Israel going to pot
Forget California – did you know that Israel has one of the most progressive medical marijuana programs around?
Run out of an office in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam, the Health Ministry’s program provides legally grown pot to hundreds of Israelis with medical conditions that have been proven to be helped by the active ingredient in cannabis – THC.
The categories include patients with malignant tumors who are in one of two stages – either during chemo to ease nausea and promote appetite, or those with a final stage tumor, terminal patients who have a prognosis for living for another six months; HIV patients, who attend one of the country’s eight HIV centers in the country; chronic pain patients who are being treated at pain clinics or by a known pain physician; patients with Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis, who are being treated by gastroenterologists; and MS patients specifically for the spasticity symptoms upon recommendation from an MS center or a neurological specialist.
In addition patients with post stress trauma disorder are being tested with the drug on an experimental basis – these include many former IDF soldiers experiencing PSTD following their participation in battle.
Dr. Yehuda Baruch is the guy who makes the decisions which patients are accepted to the program, which receives over 60 applicants each month. The licenses need to be renewed at various intervals ranging from monthly to annually depending on the condition. According to Baruch, once a patient receives approval, he’s given the option to either grow the plants himself or be supplied free of charge by one of the minstry’s five authorized pot growers.
In addition to the medical marijuana program, Israel can boast one of the world’s superstars in cannabis research – 78-year-old Professor Raphael Mechoulam. In 1964, Mechoulam was the first researcher in world to isolate THC, and in 1993, he headed an Israeli-Scottish team that succeeded in identifying, isolating and synthesizing a previously unknown substance in the brain that functions much as THC itself. The researchers named it anandamide, from the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning inner joy.
Today, in his lab at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, Mechoulam and his team synthesize the THC from a steady supply of cannabis supplied by the Israel Police, and create a liquid form that’s given to cancer patients undergoing painful marrow transplants.