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Israel has positioned itself as the innovation epicentre for the global market of legal cannabis

Israel wants to become the technology hub for the world’s weed industry. THE unlikeliest of countries is establishing itself as the technology hub of an exploding global trade in marijuana. Israel held its second annual CannaTech conference this month in which entrepreneurs, start-ups, academics and scientists gathered with the mutual goal of cannabis innovation. Changing attitudes to the use of marijuana in countries such as the US has helped spur the recent growth in Israel’s industry which was tipped over the edge when conservative Rabbis gave the okay for medical marijuana use. “I’m not sure that my people, my voters are so happy about what I did,” Health Minister and ultra-orthodox Rabbi Yaakov Litzman told CNN. But the country’s Health Ministry is looking to remove the notion of morality attached to the plant in order to become the world’s premier hub for marijuana technology. A number of cannabis related start-ups have already made a name for themselves. A company called Syqe Medical garnered a $26 million investment from tobacco giant Philip Morris for the development of a metered inhaler that controls doses of cannabis. Medical cannabis grower Tikkun Olam (which means “Healing the World” in Hebrew) has developed a plant that doesn’t have any psychoactive properties. In other words, it doesn’t get the patient high. Conversely, they’ve also engineered a strain which they say has the highest level of THC ever grown — the chemical responsible for the high and effective in pain treatment. A company called Eybna has had success in developing strains of marijuana tailored to specific ailments while start-up firm Kalytera wants to develop medicines to treat osteoporosis by synthesising chemical compounds from cannabis. The number of people being treated with cannabis in Israel has skyrocketed in the past decade from being virtually non-existent in 2005 to nearly 23,000 people using the drug for medical purposes last year. “Everything is set up here to be the epicentre of cannabis research,” said Clifton Flack, the co-founder of iCan which organised the CannaTech conference. Arizona medical researcher Suzanne Sisley agrees. “Israel is right on the cusp of being able to grab hold of this entire industry and become the real mecca for marijuana research,” she told CNN. Those involved in the industry think their sitting on a cash cow. “It could be a business of hundreds of millions of dollars to Israel,” Aharon Lutzky, the CEO of Tikun Olam said. Israel’s push for innovation in the legal cannabis sector is also fuelled by a desire to export much of their technology to the burgeoning US market which is expected to reach $US100 billion (A$126 billion) by 2029, according to a report last month by Ackrell Capital. Australia too is beginning to head in the same direction. Although well behind the US and Israel, the Australian parliament last month passed amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act which have paved the way for the manufacture of medicinal cannabis products in Australia. Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the pie.

The chairman of the CannaTech conference, Raphael Mechoulam, delivers a speech to participants at the summit for cannabis innovation.

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