For the last several years, MAPS has provided financial support for the development of the compassionate use of marijuana in Israel, in conjunction with a program of medical access developed by the Israeli Ministry of Health. The Ministry reviews applications from physicians on behalf of their patients and has licensed four different medical marijuana production facilities. These facilities have permits from the Israeli Ministry of Health to provide marijuana for free to Ministry-approved patients. Since the production facilities can only give marijuana away, they rely on donations to cover costs. An excellent article on the Israeli medical marijuana program was published recently in an Israeli newspaper, and has been translated by Dana Peleg, MA.
In November, MAPS offered $15,000 as a matching grant to Yohai Golan, who has one of the Ministry production licenses. In December, Yohai managed to obtain $15,000 as his match from Israeli donors and MAPS sent him our $15,000, provided by an anonymous donor. Over the last several weeks, Yohai has concluded negotiations with Israeli investors (not donors) who are providing sufficient funding (roughly $200,000 per year) to cover the provision of enough marijuana for 500 patients for the next two years. These investors are gambling that they can make money providing marijuana extracts to the pharmaceutical industry, since they can grow marijuana for this purpose as well as for free distribution to patients. In addition, they expect they will eventually be given permission to sell marijuana to patients, though how much research will have to be conducted first remains to be determined.
As a side project to the production facility, Yohai’s team will be producing organic cannabis oil tinctures that can be used as a substitute for smoking for patients who prefer not to – or cannot – inhale smoke or vapors from a vaporizer. The tinctures will use donated fair-trade organic olive oil produced by Palestinians in the West Bank and Israelis in Israel.
Yohai Golan has estimated that the value of the marijuana that they will give away is roughly $6 million per year, based on prices for legal Dutch medical marijuana and prices for medical marijuana in the US.
MAPS colleagues Val Corral and Mimi Peleg from the Wo/Mens Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) will travel to Israel, probably in February, to help Yohai create a functional administrative system to distribute the medicine that will be harvested at the end of March. MAPS will pay for their travel through funds that have been donated and restricted to this project. Prior to going to Israel, Mimi Peleg will travel to Victoria, Canada, to meet with Philippe Lucas, founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society (VICS), to learn about his approach to distribution and research. Previously MAPS has sponsored Philippe to consult with another medical marijuana production facility in Israel.
Yohai expressed his gratitude to MAPS President Rick Doblin PhD, “I would like to thank Rick for his constant support and late night chats helping me keep focused and looking ahead. Without his guidance and constant advice, I would not have come this far in Israel and would have given up.”
MAPS is extremely gratified that our original funding of a mere $15,000 was the catalyst for this significantly larger investment!