A Healthy Cigarette

Sometimes I wonder how many of the people I know have ever killed someone. I’m not talking about murder. I mean, how many of them have run someone over, or left a baby in a car, or accidentally given Grandma the wrong medication. It must be a big number. After all, heaps of people die all the time. And someone’s killing them. Not all of them, but at least a few. And yet when I think about everyone I’ve known in my forty-odd years on this planet, I can’t come up with a single one besides myself who’s killed someone. Maybe the killers keep it under wraps, or they just don’t think about it all the time like I do. Maybe for them, the whole episode was just something that happened a long time ago and it’s not on their mind anymore—like a stag party, or hernia surgery, or a mediocre backpacking trip to the Far East.

I don’t know the name of the man I killed. He was a Syrian soldier and I was an Israeli soldier and we were at war. I’m not saying that to excuse what I did, just to explain the situation. It happened in Southern Lebanon, at night. We were standing about twenty feet apart. He tried to shoot me first, but his AK-47 jammed. Then I tried to shoot him, and my rifle jammed too. I took the magazine out, cocked twice—and the chamber discharged a bullet. I put the magazine back in. All this time I was looking at the Syrian soldier, who was doing exactly the same thing. It was obvious that under the circumstances, with him so close to me, what I should have done is charge ferociously and clobber his skull with my rifle. I’m guessing he was thinking the same thing. But instead of lunging at each other, we kept clutching our jammed rifles as if they were life boards: something to hold the necessary murderousness at bay, something that would allow us the luxury of being brutes by proxy instead of just brutes.

With the magazine back in, I cock my rifle and shut one eye so I can aim. The Syrian does the same thing. His one open eye looks fearfully straight at mine. I start to squeeze the trigger but the Syrian beats me to it by a split second. I hear the tap of his firing pin. His rifle is still jammed. Mine works. The sound is deafening. His face spurts blood. I wake up.

* * *

Whenever Rivi comes over for her regular check-ups, she asks my mother tedious questions like “What were your parents called?” or “How long have you lived in Israel?” or “What is the President’s name?” Rivi says these questions are like a workout for the brain, but as an outside observer it seems to me that my mom’s brain hasn’t been in workout shape for a long time. On her last visit, Rivi asked Mom, “Do you remember what street you live on, honey? Do you know which city you live in?” like she was a little girl. 

“Sort of,” my mom answered with a tender smile, “and you? Do you remember where you live?”

Rivi laughed and said she lived in Ramat Gan. Then she pointed to herself and asked Mom if she remembered her name. 

“Ruthi?” Mom tried, “is it Ruthi?” 

“You’re close,” said Rivi, stroking Mom’s pale hand, “very close. What about him?” She pointed at me. “Do you know who he is?”

Mom gave me an awkward look. “Him?” She shrugged her shoulders. “I know that I love him. Isn’t that enough?”

Before leaving, Rivi asked to have a word with me privately. She said my mom’s condition was deteriorating, she was worried, and I should take her to see a geriatric doctor. I tried to explain that Mom doesn’t like going to the doctor, and that as far as I’m concerned the fact that she doesn’t remember much is something of a blessing, because when you’re a lonely widow with no grandchildren and your son is an unemployed loser, it’s probably best not to remember. Rivi gave me a teacherly look and said that when I label myself as “an unemployed loser” I’m diminishing my existence, and that I have a lot more to offer. I asked what more I had to offer—not to pick a fight, but because I genuinely wanted to know—and she said that I’m a good person, a son who takes care of his mother, and that as a social worker she knows that’s not always the case. “I know you went through a rough divorce,” she added, “and that you have a mental health diagnosis, and that you experienced trauma in the army…”

“I killed someone,” I countered, “that’s not trauma, it’s what soldiers are supposed to do. I even got a medal of honor.”

“I know. Your mom told me there was a ceremony with the Chief of Staff and that—”

“I didn’t go. Did she tell you that, too?”

“Yes, she did. She told me. I know pretty much everything about you, from preschool onward. Your mom likes to talk. But her cognitive abilities are declining. She needs to see a doctor.”

After Rivi left, I made Mom some pancakes. Whenever I cook something good for her, she always wolfs it down, barely stopping to take a breath, as if I might grab her plate at any second. “Slow down, Mom,” I tell her, “relax, that pancake isn’t going anywhere.” But it’s pointless. If she likes it, she scarfs the whole thing in a second. That’s why I waited till Rivi was gone to give her the pancakes, so she wouldn’t embarrass herself.

“What’s the name of that lady who was here asking questions?” Mom asked. 

“Rivi. Her name is Rivi. But it doesn’t really matter.”

“Yes it does,” Mom said and looked up at me, “it does matter, and I’m sorry I forgot who you are. Sometimes my thoughts get mixed up, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

“I know, Mom.” I tried to smile, and I leaned over to kiss her warm cheek. “I know.”

* * *

High Times Magazine, October 2022

In the evening, I roll a “healthy cigarette” for Mom. That’s our codename for a joint. She smoked her first one when she was eighty, a few months after I moved back in with her. Every evening we’d sit in the yard and smoke the lousy, gritty pot that Nathan, the neighbors’ son, sold me for cheap. Mom always stressed about how the pot was going to destroy her short-term memory, and I always tried to figure out which of the things that had happened in the recent past she’d rather not forget: that my dad had dropped dead of a heart attack? That Dikla had left me for a woman with Asperger’s who designed products at her company? Or was it that I’d put on twenty-two pounds in seven months and now I looked like Mr. Potato Head?

As soon as mom started smoking, her mood always improved. Or maybe it didn’t but the weed made me think it did. Once, she grimaced and shut her eyes and said, “All these pains are unbearable! Do you know which part of my body hurts most?” When I said I didn’t, she gave me an apologetic, stoned look and asked me to remind her what we were talking about. “I was asking what you want for dessert,” I said.

“Mmm… Do we have any ice cream?”

“Of course we do.” I headed to the freezer, and presto—in the blink of an eye, the unbearable pain had turned into a tub of Cherry Garcia with M&M’s on top.

“I’m sorry about today,” Mom says, passing me the healthy cigarette, “maybe I really should see a doctor.”

I take a drag. “Okay. I’ll make an appointment. But first tell me who I am.”

“You?” she says with a hurt look, “I know who you are.” She falls silent, and I feel guilty again. You don’t have to kill to feel guilty. Mom stammers, “You’re… you’re…” and bursts into tears.

I get up and hug her: “It’s okay, Mom, don’t worry about it. You remember that you love me and that I love you. Isn’t that enough?”

Translated from Hebrew by Jessica Cohen

This story was originally published in the October 2022 issue of High Times Magazine.

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Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the Iconic ‘Father of Cannabis,’ Dies at 92

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam, the scientific giant and pioneer who first studied the effects of the cannabis plant and synthesize THC, has died at the age of 92 in his home in Israel, according to an announcement by American Friends of the Hebrew University. His passing is as monumental as it was unexpected and the reaction has been swift from all corners of the cannabis industry, an industry his unprecedented scientific findings made possible in the first place.

The Bulgarian-born scientist was arrested early in his career for carrying five kilos of what he called “superb smuggled Lebanese hashish” while on a bus in Tel Aviv. Dr. Mechoulam had the hash in his possession to analyze, not to smoke. Though the epic journey of this scientific giant began rather auspiciously, the soon-to-be icon wouldn’t be interrupted by anything else on his determined quest for answers surrounding the powerful plant.

Historic Findings

Dr. Mechoulam’s twin historic findings he led with his research team at Hebrew University School of Pharmacy included isolating THC, the psychoactive component found in all cannabis plants, as well as CBD or cannabidiol, the prevalent and active ingredient in cannabis with a wide array of medicinal and curative benefits.

Dr. Mechoulam’s findings cannot be understated for their undeniable significance, thus his well-earned moniker as the “Father of Cannabis.”

Immigrating with his family to Israel from Bulgaria in 1949, Dr. Mechoulam joined the scientific staff of the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, Israel (after graduating with a PhD from said institution) eventually becoming a professor at Hebrew University in 1972.

A fierce advocate of legalized cannabis, Dr. Mechoulam often voiced his dismay at the strict drug laws in the US and throughout the world. As the scientist and his team discovered more about the healing powers found in the magical plant—particularly in the areas of cancer and epilepsy—he voiced his frustration to The New York Times in 2017. “Israel has more clinical trials than the United States at the moment, which is ridiculous,” Dr. Mechoulam said.

Dr. Raphael Mechoulam teaching at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in the 1960s.

In the 1990s, Dr. Mechoulam discovered the endocannabinoid system which does nothing less than regulate homeostasis in human beings (and how, all of us, in turn, deal with cannabinoids).

As the fable grows of this massively important figure in the history of cannabis, it’s said Dr. Mechoulam started studying cannabis—something he has done his entire adult life—simply because he wanted to go into a scientific area not yet over crowded. Also, the fact that he resided in the relatively small country of Israel, the single most famous cannabis researcher in the world figured, “let’s give cannabis a go.”

Until his passing, Dr. Mechoulam was the president of the Hebrew University’s Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabis Research, the largest such center in Israel, and a globally important institution conducting breakthrough research into cannabis, cannabinoids and endocannabinoid.

“Dr. Raphael Mechoulam pioneered the paradigm shift from cannabis being a recreational experience to being an elevated medical opportunity,” says Cannabis Now Publisher and CEO, Eugenio Garcia.

“With cannabis being relatively new, there are leaders who made truly remarkable strides in the space. With Dr. Mechoulam’s passing, we have lost another legend. We are grateful for his vision and mission to unlock what cannabis can do for the planet and to heal people.”

In 2020, Cannabis Now traveled to Israel to explore the cannabis culture and participate in the annual Canna Tech Conference hosted in Tel Aviv.

“When we were filming our documentary in Israel, Dr. Mechoulam was very generous with his time,” says Garcia. “He invited us to the university to participate in a conversation about the science and benefits of cannabis. It was wonderful to connect with him in person.”

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‘Father of Cannabis Science’ Raphael Mechoulam Dead at 92

Raphael Mechoulam, the first person to synthesize THC, earning him the moniker the “Father of Cannabis Science,” has died, Analytical Cannabis reports. He was 92 years old, and his legacy will most certainly live on for centuries to come. The esteemed chemist is also called the father of cannabis research. Some of his additional game-changing contributions to drug science include isolating and synthesizing other cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabichromene (CBC). 

While THC, CBD, and CBG are basically household names today, that would not be the case if it weren’t for Dr. Mechoulam, so smoke one out for him in remembrance. A medicinal chemistry professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, his work laid the groundwork and got the ball (or blunt) rolling to prompt future breakthroughs, such as illumination into the human body’s internal cannabinoid receptors in the 1980s and ’90s, as detailed in the 1993 academic paper titled Molecular characterization of a peripheral receptor for cannabinoids

Make sure to pay your respects today, as Dr. Mechoulam’s friends and fellow scientists are, as you pass the peace pipe around with your buddies. “This is a very sad day for me, for the science community and for the cannabis community. Professor Raphael Mechoulam or as we called him Raphi, was one of the greatest scientist[s] I ever met and was my teacher and mentor in many aspects. I truly believe he [deserved] a Nobel prize!” wrote David “Dedi” Meiri, an associate professor at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, and one Mechoulam’s colleagues, in a touching online statement. “Thank you Raphi for all the great things you did and discover[ed] in your life and thanks for all the help and support you gave me. Rest in peace my dear friend,” he continues. 

Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, in 1930, Mechoulam and his family relocated to Israel, where he began studying chemistry. His inspiration to start his successful hunt for THC began after wise observance of other drugs’ mechanisms. In an interview with CNN in 2014, Mechoulam pointed out that: “Morphine had been isolated from opium in the nineteenth century, early nineteenth century, cocaine had been isolated from coca leaves [in the] mid-nineteenth century. And here we were, mid-twentieth century, and yet the chemistry of cannabis was not known. So it looked like [an] interesting project.” According to the National Library of Medicine, in 1964, he succeeded. And the story behind how Mechoulam obtained the cannabis he studied may surprise you. 

While working as a chemist in the early 1960s at the Weizmann Institute, Mechoulam got some weed from the Israeli police with his goal already in place: to discover and isolate what makes pot psychoactive. Once THC and other cannabinoids, such as the aforementioned CBD and CBG, were identified, in 1992, Mechoulam and his team discovered the chemical arachidonoyl ethanolamine, which you know as anandamide (derived from the Sanskrit word ananda, which means bliss). Anandamide is something our body’s endocannabinoid system produces on its own (as if we are built to use cannabis) and activates the CB1 receptor. 

Deeply passionate and hardworking, Mechoulam continued his research right up to his death. At the age of 88, at the cannabis conference CannMed in California in 2019, he announced another breakthrough, synthetically stable cannabidiolic acid (CBDA), the main phytocannabinoid in fiber and seed-oil hemp, which contains anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, and anti-cancerogenic properties, and that’s likely just the tip of the iceberg. “We have taken the unstable acid molecules of the cannabis plant and synthesized them to provide a stable, consistent basis for researching new therapies across a wide range of medical needs,” Mechoulam explained at the conference. He also used his stage time to encourage the scientific community to invest more into cannabis research, as enough time has already been lost, citing the many people from the past who would have vastly benefited from medicinal cannabis should it have been available. “Did we have to wait 30 years? No,” he said. “We could have helped thousands of children, and we didn’t.” 

Rest in Power, Dr. Mechoulam, and may everyone lucky enough to have access to the results of his work enjoy the power of plant medicine today. 

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Updates to Israel’s Medical Cannabis Program: Reduced THC Levels for New Patients

Israel is known for being at the forefront of medical cannabis research and treatment. The country has a long history of using marijuana for medicinal purposes and has made significant advancements in developing new and innovative ways to use the plant for medical purposes. Recently, the Israeli Ministry of Health has made some changes to the medical cannabis program that will impact new patients.

THC Reduction in Israel’s Medical Cannabis Program: What Patients Need to Know.

One of the main changes to Israel’s medical cannabis program involves reducing the THC levels for new patients. Delta-9 THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive component of marijuana and is responsible for the “high” feeling associated with its use. The Ministry of Health has decided to reduce the amount of THC available to new patients (defined as those receiving treatment for less than three months) to 10% or less. This is a significant decrease from the previous limit of 20%.

In addition, under the new changes to Israel’s medical cannabis program, new patients can only receive a maximum of 20 grams of dried cannabis flower (with a THC content of T10 or lower) or 30 grams of oil per month. This regulation is designed to restrict the use of stronger cannabis products among new patients, who are considered more vulnerable to the psychotropic effects of THC. However, as there is no formal research suppoering the reduction of THC for new patients, it might be that the aim of this reduction is not only to limit the potential side effects of the drug, but also to prevent the potential abuse of medical cannabis…

From what we understand today, this regulation is legally binding and cannot be overridden by a doctor, which means the system won’t allow the Doctor to prescribe flowers with T15 or T20 to new patients.

Another change to Israel’s medical cannabis program involves the process of obtaining medical cannabis. Previously, patients could only obtain medical cannabis through licensed growers and distributors. The new policy now allows patients to grow their own cannabis plants, but with certain restrictions. The patient must have a valid prescription and be authorized by the Ministry of Health. The plants must also be grown in a secure and enclosed area and must not be visible from outside the property. This change was made in order to give patients more control over the quality and purity of the cannabis they use for medical purposes.

Reduced THC levels in Israel’s Medical Cannabis Program

In addition to these changes, the Ministry of Health has also made changes to the medical cannabis treatment protocol. The new protocol requires doctors to provide detailed information about the patient’s medical history, diagnosis, and treatment plan. This information will then be used to determine the appropriate dosage and administration of the drug. The aim of this change is to ensure that medical cannabis is being used effectively and safely for each individual patient.

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CBD is still illegal

The medical cannabis sector in Israel has experienced rapid growth in recent years, and the policy changes aim to sustain this growth and advance the industry while prioritizing the safety and health of patients. Nevertheless, some in Israel argue that the medical cannabis program is not expanding to cover more medical conditions, and that the Ministry of Health is preventing doctors from enrolling more patients, thus hindering its growth.

Despite the new restrictions on cannabis, CBD remains inaccessible to the general public and it is illegal to purchase without a license for cannabis. As a “Pharma state,” Israel continues to regulate all substances, including CBD, by only selling it in pharmacies to those with proper licensing. This is despite widespread support for legalization in Israel, and a law to legalize CBD was written over two years ago but was blocked by political maneuvering.

What is Delta-9 THC

Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC or simply THC) is the primary psychoactive compound found in the cannabis plant. It is responsible for many of the plant’s effects on the mind and body, including its characteristic “high.” THC acts on the endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors in the brain and body, to produce its effects. It has been used for medicinal purposes, such as to relieve pain and improve appetite, as well as for recreational use, such as THC edibles, THC gummies etc. THC levels in cannabis can vary, and higher levels of THC are generally associated with stronger effects.

What is CBD

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring compound found in the cannabis plant. Unlike the primary psychoactive compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not produce the “high” typically associated with cannabis use. Instead, CBD has been reported to have a variety of potential therapeutic benefits, such as reducing anxiety, improving sleep, and reducing pain and inflammation. CBD has become a popular wellness product and is available in a variety of forms, including oils, tinctures, and edibles (such as CBD gummies). While the exact mechanisms by which CBD produces its effects are not yet fully understood, it is thought to interact with the endocannabinoid system, a group of receptors in the brain and body, to produce its effects.

What are the benefits of Delta-9 THC

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Delta-9 THC) is the primary psychoactive compound found in marijuana. The potential benefits of Delta-9 THC include:

  1. Pain relief: Delta-9 THC has been shown to have pain-relieving properties, which can be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as chronic pain, arthritis, and multiple sclerosis.
  2. Anti-inflammatory effects: Delta-9 THC has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
  3. Appetite stimulation: Delta-9 THC can stimulate appetite, which can be beneficial for individuals with conditions such as anorexia or cachexia.
  4. Nausea and vomiting relief: Delta-9 THC has been shown to be effective in reducing nausea and vomiting in individuals undergoing chemotherapy.
  5. Anxiety and depression relief: Delta-9 THC can help to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms in some individuals.

It is important to note that while Delta-9 THC has shown potential benefits in certain medical conditions, more research is needed to fully understand its effects and to determine the appropriate doses and methods of use.

Which countries have well-established medical cannabis programs?

While medical cannabis programs are evolving in many countries, there are several that have well-established program, such as the ones below:

  1. Canada – Legalized medical cannabis in 2001 and adult-use cannabis in 2018, making it one of the pioneers in this field.
  2. Netherlands – Has a long-standing tradition of tolerance for medical and recreational cannabis use, making it one of the world’s leading exporters of medical cannabis.
  3. Israel – Considered a leader in medical cannabis research, with a well-established medical cannabis program and a thriving cannabis industry.
  4. Germany – Has a rapidly growing medical cannabis program, with many patients receiving medical cannabis through the national health insurance program.
  5. United States – Although the legality of medical cannabis varies by state, several states have well-established medical cannabis programs and a thriving cannabis industry.

These countries have a strong infrastructure and regulatory framework in place to support the growth of the medical cannabis program and to ensure the safety and well-being of patients.

Is Israel still a Democracy?

Israel was once a leader in cannabis research, boasting the most advanced medical cannabis program. However, its cannabis laws have fallen behind and are now among the least progressive. The needed changes might not take effect soon, as the current government, led by Netanyahu, is attempting to restrict democracy and civil rights by restricting the power of the supreme court (as in Israel there is no constitution, the supreme court servs as the ‘defender of Democracy’ against illegal legistlation done by parlament).

This has sparked widespread protests as the majority of the population opposes these radical and unpopular changes and will not tolerate living in a non-democratic state.

New Changes to Israel's Medical Cannabis Program
New Changes to Israel’s Medical Cannabis Program

Many in Israel now argue that the government, backed by ultra-religious and extreme groups that reject democracy, lacks the legal authority to undermine democracy in the country. Every week, hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets, declaring that they will not allow these changes to take place and will take any legal measures against what they describe as an “illegal” and “criminal” government. This is due in part to the government’s recent changes to the law that allow people with criminal records to serve as ministers, as well as the fact that Netanyahu himself is facing numerous criminal charges.

As a result, Israel, which was once the only democracy in the Middle East, is now gradually moving away from that title, against the will of its own citizens.

Learn more about Cannabis and Psychedelics

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Israeli Company Clones Cannabis Cells—Not Plants—With Up to 12 Times the Potency

Using a bioreactor, a company in Israel cloned hemp cells to culture them into a powdery biomass that contains all of cannabis’s active compounds and can be dialed up to 12 times the potency. Not to be confused with the horticultural practice of cloning, Rehovot, Israel-based BioHarvest Sciences is cloning at the cellular level.

One of the perks of this technology is the potential to minimize waste. “Portions of the plant matter from the cannabis plant are waste that can be avoided using BioHarvest Technology,” BioHarvest CEO Ilan Sobel told High Times in an email.

“Cannabis plants are grown mostly just for the flower,” Sobel continued. “The flower contains the critical trichomes which are the source of cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids. BioHarvest’s technology allows it to grow cannabis cells with 93% trichomes in its bioreactors.”

The biomass is not grown like a typical plant; instead it’s produced in a bioreactor. “We don’t grow the plant at all,” Sobel told The Times of Israel. “We grow them in huge bioreactors in just three weeks—while regular cannabis takes 14 to 23 weeks. Our tech can also significantly increase the levels of active ingredients, as a percent of the weight, versus what is found normally in the plant.”

And gram for gram, the team at BioHarvest say their cannabis biomass requires less water and resources than plants.

Sobel and BioHarvest insist that the cells are not genetically engineered, and that they’re identical to cells found on living plants. So while the technology may sound far-reaching to the untrained ear, it’s a great way to avoid unwanted plant matter waste and increase potency. The biomass they produce is full-spectrum, containing the variety of phytocannabinoids you’d find in a plant.

“Our composition has significant amounts of both major cannabinoids such as CBD and THC as well as significant amounts of what have been termed minor cannabinoids,” Sobel told The Times

The team is able to crank up the potency by tinkering with the conditions inside the bioreactor. He continued, “By adjusting specific conditions to which the cells are exposed, we can create different desired compositions of active ingredients, meaning we can dial up and down the various cannabinoids [compounds].”

The team does not reveal the proprietary technology in detail, but said they have the power to increase potency 12 times, simply by changing the environment inside the bioreactor.

If you’re trying to picture in your head what it looks like, they provide a basic explanation.

Courtesy of BioHarvest Sciences

BioHarvest Sciences team invented Bio-Plant CELLicitation™, which is described in detail on the website. A plant is selected that contains important active phytochemicals. Then they are cut them into small pieces and inserted into a Petri dish on a solid medium that contains nutrients. Like a plant, the cells need light, oxygen, and nutrients. Then those cells are stored in a cell bank for perpetual production. They are biofarmed and when the biomass grows enough, it’s harvested into a powder and the powder can be used for different purposes.

BioHarvest Sciences say that each gallon of water produces 54 times (!) more bioreactor material than plant material, and land requirements are slashed by over 90%.

This system also enables producers to avoid contaminants and also avoid the variation in cannabis compounds that nature dictates in plants.

On May 12, BioHarvest announced the composition of their biomass, saying that trichomes represent 93% of the cannabis biomass produced using the proprietary Bio-Plant CELLicitation™ technology, and the bitter taste of plant matter is significantly reduced.

“The bottom line is that we can make cannabis and hemp far more useful than before, at lower cost to our planetary resources,” Sober told The Times. “It is a wellness and sustainability solution from Israel that can provide a truly inspiring contribution to the world.”

Dr. Yochi Hagay and Dr. Zaki Rakib founded BioHarvest after meeting in 2007. Beyond cannabis, BioHarvest Sciences’ first product, Vinia, is derived from red grape cells and contains a rich complex of polyphenols which is good for cardiovascular health. The company currently has a footprint in the U.S. and Canada.

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Attorney Shimmy Posen Discusses Legalization, the Global Marketplace

Recently, President Joe Biden announced a plan to pardon those convicted of simple cannabis possession, which left many wondering if this could be the first step towards full legalization or the federal declassification of cannabis. Though nothing official has been announced, there are many in the legal cannabis industry that wonder whether the U.S. will go the same route as Canada, who fully legalized in 2018.

Shimmy Posen, a Canadian attorney with over a decade of experience working with cannabis corporate finance, mergers, and acquisitions believes that this will eventually lead to the U.S. legalizing cannabis, much like Canada did in 2018. He said it is inevitable due to the global market and how much capital the cannabis industry can generate in international markets. “Being at the forefront of all this, my desk has become a trading floor for certain peripheral elements of these deals. I felt like a sports agent at times,” Posen said. “It got to be very complex, because there were lots of intricacies of how much growers could own, whether they would allow franchising or not and so much more that had to be ironed out. It was very knowledge-centric.”

Posen said he has worked with several Israeli and American companies that went public but is interested in countries where cannabis sales are legal.  “Anywhere in the world really, where cannabis was touching capital markets, we were aware of it at my desk, and advising clients and helping them build businesses. Some of the more recent deals include the Sundial acquisition.”

Posen said that in the global marketplace of cannabis, Canada stands out due to its legal status. “What distinguishes Canada from the rest of the world is this government truly allowed cannabis into the capital markets to interact with the financial systems,” he said. “But, in countries like the U.S. they still have issues with cannabis in banking systems due to the federal legality issues. We don’t have that problem in Canada since the illegality was removed.”

Posen said that he thinks Canada is a global leader, but admits the system isn’t perfect and has its flaws that need to be worked out. “One thing Canada got wrong, is they lumped under one umbrella THC and CBD,” Posen said. “Lots of people have issues coming into Canada on flights with CBD products, especially from the U.S., because they don’t think it’s a problem. But CBD is a controlled substance in Canada; you can’t buy it over the counter at a gas station or pharmacies, you can only get it at licensed dealers since it’s regulated and controlled. People fly in and get in trouble quite often because they don’t know this.”

Another problem Canada faced, according to Posen, is that once cannabis was legalized in 2018, for a period of around a year, only flower [was] allowed to be sold.” It took about a year for other products such as vapes, concentrates, and edibles to be available legally, so there was a market for all these products in the ‘black market,’” Posen said. “I don’t call them ‘black market’ though; I refer to them as the legacy market. Now, consumers can buy all these products in the legal retail stores. But it was a big mess. Canada has certainly taken a bullet for the rest of the world to see how this could work for totally legal cannabis  But, many of the legacy market underground stores are starting to transition into the legal markets because that is the future. No one goes out to buy moonshine; they buy known brands of hard liquor. Same [idea] with cannabis. This just takes time, it’s a process.”

Posen said that he thinks the cannabis sector in the global financial marketplace will continue to grow exponentially and even skyrocket. “The projectiles are clear. The industry is such a behemoth today and it’s only going to grow. It’s global already, and that’s without full legalization from countries like Germany and the U.S., so you can imagine what will happen when those countries fully allow legal cannabis,” he said. “One leading country especially for medicinal cannabis is Israel, who really started the industry standard for medical cannabis.” 

Posen said he is keeping an eye out for countries like Mexico, Thailand, Germany, and the U.S., among others but thinks eventually, most countries will allow legal, regulated cannabis sales. 

He thinks the recent announcement by Biden regarding cannabis convictions to be a first good step. “I suspect that eventually, the federal illegality will be removed, or the U.S. will just let the states determine what they want, kind of like how it went down during prohibition—just let local jurisdictions determine what they want to do.”

Although reluctant to offer a date or timeline, Posen said he believes that legalization is coming to the U.S. “As soon as it happens, it will remove many of the obstacles the U.S. faces in the public capital markets. Also, many other  countries will follow immediately and also legalize because many countries only have it illegal because of the U.S.,” Posen said. “People want individuals to make their own decisions, but at the same time not promote it for children. It’s about freedom but responsible use. The sky’s the limit.”

For more information, or to contact Mr. Posen, please visit the Garfinkle Biderman page.

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Cannabis Around the World

The cannabis industry is globalizing fast, which means changes for mainstays of commercial production in Europe and North America, and new players coming online from Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Central America. Here’s a roll call of a few entries from these increasingly cannafriendly international destinations.


Thailand is aggressively trying to position itself as the clear leader in Asia’s still emerging cannabis industry. The country’s health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, announced in May 2022—a month before a regulatory change took effect allowing residents to grow marijuana at home—that the Thai government will be giving away a million cannabis plants to households nationwide. The new and groundbreaking change allows Thai residents to grow cannabis without government permission—ostensibly to produce extract for medical use, which must be within a 0.2% THC limit. Anything above that is considered a “narcotic,” and requires special permission. Large-scale businesses will also still need to be granted a permit to legally operate.

As for actually smoking harvested bud—penalties for public use remain in place. But in the privacy of one’s home, cannabis is (at least) now de facto legal in Thailand.

Analysts were quick to point out that Thailand’s moves were made in hopes of attracting the exploding cannatourism sector to the Asian nation.

The process began this January, when the country’s Food and Drug Administration “delisted” the cannabis plant as a “Category 5” narcotic substance, in response to a draft proposal from the progressive Charnvirakul. This took effect on June 9—120 days after the change was officially published in the government’s Royal Gazette. But getting to the point of the Thai government handing out free weed to its citizens seemed unimaginable only a short time ago.

Thailand adopted a medical marijuana program in 2018 and approved commercial cultivation in 2020. But production is still harshly limited and rigidly controlled. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) is cultivating cannabis and making tincture, which, in turn, is supplied to hospitals and clinics. Private production licenses are just now coming online, but cultivators must sell only to the GPO or hospitals. Chaophraya Abhaibhubejhr Hospital in Prachinburi province is one such hospital with its own cultivation and extraction operations.

There’s also a separate set of regulations for what’s called “traditional medicine” and “applied medicine.” The former is for use in the country’s indigenous herblore, and the latter a Western-style medical marijuana program. In “traditional medicine,” cannabis extract can be used to treat a wide variety of ailments (insomnia, migraines, etc.), but only with a solution of three percent THC, infused in coconut oil. For “applied medicine,” more potent oil or tincture may be used, but only for a very limited number of serious conditions, such as epilepsy and the effects of chemotherapy.

Chokwan Kitty Chopaka is founder and CEO of the Bangkok-based networking and advocacy group Elevated Estate, which held an international expo in November 2019, eagerly hyping what it called Asia’s impending “green rush.” Three years later, she admits that such hopes have leveled off. The medical program was crafted “with the stigma in mind,” she said. “They’re scared of people being able to enjoy themselves or heal themselves. There are prohibitive license fees. The big companies will be able to pay, but the little guys won’t.” 

And despite some 300 cannabis clinics operating nationwide, there’s not nearly enough supply to meet demand. “The clinics are only open a few hours a week, and most patients are still going to the illegal black market.” This may change following the FDA “delisting.” 

However, Chopaka does see that cultural momentum for a freer atmosphere is mounting. “On the underground front, we’re getting really good at growing,” she says. “It was quite difficult to find growers in Thailand five years ago, but now we’re really producing good quality weed.” And with the FDA regulatory change, cannabis is now “legal as garlic.”

So, progress may be slower than what was anticipated after the medical program was first unveiled in 2018, but Chopaka says, “They can’t go backwards; they’ve already opened the door.” 

Meanwhile, she’s producing terpene-infused gummies under her own Chopaka brand, with a dedicated retail shop in Bangkok. Chopaka developed the patented terpene profile, which is produced by a factory under contract, and added to the gummies at her own factory. No actual cannabis is involved, but mimicking the flavor, she hopes, will contribute to the cultural shift and help “de-stigmatize the use of cannabis.”


cannabis and Canada
PHOTO Roxxy Photos

The traditional leader in the global industry and the crucible of Big Bud is facing something of a reckoning. Canadian firms pioneered the use of sprawling greenhouses, applying economy-of-scale strategies to cannabis. But now a market correction is causing a roll-back of Big Bud’s ambitions—which may be a boon to more eco-friendly boutique cannabis. New micro-cultivation licenses for small growers recently came available through Health Canada.

 Justin Cooper is co-founder and CEO of British Columbia-based GreenPlanet Wholesale, which supplies equipment and its own line of fertilizers to Canada’s leading licensed cannabis producers.

 Noting that industry leader Canopy Growth recently shut down its two greenhouse complexes in BC, Cooper observes: “Companies came in to own the cannabis space, and they aren’t doing so good. This leaves room for the craft cultivators to find a niche. The market is flooded. LPs are sitting on vaults of cannabis they can’t sell. When people see a potential gold rush, they flock to it. But now that craft licenses are available, the market is maturing.” 

Cooper continued, saying that growers who transitioned from the black to legal market are now finding success as they cement their rightful place in this industry.

“People who were born into growing cannabis in the Kootenays and are collecting their first paychecks now, after living in a cash economy all their lives, [are] either owning production or finally getting gainful employment in the legal space,” he said.

 However, Cooper says official policy is in some ways holding back this sector.

“The government grades solely on the basis of THC content,” he said. “The provincial government won’t buy if it’s under 21 percent, and all cannabis on the legal market has to go through the BC Liquor Control Board.”

In contrast, aficionados have traditionally judged high-quality cannabis by aroma, color, bud structure and trichomes—not just potency.

Cooper sees a remedy in proposals for a “Farmgate” program in which local growers could directly market their product—one has already been launched in Ontario. “It’d be like a farmers’ market or craft beer brewery where customers could come and drink beer that’s made on site,” he said. “The Liquor Control Board would still tax and have regulatory control but would not do direct sales.”

As the marketplace opens up to small growers in Canada, Cooper emphasizes how important it is for them to find areas that define them as a cultivator. “What makes you different from your competition? The best way to complete is not to compete,” he says.

With a growing market niche for organic, Cooper hopes to see more outdoor-grown product coming online—despite the short growing season in BC. “Indoor is a by-product of prohibition, and the carbon footprint associated with making a pound of indoor cannabis is atrocious,” he says. “We have to be better stewards of the plant and the planet.”


cannabis and Israel

Israel has had a thriving medical marijuana program; the government also added a legal commercial cultivation and export sector when the cabinet moved to permit medical in February 2019. An internal adult-use market may be on the distant horizon. New regulations being weighed by the cabinet would decriminalize personal use, making permanent a provisional decriminalization measure passed by the Knesset in July 2018. Some see a unique role for the country in the global industry.

“Israel’s traditional leading edge is in cannabis research,” says Joshua Nachum Berman, director of the Tel Aviv-based networking platform CannaTech.

From 2015 to the pandemic shutdown in 2020, CannaTech held an annual conference, bringing together investors, entrepreneurs and scientists “to explore the latest developments in the cannabis space,” in Berman’s words. CannaTech held expos in Panama and Cape Town as well as Israel and held events alongside the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“Israel has done well in agrotech and biotech, and cannabis sits at the crossroads of those,” he says. “There’s been ongoing cannabis research since the 1960s; we’re a leader in research and development. It’s written into the DNA of how things operate here.”

Berman runs down a litany of areas where he sees Israel’s potential as a world leader. “We’re exploring genomics on the agricultural side and developments on the medical side with new cannabinoids and novel delivery systems, such as vaporization and other cleaner alternatives to combustion. We haven’t approached the full potential of what you can do with this plant.”


cannabis and Costa Rica

Costa Rica legalized medical marijuana and hemp cultivation by an act of the Legislative Assembly on March 2, 2022, becoming the second country on the Central American isthmus to do so after Panama, which took the move in August 2021. 

President Carlos Alvarado signed the law after two years of debate. In January, he’d vetoed a more far-reaching measure that also would’ve allowed personal use and home cultivation. The new law doesn’t. Despite this limitation, the Assembly member who shepherded through the law has high hopes for emergence of a new agricultural sector for Costa Rica. Zoila Rosa Volio tells Cannabis Now that the law will “mark a before-and-after in our history, if appropriate regulation is implemented.”

This, however, isn’t a given. The center-left President Alvarado is on the way out. In an April 3 run-off election, the right-wing Rodrigo Chaves, a former finance minister, edged out centrist former president José Maria Figueres. It remains to be seen to what degree Chaves will attempt to roll back the cannabis reform, which occasioned much opposition from cultural conservatives.

The post Cannabis Around the World appeared first on Cannabis Now.

Canada Border Agency Seizes Almost 2,000 Pounds of Illegal Cannabis Export

According to a press release from the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) on Aug. 24, the agency announced that it recently seized 592 kilograms (approximately 1,305 pounds) of cannabis in a recent move.

Using a CBSA detector dog in addition to “a wide range of detection tools and technology,” law enforcement was led to 1,036 vacuum-sealed bags of “suspected cannabis” bound for export on May 26. In addition to the first seizure, another was conducted on June 26 which involved 300 kilograms (661 pounds) contained in 100 bags—netting 892 kilograms (almost 2,000 pounds) of cannabis in total between the two seizures.

“Regardless of the mode of entry (air, marine, land, rail), it is illegal to bring cannabis (and cannabis products) into or out of Canada without a valid Health Canada permit or exemption,” the agency wrote in a press release. “CBSA officers have the authority to examine in-bound shipments as well as goods for export. Personal, mail, courier, and commercial shipments are subject to the Customs Act and may be examined for prohibited goods, including cannabis and cannabis products. Avoid seizures, fines or arrest: Don’t bring it into Canada. Don’t take it out of Canada.”

Rahul Coelho, CBSA A/Director, Metro Vancouver District, Pacific Region explained that exportation is only legal for those who have obtained the proper certification. “Although cannabis has been legalized and regulated in Canada, it remains illegal to import or export cannabis and cannabis products without a valid permit or exemption issued by the Government of Canada,” Coelho said. “These significant seizures demonstrate our commitment to intercepting illegal narcotics—at import and export—and contribute directly to disrupting criminal organization activity.”

According to the Canada Cannabis Act, only licensed parties may import or export cannabis in Canada, and “only for medical or scientific purposes.” All individual shipments require a permit, and permit applications are approved on a case-by-case basis.

Cannabis exports for Canada were valued at $53 million in 2020, which according to Prohibition Partners was a 229% increase from 2019 export data. Between 2018-2020, Canada exported 30,000 kilograms (approximately 66,000 pounds) of dried medical cannabis, as well as 35,500 liters (more than 9,000 pounds) of cannabis oil overseas.

Many other countries have legalized cannabis for import and export. Israel, one of the top countries in the world for cannabis research, approved cannabis exportation in May 2020. “This is a significant step for exporters and the Israeli industry, which will enable both expansion of export opportunities as well as rising employment … in the field,” said former Israel Economy Minister Eli Cohen about the decision.

Last year in July, Colombia legalized medical cannabis export as well, specifically for flower. “Colombia starts to play big, and with this decree we are putting ourselves at the forefront in terms of regulatory competitiveness, at least in Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Colombian President Ivan Duque. “We are opening the space to do much more in cosmetics … [including] food and beverages and even textiles.” Previously, Colombia approved legislation in 2016 to regulate cannabis production and sales, but exports remained banned until 2021.

A recent study revealed that in Canada, cannabis flower is still the most popular consumption method (according to data collected between 2018-2020). “The findings highlight the rapidly evolving nature of the cannabis product market, including notable shifts in the types of cannabis products used by consumers. … Although dried flower continues to dominate the market, it has begun declining with a notable shift towards increasing popularity of processed cannabis products,” researchers wrote about their findings. After flower, cannabis edibles and vape oils were the second and third most popular during the specified time frame.

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Study Finds Medical Cannabis Reduces Cancer Patients’ Pain and Need for Opiates

A study released last week has determined that cancer patients who used medical cannabis reported less pain and reduced their need for powerful opiate painkillers. The research also found that medical cannabis (MC) was well tolerated and reduced other cancer-related symptoms, according to a report on the study by Neuroscience News.

“The results of this study suggest that MC treatment is generally safe for oncology patients and can potentially reduce the burden of associated symptoms with no serious MC-related adverse effects,” the authors wrote in an abstract for the study, which was published by the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Pain Research.

The study was conducted by a team of Israeli researchers, who noted that the use of medical cannabis by cancer patients is on the rise. However, there is a lack of long-term clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of medical weed for patients undergoing treatment for cancer.

“Traditionally, cancer-related pain is mainly treated by opioid analgesics, but most oncologists perceive opioid treatment as hazardous, so alternative therapies are required,” explained researcher David Meiri, assistant professor at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology and one of the study’s authors. “Our study is the first to assess the possible benefits of medical cannabis for cancer-related pain in oncology patients; gathering information from the start of treatment, and with repeated follow-ups for an extended period of time, to get a thorough analysis of its effectiveness.”

Study co-author Gil Bar-Sela, associate professor at the Ha’Emek Medical Center Afula, said that many cancer patients expressed the desire for alternatives to opiates, which carry a high risk of addiction. Feedback from patients inspired the team of researchers to investigate the benefits of medical cannabis.

“We encountered numerous cancer patients who asked us whether medical cannabis treatment can benefit their health,” said Bar-Sela. “Our initial review of existing research revealed that actually not much was known regarding its effectiveness, particularly for the treatment of cancer-related pain, and of what was known, most findings were inconclusive.”

To complete the study, the researchers recruited oncologists who have been certified to issue licenses to use medical cannabis to their patients. The oncologists then referred patients who were interested in the study to the researchers. The oncologists also assisted by reporting the traits of their patients’ cancer to the researchers as the study progressed.

“Patients completed anonymous questionnaires before starting treatment, and again at several time points during the following six months,” Bar-Sela noted. “We gathered data on a number of factors, including pain measures, analgesics consumption, cancer symptom burden, sexual problems, and side effects.”

Nearly Half of Patients Ended Their Use of Painkillers

Analysis of the collected data revealed an improvement in many outcome measurements, including a reduction in pain and other symptoms of cancer. The researchers also noticed a reduction in the use of opiates and other painkillers, with nearly half of the patients in the study reporting they had stopped using analgesic painkillers after six months of using medical cannabis.

However, the researchers did not see evidence of other positive outcomes that have been previously associated with the use of medical pot by cancer patients.

“Medical cannabis has been suggested as a possible remedy for appetite loss, however, most patients in this study still lost weight,” said Meiri. “As a substantial portion were diagnosed with progressive cancer, a weight decline is expected with disease progression.”

“Interestingly, we found that sexual function improved for most men, but worsened for most women,” Meiri continued.

The researchers suggested further study, including research into the effectiveness of medical cannabis for patients with different types of cancer.

“Although our study was very comprehensive and presented additional perspectives on medical cannabis, the sex, age, and ethnicity, as well as cancer types and the stage of the cancer meant the variety of patients in our study was wide-ranging,” explained Meiri. “Therefore, future studies should investigate the level of effectiveness of medicinal cannabis in specific subgroups of cancer patients with more shared characteristics.”

The findings are consistent with other research, including a separate study published earlier this year that found that patients with osteoarthritis (OA), the most common form of arthritis, also saw a reduction in their use of pain medications after beginning treatment with medical cannabis.

“Our findings indicate that providing access to MC, helps patients with chronic pain due to OA reduce their levels of opioid usage in addition to improving pain and QoL [quality of life]. Furthermore, a majority of patients did not feel intoxicated or high from MC, and of those who did, only a small percentage said it interfered with their daily activities,”  the authors wrote in the study, as quoted by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “Our findings support the literature in that MC reduces the use of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain.”

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Cannabis Goes Kashrut: Israel and Orthodox Conversion

Israel is the most advanced medical cannabis market in the world thanks to the ground-breaking research of Israeli scientists. There are over 100,000 patients with valid cannabis licenses. Beyond this, there is evidence that Jews have used cannabis for religious reasons for thousands of years

But so far, modern Orthodox, or even slightly less observant Jews—both in Israel and beyond—have been leery of taking cannabis, even as medicine. And when it comes to these kinds of decisions, it is usually Israel that has the final say.

The reason? Cannabis as medicine had not been certified as kosher—or kashrut—before in Israel (although burgeoning attempts exist in the U.S.). The term “kosher” refers to regulations that prohibit observant Jews from eating certain foods and require that others be prepared in a certain manner—in other words according to Jewish law.

This has now changed. A kashrut certification for Seach Medical Group was issued—and further was discovered as the company listed on the stock exchange. While this has not helped the performance of the company’s stock, it may well herald a new day in Israel and beyond for medical cannabis brands with the right certifications and market reach. Namely, more Jewish people—including those who are Orthodox—may be inclined to use medical cannabis. If a product is kosher, they can consume it even on Shabbat (holy days) and other religious holidays.

Is Cannabis Kosher?

This is a big issue on the cannabis front (and not just in Israel). It is also complicated because of the grey areas created by legalization. For example, some observant Jews would not take any cannabis—particularly if it had any THC in it on Shabbat (the weekly holy day that exists from sundown on Friday until Sunday morning). In life or death situations, Jewish law does not require that medicines are designated as kosher, but it is usually preferred and recommended that any medicine is certified as such.

Now that a cannabis company has been certified as kosher in Israel, the doubt can end. 

Not only will this (of course) increase the use of medical cannabis domestically, it will also begin to open the discussion outside of the country as well. Starting with the U.S.

Type the words “kosher” and “cannabis” into your browser, and you will see that there is already a trend in the U.S. (starting with California). This is also a conversation in New York.

How might this certification be added to create a different but highly accurate test for purity and healthiness? Not to mention create a unique branding and market entry opportunity?

Does Cannabis Need Kashrut Certification?

As a plant, cannabis is not something that would typically require kosher certification. This is a stamp of approval granted by a rabbinic agency, which will check ingredients, the production process, and the production facility. Consider it a kind of Talmudic GMP meets ISO.

It is usually applied to meat and places where food is processed. However, it is also applied to medicine.

The significance in Israel, of course, is that both the medicines and edibles market can now be certified as kosher. This will undoubtedly drive additional sales as large new percentages of the population can partake. According to the most recent reports released by the Israeli government, the majority of the country identifies as religious. Forty-two percent of the population identify as secular.

In the United States, this means that beyond any state (and presumably federal when it comes) certifications for cannabis, any company hoping to reach the Jewish market in states like New York will also do well to consider this kind of certification.

The Global Jewish Cannabis Market

Walk into any mainstream German grocery store these days and you will find a special kosher section. Indeed, Jews all over Germany import New York state manufactured wine for use in their ceremonies.

There is a huge global niche market for kosher products—and with just a few destination points outside of Israel.

This starts with the U.S. (and just behind them, the U.K.).

In the U.S., 2.4% of the population is Jewish, and 21% of New York identifies as such—the largest concentration of Jews outside of Israel. California comes second with about 1.5 million Jews, with Florida, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania rounding out the top five states.

This is a targetable population. And now, thanks to the rabbinical approval in Israel of a cannabis medicine, that conversation can happen globally.

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