Will Israel become the world leader in cannabis exports? The decision is in the hands of the government, but farmers and researchers in Israel are quietly preparing to take the world by storm the moment they receive permission. A small but technologically advanced marijuana farm, Tikun Olam, started legal commercial production in 2008. They’ve set a standard of quality that growers the world over will be hard pressed to match.
It all started on a small scale at the Cohen family home in Upper Galilee. Situated dramatically on cliffs near a small village in the mystical mountains of Northern Israel, the Cohen’s home was the first site of a legal commercial marijuana grow in Israeli history. At the time, in 2008, a mere 100 medicinal users were approved by the government to grow small amounts of marijuana for personal use. The Cohen’s grow, which took place on the rooftop of their house, was the first time anyone in Israel was licensed to grow marijuana for profit. From its humble beginnings the Cohen family quickly developed their farm, which they named Tikun Olam, into what they claim to be the most advanced growing and processing facilities on the planet. They have an assortment of greenhouses, carefully built to consider the angle of light and direction of passing winds, flower and mother houses and a high-tech trimming machine to speed the tedious process of preparing the harvest for market.
In Israel marijuana is an illegal substance, which is a little different than many other countries in the type or severity of punishment. When a person is caught with an amount of 15 grams for personal use, there is not a severe punishment and it is socially accepted. Cannabis paraphernalia is not unusual to see in places like cafes and there is a medical marijuana program for patients that meet certain prerequisites. These are usually patients that are suffering the effects of chemotherapy, MS or are in the later stages of medical conditions like HIV.
Marijuana is illegal to smoke, to buy, to sell or to grow in Israel, but with personal use defined as 15 grams, which is not severely punished, police will usually ignore a person with marijuana, unless they are in trouble for another offense. If a person is taken to the police station due to possessing an amount of marijuana normally the record that is made will be cancelled in a year if there are no other offenses, when the amount is what could be considered for personal use. Higher amounts of marijuana do carry a more severe punishment for the person smoking, selling, growing or buying the cannabis. This more severe punishment can include jail time and depending on the type of marijuana offense and the amount will determine the amount of jail time that will be issued.
The Ministry of Health in Israel as recent as 2009 has been instructed to expand their regulations of the medial patients use and authorization of medical marijuana, which also included the number of authorized marijuana producers. The general marijuana laws have not been opposed by activists or political officials to change the laws making marijuana illegal and remain the same.