While Israel’s medical cannabis program is a robust one, regulations and too much red tape are hindering the supply chain. Israel’s most prominent medical cannabis grower is now being sanctioned by the government and needs to give up shares in the company.
Israel has been the world leader of medical cannabis research for decades and is one of the first countries in the world to run a regulated medical cannabis program. While medical cannabis research has been halted in many countries, Professor Raphael Mechulam and his team continue to study it in Israel – as they have been since the 1960s. They were the ones that originally discovered THC, CBD, Anandamide and the ECS (Endocannabinoid System).
Tikun Olam, established in 2005, is one of the first and until recently the largest medical cannabis grower in Israel and has been for many years. When medical cannabis regulations began taking root in 2010, eight companies, including Tikum Olam started to sell cannabis to patients. Prior to 2010, these companies were giving cannabis away for free, waiting for the regulations to allow them to sell it.
In 2012 Tikun Olam introduced a High-CBD cannabis flower, which allowed the young medical cannabis company to offer low-THC flowers to their clients. It became a very popular choice among the patients.
Now, they not only have operations in Israel, but in recent years have also expanded to Australia, Canada, and the United States. In addition to cultivation, Tikun Olam has been at the forefront of many important medical cannabis studies and is still actively involved in research.
Recently, for various reasons (related to the new regulations), their license has been temporary put on hold. Now the founder of Tikun Olam, Tzahi Cohen, has been ordered by the courts to divest the majority of his 70% stake in the organization he created.
Tikun Olam can only have their growing license back once Cohen has divested his shares, and that fact sparked outrage. The scandal surrounds unproved police allegations about Cohen which are yet to be substantiated. In February, Tikun Olam notified patients that they were encountering “supply issues” even though their provision of CBD oil was unaffected.
In court, judges discussed placing Cohen’s shares into a blind trust, while making him resign from the management board. Cohen will still be entitled to profit from the company, though. The high court in Israel rejected Tikun Olam’s appeal on the matter, claiming more research is needed to ascertain whether reinstating the license would “hold potential risk to the public.” Almost everyone agrees that that’s absurd and is making the Health Ministry look like a corrupt body with specific “self-interests.”
Tikun Olam told reporters, according to a report in Calcalist, that the company is now considering their next steps carefully. They may appeal to the Supreme Court, although that route is timely and costly. For the time being, Tikun Olam is doing what they can to provide their patients with medical cannabis, THC oil, and CBD oil.