Israel Launches First-Ever Shipment of Cannabis Seeds to U.S.

By Keegan Williams – 19 de mayo de 2022

For the first time, Israel is making an export of cannabis seeds headed for the United States, according to a Wednesday statement from the Israeli Agriculture Ministry. The move is set to be a major step in the country entering the global cannabis industry.

“The export of cannabis seeds has long expanded the range of Israeli agricultural exports and strengthens local agriculture, while taking advantage of Israel’s relative advantage in a field that is still considered primitive. We must support Israeli companies as they take their first steps in the global market,” Oded Forer, minister of agriculture and rural development, said in the release.

Forer added that he is working to strengthen Israel’s agricultural imports “on all levels,” instructing his officer workers to provide support that will strengthen local agriculture and enable competition in the global world.

The seeds are from the crop science company BetterSeeds, as part of the company’s cultivation program under the research license of the Medical Cannabis Unit at the Ministry of Health. After the seeds reach the U.S., they will be examined for marketability in the country’s national market, opening the door for further exports to follow. The ministry also said that the move could lead to the opening of additional international markets for Israeli exports, ultimately allowing the country to significantly advance its medical cannabis industry.

The ministry also noted that Israel is among the leading countries in seed research and development, alongside its work in medical cannabis in particular. It added that seed exports could also attract interest from various researchers around the world, working to further strengthen research in the cannabis field.

Naama Kaufman-Pess, director general of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, echoed Forer’s sentiments in the announcement, saying the export will allow Israel to break into more markets.

“The necessity of reality obliges us to strengthen our trade relations with other countries, such as the opening of agricultural annexes in other countries, as well as the export of current cannabis seeds abroad,” Kaufman-Pess said. “It is with great hope that this shipment will also bring with it further commercial success.” 

Shipment Stems From Israel’s Industry Pressure

The move follows the Israeli government’s move in August 2021 after fierce pressure from the country’s cannabis industry to amend its medical cannabis export rules, allowing for the export of cannabis seeds.

President Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar also announced in March that the government is considering expunging criminal records of those convicted of personal cannabis possession or use. 

The country’s market is booming, with medical cannabis consumption growing from 28/5 million tons in 2020 to 43 metric tons in 2021, according to the Health Ministry. Israel’s medical cannabis market was also valued at around $264 million 2021, which is roughly $7 million less than the entirety of Europe, according to industry analysis firm Prohibition Partners.

Israel may also be looking into enhancing and elevating other, alternative medicine industries in the future. The country made headlines earlier this month for the development of a “breakthrough delivery system for psychedelic drugs,” with nanotechnology for the treatment and prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder in the form of a nasal spray.

The nanoparticles encapsulate molecules of psychedelic substances, such as psilocybin, along with ketamine, mescaline, MDMA and others. It was invented by Professor Amnon Sintov from the department of biomedical engineering at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) and licensed by BGN Technologies, the technology transfer company of BGU.

Dr. Galit Mazooz Perlmuter, senior vice president of business development, bio-pharma at BGN Technologies, said that there is a “vast need” for better treatment of PTSD and other mental disorders and nodded at the potential road ahead.

“We have filed a patent application to protect this unique approach, which is an excellent example of the kind of breakthrough technologies originating from top scientists at the Ben-Gurion University.”

While Israel has already been immersed in the cannabis market for years, leaders are also considering taking steps toward the legalization of recreational cannabis as they consider decriminalizing adult use. With changing legislation and cultural conversations as a whole, the country could soon be an even larger player in the ever-expanding field. 

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