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Israel’s CannaTech Cannabis Innovation Summit: An Eye-Opening Experience


(Photo of Jeffrey Friedland with Professor Raphael Mechoulam at the CannaTech Cannabis Summit in Israel.)


The CannaTech Cannabis Innovation Summit was held a few weeks ago in Israel. I was delighted to attend the event and participate in a panel on financing.  


The CannaTech Summit was positioned as the premier international cannabis platform for accelerating strategic alliances and technological developments in the cannabis industry. It accomplished that and far more.  


Most of us involved in the cannabis industry in the United States tend to think of the industry and its opportunities locally in our state, or at best in our country. It was not generally on our radar screen that there is also a global movement to legalize or decriminalize cannabis in many other countries.


In attendance at the CannaTech Summit were over 450 cannabis entrepreneurs, researchers, investors, and pharmaceutical, agri-tech and technology entrepreneurs from over 40 countries. Those attending were able to learn about opportunities and attend sessions on the latest in cannabis research and technologies. Most importantly it enabled everyone to network with the leaders of what is truly becoming a global industry.


The CannaTech Summit was chaired by Professor Raphael Mechoulam, considered the "father of cannabinoid research.” Professor Mechoulam conducted studies that established the foundation for the entire field of cannabis research. He is viewed by many as the most influential figure in the field of medical cannabis research.


In 1963, Professor Mechoulam isolated cannabidiol (CBD), the compound that research indicates is a key to many of the medical properties of cannabis. A year later, Mechoulam and his team were the first scientist to isolate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main physiologically active compound in cannabis, which is responsible for the plant’s consciousness-altering effects. Twenty years later, Mechoulam and his team concluded that THC interacts with the largest receptor system in the human body, the endocannabinoid system. He then found that the human brain produces its very own form of cannabis – a chemical that they named anandamide after the Sanskrit word ananda, translated as bliss.

Widely acknowledged as the “cannabis superpower,” Israel is the world leader in advanced medical cannabis policy, medical cannabis research, cannabis breeding, plant sciences and medical cannabis delivery systems. The country’s proactive regulatory system facilitates patient access to cannabis for medical use and enables major medical institutions to conduct clinical studies.


CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta described Israel as “the medical marijuana research capital” in his documentary “Weed,” and dedicated a portion of the CNN program to Israel’s advances in cannabis research. Gupta was amazed to see how seamlessly Israel had integrated cannabis into its health-care system.


More Israelis have PhDs, MDs and other advanced degrees on a per-capita basis than any other nation. Israel is one of the top five countries for per-capita scientific publication output. It was clear at the CannaTech Summit that Israel’s cannabis industry has attracted many researchers with advanced degrees. Some are focusing on plant sciences. Others are researching specific cannabis-derived formulations for specific medical conditions and disorders.


I was surprised to learn how supportive the Israeli government is of the cannabis industry.  Medical cannabis was first approved for use by the Israel’s Ministry of Health in 1992, and an expanded protocol for its use was established in 2007.  Every major Israeli hospital and research university is currently involved in some aspect of cannabis research.


The United States still considers the plant to be an illegal substance and it is incredibly difficult to conduct research on the medicinal effects of cannabis. Thus far, the only clinical trial sanctioned by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that I’m aware of, is being conducted by U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals.


A significant number of the companies based in Israel researching cannabis-based medicine are seeking strategic alliances worldwide. Some of these companies would like to use the results of their medical research to propel trials in the U.S. under F.DA. protocols. Others are interested in pursuing strategic alliances with participants in America’s medical marijuana industry on a state-by-state basis.


Israel is often described as the “start-up” nation. I could not agree more based on my experience at the CannaTech Summit.  As CNN’s Sanjay Gupta very appropriately stated, it is the world’s “cannabis superpower.”


The bottom-line for me? I’ve already asked about the date for next year’s CannaTech Cannabis Innovation Summit.


Author: Jeffrey Friedland (jeffrey@jeffreyfriedland.com)


(Photo of Jeffrey Friedland with Professor Raphael Mechoulam at the CannaTech Cannabis Summit in Israel.)


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