Updated on April 18, 2018. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Richard Koffler, MD, Board Certified Physiatrist
Although Israel is more accepting of medical marijuana than many other countries in the world, they still enforce strict regulations to ensure patient safety. Knowing what you can and can’t do with cannabis will help you make informed medical decisions.
Israel first allowed the medical use of marijuana in 1999, and they expanded the country’s medical cannabis program 10 years later. Patients with approved conditions can use cannabis medicine to relieve their symptoms all over the country. Unlike most countries, Israel has a federal medical cannabis program citizens can take advantage of.
Until 2017, medical marijuana patients could only use and possess their medicine at the address listed on their permits. But now, they can medicate using non-smoking methods in more public places. Patients can orally consume oil anywhere, and they can vape in non-prohibited areas.
The medical marijuana program in Israel works similarly to other programs around the world. Patients with a condition approved under Israeli law can visit a government-authorized specialist to request medication. They must go through the process with a specialist for the condition that they want to treat — for example, someone with cancer would see an oncologist.
After completing an approved application, the patient will get a medical marijuana card. If they need to change their dosage or the details on their license, they must submit another application. In 2016, Israeli health officials discussed the possibility of using prescriptions instead of permits, so these regulations may loosen soon.
Using marijuana recreationally is illegal in Israel. Scientists in Israel do a lot of research on medical marijuana and advocate for patients who use it, but the country’s policies for recreational use have progressed more slowly.
Israel decriminalized first-time marijuana use in 2017. Before this change in regulations, someone caught using marijuana recreationally for the first time would receive a criminal offense. Now, offenders will get a fine instead of criminal prosecution — until their fourth offense.
The Public Security and Justice ministries decriminalized cannabis in response to legalization happening around the world. As worldwide attitudes change, they may reconsider recreational laws again.
While Israel has more policies that support medical marijuana patients than many other countries, they still don’t cover every patient who may need it. Only patients with a condition that has scientific evidence backing up its responsiveness to cannabis medicine can get access. Since recreational marijuana is banned, the patients who fall through the cracks can’t buy marijuana without a license.
However, Israeli patients have plenty of hope for the future. Many politicians across party lines support further legalization of marijuana, even conservative ones. Plus, all the research happening in the country will give officials more evidence for cannabis’ healing powers.
Due to the protections already built into Israeli medical marijuana laws, both patients and doctors shouldn’t have to worry too much about legal persecution. And even if a patient were to face punishment for marijuana possession, Israel’s decriminalization lets them only get a fine.
Both doctors and patients must go through the government and provide tons of documentation to prescribe or use cannabis medicine. They can use their respective medical marijuana permits to prove they can legally work with marijuana. Even if Israel were to switch to a prescription-based program instead of a permit-based one, the prescription can be provided instead.
As you can see, tons of exciting updates have happened in Israel recently, and there are bound to be more. To keep up with all the medicinal cannabis-related news you need, check out our blog. Our blog also has information on getting the most out of your medicine.