The big news from Israel last week was that medical cannabis would be able to be purchased from drug stores and pharmacies just like any other medication. This stands in stark contrast to the U.S. where the only legal way to obtain medical cannabis is from a state-licensed marijuana dispensary or retail store.
Last week, the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, reported that Super-Pharm, the Israel’s largest pharmacy chain with 225 locations, had met with health ministry officials. The objective of the meetings was for Super-Pharm to obtain approval to dispense medical cannabis. This would allow physicians to prescribe cannabis just like any other medication, and provide patient access to their medicine from pharmacies and drug stores.
Most American patients who could benefit from cannabis-based medicine would like nothing more than to legally obtain a prescription from their doctor and pick up their medication at a Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS pharmacy.
American patients will not be able to obtain their medical cannabis from drugstores and pharmacies anytime soon. The only exception may be for children suffering from Dravet syndrome, a form of childhood epilepsy. It’s likely that GW Pharmaceutical’s drug Epidiolex, a treatment for Dravet syndrome, will be approved for sale by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration next year. Assuming this occurs, it would be available by prescription from pharmacies.
Today, in the United States, 25 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical or recreational marijuana. This number could change on November 8th when voters in four states, Florida, Arkansas, Montana and North Dakota vote to legalize medical cannabis, and voters in five states, Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada — will vote to legalize recreational cannabis.
Although it is relatively easy for patients in the western part of the U.S. to obtain cannabis to address their medical conditions, the same is not the case for individuals who live in states in the eastern United States. Despite having legalized medical cannabis, states including Illinois, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey make it very challenging or nearly impossible for patients to actually obtain cannabis medicine.
Israel is the acknowledged world leader in cannabis research. This change in regulations to allow medical cannabis to be obtained in pharmacies and drug stores will also make the country the world leader in providing easy patient access to cannabis-based medicine.
The use of cannabis-based medicine has been part of the Israeli healthcare system since the early 1990s. Although recreational cannabis is illegal in Israel, there are more than 27,000 Israelis using medical cannabis for numerous diseases and conditions. The medicine is supplied by eight government approved growers. In July, Israel’s Ministry of Health published rules for new participants in the medical cannabis industry. Since then the Ministry has received over 200 applications to grow and sell medical cannabis. Currently, Israeli patients must either purchase their medical cannabis directly from a grower through a distribution center or have it delivered to their homes. The ability of patients to obtain their medicine from Super-Pharm and other Israeli drug stores and pharmacies will vastly increase patient access.
Miki Ofer, the former chairman of the Pharmaceutical Society of Israel, was quoted by Haaretz as saying, “The Pharmaceutical Society of Israel encourages the sale of cannabis in drugstores. We think that this is the right place for dispensing the substance, just as it is for the other narcotic drugs.” He also stated, “After the program comes into effect and more doctors are certified to issue prescriptions, the number of patients using the plant will skyrocket to around 100,000.”
Copyright 2016 Jeffrey Friedland
Author: Jeffrey Friedland (www.jeffreyfriedland.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel. 1-646-450-8909.) His book, “Marijuana: The World’s Most Misunderstood Plant” is available at Amazon in print and Kindle editions.
Mr. Friedland is CEO of INTIVA Inc., director of CannRx, a founder of Israel Plant Sciences and has other business interests and investments in the cannabis industry in the United States, Canada and Israel.