Israel: A desert town wants to become “The new capital” of medical cannabis.

The first technological incubator of medical cannabis in Israel can be found in Yeruham, a small town lost in the dunes of the Negev desert. The incubator belongs to the company Canneguev.

“We decided to make medical cannabis the heart of our activity here in Yeruham, one of the most peripheral cities of Israel, a forgotten city,” said Canneguev founder Ziv Bet Or.

“My dream is to make Yeruham the capital of medical cannabis in Israel. It’s not every day that a new market emerges in Israel; I told myself that everything had to be done to be at the forefront. My objective is to create quality jobs” and to offer high incomes to attract a new population of workers” explained mayor Tal Ohana, who initiated the project

The cannabis industry could boost employment in the region. 

Elected in 2018 at the head of this town, Tal Ohana is banking on the technology industry to transform the image of Yeruham, whose unemployment rate (7.8%) is higher than the national average.

Even though recreational cannabis use is quite tolerated in Israel, it remains illegal. In the past years, the State has been encouraging its therapeutic benefits to treat several severe degenerative illnesses and PTSD. 

In October, the parliament approved a preliminary reading of a bill to make the cannabis industry more flexible and accessible. The government wishes to foster a thriving market in order to attract more and more entrepreneurs to Israel.

“The medical cannabis ecosystem has benefited from 60 million dollars (around 53 million euros) of investments in recent years; it has 220 researchers and around 100 startups, a quarter of which were created in 2019. The massive importation, in particular from Canada, a country that has legalized recreational cannabis, has allowed the sector to develop,” underlines Dana Gourevich, director of technology at the Israel Innovation Authority.

According to the Ministry of Health data, Israel imported 22 tons of medical cannabis in 2021 making it the world’s largest importer.

The government wishes to support the therapeutic use of cannabis. 

A few weeks ago, the Israeli Ministry of Health indicated that it was examining the possibility of removing cannabidiol (CBD) from the list of dangerous drugs. 

“About 110,000 patients have licenses (for medical cannabis) today in Israel, but when CBD becomes available to everyone, millions of people will be able to use it in cosmetics and everyday products,”  says Dvir Taler, chief agronomist of BOL Pharma, a company that grows 400,000 cannabis plants each year exclusively for medical use.

The company, currently the largest in the field of medical cannabis in Israel, is a partner of the Yeruham incubator. Canneguev is currently developing a robot capable of autonomously harvesting flowers. 

Yeruham City Hall has also allocated 50 hectares to cultivate medical cannabis. Israel’s sunny weather is in fact, an ideal setting to cultivate cannabis.

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