Israel is attracting international investors as it positions itself as a cutting-edge exporter for medical-grade cannabis to a global market that could reach $50 billion by 2025. David Pollard reports.
There's a buzz here but it's not, in fact, from the products on display. The Israeli government gave the go-ahead in February to legislation to allow export of medical grade cannabis. Great news then, for the Cannatech Conference in Tel Aviv - which showcases just that. (SOUNDBITE) (English) YUVAL LANDSCHAFT, HEAD OF ISRAEL'S HEALTH MINISTRY'S MEDICAL CANNABIS UNIT (IMCA), SAYING: "This is a real unique, very very breakthrough that we have now here in Israel when we have all the chain. And especially it's the GCP, Good Clinical Practice, and we are willing to share it, we are willing to share it with all the countries." And, the thinking is, other countries do want it. Like the US. It has tighter legislation on growing cannabis than Israel. But could consume around 20 billion dollars worth of medical marijuana by 2020. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MATTHEW GINDER, LAWYER WHOSE FLORIDA-BASED FIRM REPRESENTS CANNABIS BUSINESSES, SAYING: "The medical marijuana industry is much larger than the U.S. and there is so much going on outside of the U.S. and in foreign countries and the acceptance of medical marijuana throughout the world and opportunities that present themselves with the change in policy." In total, Israel's cannabis producers eyeing a 50 billion dollar global market by 2025. That thought tempting foreign investors. In the last year alone, one hundred million dollars estimated to have gone into patents, agro-tech start-ups and firms developing delivery devices such as inhalers. (SOUNDBITE) (English) YOAV ETZYON, A LAWYER WHOSE FIRM REPRESENTS ISRAELI HI-TECH COMPANIES, SAYING: "You need to think about the North American market which is Canada and the U.S., you need to think of the European market and the Asian markets. From the three I think that the U.S. is the most advanced but, if things will go as I think that they will, I think that these three markets will be the main clients of our technologies." There are about 120 studies ongoing in Israel - including trials on how cannabis affects autism, epilepsy, psoriasis and tinnitus. As the applications grow, revenues are seen climbing into the hundreds of millions of dollars annually. This a young industry on a high - of the legal and lucrative kind.