Last February I was asked by USA Today whether I thought that the cigarette industry was investing in the cannabis industry. My comment at the time was that I thought that cigarette manufacturers wouldn’t go anywhere near the plant until it was legal in the U.S. at the federal level.
Almost one year has passed, and the cigarette giant, Philip Morris International has announced that it will invest $20 million in a medical cannabis technology company. The investment was not in a U.S. company, but instead, in Syqe Medical, an early-stage Israeli company.
Syqe Medical has developed a metered-dose inhaler that allows medical cannabis to be delivered in a safe and precise manner. The Company’s technology turns cannabis into a granulate and allows it to be taken in metered doses.
While the official announcement indicated that “Syqe Medical will develop technologies for Philip Morris that will help reduce health risks associated with smoking,” it’s apparent that this investment is primarily about the global cigarette company getting a market lead in the emerging global and increasingly legal cannabis industry.
This investment by Philip Morris is a reminder that Israel is the world leader in cannabis plant sciences and medical cannabis research.
Research in Israel into the biochemistry of biologically active compounds in cannabis has a long history. CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta described Israel as “the medical marijuana research capital” in his documentary “Weed,” and dedicated a portion of the program to Israel’s advances in cannabis research. Gupta was amazed to see how seamlessly Israel had integrated cannabis into its health-care system.
Israel’s role today as the world leader in cannabis research started with the research done by Professor Raphael Mechoulam, a chemist at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who is widely-acknowledged as the father of cannabinoid research. Professor Mechoulam conducted studies that established the foundation for the entire field of cannabis research. In 1963, Professor Mechoulam isolated CBD, the ingredient that many believe is the key to the medical properties of cannabis. A year later, Mechoulam was the first scientist to isolate tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main physiologically active compound in Cannabis, which is responsible for the plant’s consciousness-altering effects.
Thirty years later, Professor Mechoulam again played a critical role in cannabis research, discovering what became known as the human endocannabinoid system. This discovery created a scientific revolution, as it completely changed the scientific perception of the relationship between cannabis and the human body. The discovery of endocannabinoids − neuroreceptors that the body produces autonomously and naturally − and of special cannabinoid receptors in the brain provided the basis for the conclusion that cannabinoids could have an important medical role.
The investment by Philip Morris in Israel-based Syqe Medical is also timely. On March 7 and 8 CannaTech, which is positioned as the International Summit for Accelerating Cannabis Innovation, will be held in Tel Aviv. CannaTech is being chaired by Professor Mechoulam, and will enable companies, entrepreneurs, researchers and investors to develop innovative solutions to answer the growing demands of the new cannabis market. I will be participating at CannaTech on a panel on investing in the cannabis industry.
Author: Jeffrey Friedland (Email: email@example.com, Tel. +1-646-450-8909)
Jeffrey Friedland is the author of two books, “All Roads Lead to China: An Investor Road Map to the World’s Fastest Growing Economy,” and “Marijuana: The World’s Most Misunderstood Plant.” Both books are available from Amazon.
He is also the CEO of the investment banking firm, Friedland Global Capital, the CEO of INTIVA Inc., a firm pursuing opportunities in the global cannabis industry, a director of Israel Plant Sciences Ltd., and an advisor to the U.S. private equity fund, First Harvest Financial, which is focused on the cannabis industry.