment to cannabis by announcing that it plans to export medical marijuana in the next decade. Because of that announcement, Israeli farmers are very interested about growing the high-cash crop. “Israel has many excellent vegetable and flower growers who would love to specialize in cultivating this unique crop. They are highly qualified, high-tech cultivation farmers who could work with the research sector in Israel to improve the product for the benefit and safety of the medical consumers,” said Bernstein.

If you are a diagnosed patient living in a medical marijuana state, visit to find out more about how medical marijuana may benefit you. Speak to a marijuana doctor and get a medical marijuana card today.

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