×

Could pot strengthen US-Israel ties?

Many people would probably be surprised to know that Israel has become synonymous with marijuana over the years because of research conducted by its top scientists and professors. Now a group in New York state wants to bring the best of that know-how to America.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, now a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, was the first person to isolate the psychoactive THC component of marijuana. He was also the first to test THC drops in children with cancer. And some of the major advances Mechoulam made in his cannabis research were financially sponsored by the American government in the form of the National Institute of Health (NIH) grants long before marijuana was medicinally legal in the United States.

"The NIH gave me grant money and I was lucky enough to get money for almost forty years. I got about $150,00 per year, multiply that by forty, it's quite a bit," Mechoulam told CNBC last year.

"They [NIH] said it was in the American interest to support our work."

Now that partnership is expanding as Tikun Olam, the major research institution that works with the Israeli government on medical marijuana, has announced that it plans to come to the U.S. next week to create a program that would share medical marijuana data with American health experts. The organization is hoping to get a medical marijuana license in New York by partnering with the Compassionate Care Center of New York, and the program directors say the financial incentive could be huge.

Aharon Lutzky, CEO Tikun Olam, told CNBC that his institution has the largest patient database in the world, and that they have monitored, "each patient's ailment and the efficacy of the different strain variations and dosages used for each patient," for almost a decade.

"We hope to create a partnership between Israel, Canada and the U.S. for the benefit of all New York patients, and to provide the state Department of Health with the benefit of everything Israel has learned from the years of trial and error," Lutzky said.

The Compassionate Care Center of New York (CCCNY) has exclusive licenses for two out of the three strains of medical marijuana that have high CBD and low THC levels. CBD is another component of marijuana that has been shown in many studies to have medicinal effects, but without many of the side effects of THC.

CCCNY CEO Dr. Larry Good told CNBC that getting a registration is a time consuming and difficult process, so the partnership with his organization is necessary for Tikkun Olam to bring all of its marijuana data and expertise to America.

The question is whether New York will let any of it happen. Almost half the states in America have legalized the use of medical marijuana, but New York is just starting the process of licensing medical marijuana operations after just legalizing it earlier this year. Economic concerns should quicken the approval process, if the folks in Albany are paying attention. According to Arcview Group, a cannabis investment fund that tracks industry numbers, the legal market for both recreational and medical marijuana nationwide will be $3.5 billion this year.