Medical Marijuana by country.

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Postby Midnight toker » Mon Aug 07, 2006 7:18 pm

Jewsweek wrote:Israel's pro-marijuana party poised for parliament
<b>Some pollsters say Israel's pro-marijuana Green Leaf party could win two seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 28 election, leading the charge of small parties. </b>
by Associated Press

Dressed in sneakers, khaki pants and a sweatshirt, the chairman of Israel's pro-marijuana Green Leaf party takes a drag from his cigarette.

"If it was up to the youth, I would be the Prime Minister of Israel," Boaz Wachtel says, sitting on a worn-out sofa in his Tel Aviv office. That may be a pipe-dream, but the prospect of Wachtel and his party getting into parliament is not.

Some pollsters say Green Leaf - buoyed by support from young, urban, secular Israelis - could win two seats in the 120-member Knesset in the March 28 election, leading the charge of small parties.

The ultraliberal party, whose platform includes legalizing marijuana, gambling and prostitution, was twice before on the verge of gaining access to the halls of power. In 2003, it was just 7,000 votes short of a place in parliament. This time, Wachtel promises to break through.

"If I didn't think we had a chance of getting into the Knesset, I wouldn't be wasting my time," he said.

Despite widening its platform to include a dovish attitude toward Palestinians, Green Leaf has remained firmly on the fringes, and public opinion experts say the legalization of marijuana is not a campaign issue in Israel.

"It is more like an 'in your face' thing, like saying 'we are turning our back on the political establishment and we will vote for someone who is against the mainstream,"' said researcher Tamar Hermann of Tel Aviv University. "People don't take them seriously because everything they say is taken as if it is said under the influence of drugs."

Israel is no stranger to political fringe parties. Other candidates vying for parliament this year include an ex-spy chief representing pensioners, a fishmonger and a puppeteer campaigning to do away with bank fees for transactions.

In the past, single-issue parties campaigning on men's rights in the family and the establishment of a national casino have also made a run. But no one has gotten as close, or attracted as much attention as Green Leaf.

The party's past election campaigns have included a jingle with the national anthem played to the beat of trance music. During Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last summer, they recommended settlers roll up a joint and relax.

On Feb. 20, two of party's candidates for parliament were arrested after trying to break into a high school to protest the party's exclusion from mock elections there. Green Leaf petitioned the courts to be allowed to join the vote, but was rejected.

The latest public official to lash out at the party was Silvan Shalom, a former foreign minister and a candidate from the hawkish Likud Party, who recently said, "legalizing drugs is insane. It starts with a cigarette, leads to a joint and ends with cocaine."

Wachtel said the criticism and media exposure have only helped Green Leaf. He said his party represents an alternative culture of people who care about the environment, civil rights and personal freedom.

But he acknowledged that drugs were the great unifier for his motley crew of candidates for parliament, some of whom had their official portraits taken with sunglasses and a glass of beer in hand.
"The common denominator is the love of cannabis," he said.

Yet the 47-year-old Wachtel is hardly your typical hippie.

Educated in the U.S., he has become a respected lecturer on the Middle East water crisis. In the 1980s, he was the assistant to the military attache at the Israeli embassy in Washington, and served on a team of Israeli representatives to former President Ronald Reagan's space-based anti-missile shield program.

It was there he first became interested in alternative drug-abuse treatment. In 1999, he established Green Leaf. He stressed his party does not promote drug use, only its decriminalization, like in the Netherlands.

According to a recent survey, 16 percent of Israelis said they had tried soft drugs at least once. In 2005, 12.5 tons of marijuana and 922 kilograms of hashish were confiscated by Israeli police.

"People in Israel are slaves of the status quo," he said. "We try to liberate this plant and the people who consume it from these horrendous laws and penalties that cause much more harm than the use of cannabis."

He pointed to world leaders who have tried pot, including former President Bill Clinton, who said he didn't inhale. "So I don't see the difference," Wachtel said.

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'Joint Conference' in J'lem next week

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Oct 16, 2006 2:41 pm

The Jerusalem Post wrote:'Joint Conference' in J'lem next week

Sheera Claire Frenkel, THE JERUSALEM POST Oct. 15, 2006

At a time when Palestinians and Israelis appear on the brink of a new cycle of violence, one group has found a way to have the two come together for a whole new purpose - the legalization of marijuana.

Aleh Yarok, Israel's branch of the Green Leaf Party, has organized the first ever conference for Palestinians and Israelis to discuss

Marijuana Legalization. Scheduled to take place October 25 at the Hebrew University, the day-long event will see speakers from both populations discuss ways in which they can mutually advance their causes.

"There are so many reasons this is important to us, but first and foremost we want to see peace in the region…peace begins with a shared interest to advance certain goals," said Ohad Shem-Tov, the head of Aleh Yarok.

While Israel has emerged as one of the worldwide leaders in the practical application of medical marijuana - last year, a group of doctors at the Sheba Medical Center published findings which
suggested that marijuana might be one of the most effective tools in combating head trauma - the issue remains on the fringes of Palestinian society, said Shem-Tov.

"Arab Israeli families are facing more and more problems with drug addictions in the family. They are beginning to feel that changing the laws might make the situation better," said Shem-Tov. "For many reasons this issue is not talked about as much, and there is no party that resembles Aleh Yarok in any Arab country. We feel that by bringing this to Arab individuals we are putting it on the map."

Among the dozen speakers scheduled to address the conference is Harvard Professor Dr. Lester Grinspoon, often referred to as the founder of the medical marijuana movement due to his research in the field during the early 1970s.

"He has somewhat of a cult following," said Michelle Levine, the head of the Aleh Yarok environmental division. Levine invited Grinspoon to address the conference after discovering that the Jewish professor had never visited Israel because he had never been invited to speak at a conference here.

According to Levine, the idea for the conference came after the group first tried to send a letter directly to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

"We wrote the letter, but the day before we could send it Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was kidnapped and we felt that with all the chaos going on it was not likely that our letter would get read," said Levine.

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Green Leaf: Marijuana will end the conflict

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Nov 04, 2006 9:51 pm

ynet news wrote:Green Leaf: Marijuana will end the conflict

At ‘First Israeli-Arab Joint’ conference at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, pro-marijuana party presents its vision for Mideast peace – through pot: ‘Cannabis brings about a basis for common identity’

Yael Ivri
ynet news
October 25, 2006

Weed for peace? Marijuana may achieve the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - or at least so believe members of the Green Leaf party, which organized the First Israeli-Arab Joint conference at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University Wednesday.

Chairman of the Green Leaf party, Ohad Shem-Tov, explained the idea behind the conference. “Many youths, Jewish and Arab, act the same due to cannabis. This similarity creates a basis for common identity, identity that exists culturally as well owing to the music created around the use of cannabis. We believe this create a basis for something that can in the future bring peace,” Shem-Tov said.

The conference also hosted many speakers. However, most of the speakers preferred to disregard the drug’s peace-generating potential in favor of addressing its health benefits, the need for legalization, and invariable anger against “the establishment.”

'Marijuana reconsidered'

The most conspicuous speaker at the event was Professor Lester Grinspoon, former Harvard lecturer in psychiatry and considered one of the top experts in the world on marijuana and its medical uses. His book “Marijuana Reconsidered” was published in 1971 with the aim of warning marijuana users of harm caused by the drug. However, in the process of writing, Grinspoon started to change his mind.

In addressing Green Leaf and their supporters Wednesday, Grinspoon explained that during his research, he started thinking he’d been mislead all
these years about the drugs negative effects and wanted to try marijuana. However, out of concern this would interfere with the scientific objectivity his research, he decided to delay his first toke – until after the book’s publication.

By the end of the conference, Green Leaf’s vision of peace did not seem to be any nearer, especially considering the fact that all the Arab speakers invited to the conference cancelled at the last minute.

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Isreal seeks to import marijuana from Holland

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Jan 18, 2007 10:48 am

<center>Bat Yam hospital seeks to import
medical-grade marijuana from Holland

<hr class=postrule>
<center>Judy Siegel-Itzkovich, THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 18, 2007 </center>

<hr class=postrule>
Seventeen cancer patients suffering from severe pain and a few other diseases currently receive a special Health Ministry license to purchase marijuana for medical purposes. Since the medical cannabis program began eight years ago, 140 people have applied, and some 70 received permission to grow or purchase it, but most of those have already died.

A ministry conference was held yesterday at the Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam to update and increase doctors' awareness of the medical uses of marijuana. Dr. Yehuda Baruch, director-general of Abarbanel, said that oncologists and other specialists have to apply for the license on their patients' behalf.

"We want to import medical-grade cannabis from Holland," Baruch told The Jerusalem Post. "But so far, approval of the government there for export of marijuana has not been granted."

There are also companies in Israel that want to get involved in the supply of medical cannabis, but the Israel Police opposes the import for fear the drugs would find their way into the hands of criminals.

So far, said Baruch, the only patients who can marijuana so far have severe cancer pain, suffer from severe Crohn's disease (a gastrointestinal disorder) or have lost considerable weight due to AIDS. It is has not yet been given to victims of multiple sclerosis pain, except in one exceptional case.

"We will change this only when medical evidence proves it can be of help that cannot be provided by conventional drugs. The ministry is looking into the possibility that the plant can help Alzheimer's patients by slowing their mental decline. A hashish-like compound has also been found to lower blood pressure in some cases," Baruch said.

So far, local pharmaceutical companies have not invested seriously in cannabis research, due to the high costs and predicted low financial return.

Prof. Raphael Mechoulam of The Hebrew University's School of Pharmacy, considered one of the world's leaders in cannabis research - advocates the use of the plant to ease the painful night spasms of multiple sclerosis patients, reduce pain in victims of neurological damage, and help AIDS patients regain weight. Mechoulam headed an Israeli-Scottish team that studied the effects of hashish on the brain, and in 1993 succeeded in identifying, isolating and synthesizing a previously unknown substance in the brain that functions much as the drug itself. The researchers named it anandamide, from the Sanskrit word ananda, meaning "inner joy."

The license to purchase medical cannabis is very restrictive, allowing only those licensed to smoke it, and only in a certain place. Baruch noted that smoking marijuana poses dangers, and has been known to trigger schizophrenia and other mental problems.

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Clinic offers puff of relief for chronically ill

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jan 21, 2008 7:19 pm

The Jerusalem Post wrote:
<center>Clinic offers puff of relief for chronically ill</center>

<hr class=postrule>
<center>Miriam Bulwar David-Hay , THE JERUSALEM POST Jan. 6, 2008</center>
<hr class=postrule>
A Tel Aviv medical clinic has quietly begun giving marijuana to cancer and AIDS sufferers, legally and with Health Ministry approval, reports Yediot Tel Aviv. The move, the first of its kind in Israel, is aimed at alleviating the pain suffered by the chronically and seriously ill.

According to the report, the clinic began giving the drug to suffering patients about six months ago. By Israeli law, marijuana can legally be used as a medicine if a patient obtains a special license from the Health Ministry. The drug is approved only for patients with cancer, AIDS or Crohn's Disease (a chronic gastro-intestinal illness), and aims to help ease the chronic pain they suffer from the illnesses or as side-effects of treatments for the diseases. The clinic - which the Health Ministry has refused to identify publicly, reportedly either to prevent protests or to keep criminal elements away - gives out the drug in small, controlled quantities when a patient presents their license.

One cancer patient said the ministry's decision to offer the drug through the clinic was "a blessing," saying it prevents suffering patients from being driven to buy the drug illegally. The patient said more doctors and the Israel Cancer Association should be made aware of the therapeutic, pain-relieving benefits of marijuana, and not regard it solely as an undesirable and harmful illegal drug. A spokesman for the cancer association said it was true that the drug could reduce painful side-effects for some patients undergoing chemotherapy or other treatments, and the organization would consider adding information about this to its website.

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Medical marijuana transforms into big business in Israel

Postby palmspringsbum » Tue Jun 30, 2009 12:39 pm wrote:Last update - 11:13 20/06/2009

Medical marijuana transforms into big business in Israel

By Haim Shadmi, Haaretz Correspondent

How did Yohai Golan-Gild go from being an organizer of psychedelic drug parties to being a provider of medicinal marijuana in Israel - with the full approval of the Health Ministry?

"The 90s were the golden age of chemicals," Golan-Gild said. "In every forest clearing there were people taking ecstasy and LSD and dancing themselves silly. People didn't get married unless pills were promised to the guests. Thousands protested at Rabin Square urging us to 'give trance a chance.' There was a feeling that something was about to change. But in Israel, people love to party, but they don't love paying for it. I lost millions, I collapsed financially, and that is how I found myself in California. Very quickly, I became the owner of three grow houses of medicinal marijuana, until six months ago, when I go a phone call from my American friend Rick Doblin."

The path taken by Golan-Gild represents the quiet but fascinating revolution that Israeli society has undergone over the last decade. In 1999, the Health Ministry legalized the use of Cannabis, the plant from which marijuana and hashish are derived, for use by patients suffering from serious symptoms such as pain, nausea and loss of appetite.

As the cultivation of the Cannabis plant became legal, the number of patients prescribed medicinal marijuana grew from two in 2000 to more than 700 today. The number is expected to reach 1,200 within three months. Cannabis growing is on the verge of becoming an economic goldmine and entrepreneurs seeking to tap its potential are eyeing the endeavor. The consumption of cannabis products, which was completely forbidden up until ten years ago, is now becoming regulated and may eventually gain the status of any other drug supplied to the general public.

"I issue 40 new prescriptions every month, with an average prescription calling for 100 grams per patient per month," boasts Dr. Yehuda Baruch, the head of the psychiatric hospital "Abarbanel" in Bat Yam. Baruch is also the Health Ministry's point man for medicinal marijuana prescriptions.

The aforementioned revolution has not yet been completed, and the use of medicinal marijuana is currently in a sort of twilight zone. It is considered a legitimate medical treatment, under the supervision of the Health Ministry, but is viewed as a "stepson" of sorts. Baruch, the sole provider of prescriptions, is only employed by the ministry part time, and many patients find themselves waiting for him to clear time from his busy Abarbanel schedule to renew their prescriptions.

"Baruch is already causing a bottle neck. What will happen in September when we reach 1,200 patients with prescriptions?" asks Liat Benny (37), a Tel Aviv resident, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder and is prescribed marijuana to ease her symptoms. She has recently established a non-profit organization to promote the use of medicinal marijuana like any other prescription medication.

"Our battle is against an institution mired in prejudice," she said. "The stigma is that patients who smoke are messed up, or high, but that is not the way we are. The Cannabis, for me, comes in place of other drugs, and it allows me to function. Don't compare me to a healthy person who smokes." She added that she has often encountered doctors and nurses at conferences where she'd lectured who responded with giggles and asked to take her picture next to the plant.

Just to be clear, Benny's complaints are not directed at Baruch. On the contrary - patients laud the Health Ministry and Baruch in particular for smashing the conventional closed-mindedness in regard to the use of medicinal marijuana. Dr. Itay Gur-Ariyeh, the head of pain management at Sheba hospital and the chairman of the Israel Pain Association said that Baruch is on the right track, but that the issue must be completely regulated.

<span class="postbold">Up to ten plants</span>

The problematic nature of the status of medicinal Cannabis is most evident in its production. The Health Ministry committee that decided to permit the use of medicinal marijuana back in 1999 stipulated that the drug be given only to patients with extreme symptoms, and only in order to ease pain directly stemming from their disease. But the committee had trouble defining how the patients were to obtain the drug, which was not legally grown in Israel at the time.

Thus, until 2005, the prescriptions for medicinal marijuana were given only to ten patients, among them Benny. The ministry allowed them to independently cultivate up to ten Cannabis plants, and to possess up to 200 grams of processed plants (imagine what would happen if your doctor prescribed you a drug and then asked you to produce it yourself).

This was not the only problem. The growing of Cannabis requires some physical work, as well as time. Since the first patients to be prescribed the drug were all terminally ill, this aspect took on an ironic twist, even if not intentionally. The backwards result wasn't far behind - Yossi Bozaglo, of the first patients to be prescribed marijuana, was tried in 2001 for buying marijuana from a drug dealer. The incident made it very clear that the ministry must take responsibility over providing the drug.

Then "angel face" arrived. That is how the patients call the man, who to this day insists on remaining anonymous, who approached the ministry and offered to provide the Cannabis to the patients. Somewhere in the north, he and his family have been growing the Cannabis with the authorization of the state for the last four years. The availability of the drug, thanks to angel face, greatly increased the number of patients who were prescribed the drug. His grow house holds dozens of plants, all of which bear the names of patients who were treated with Cannabis and have since died.

In a small apartment in Tel Aviv, patients huddle almost daily to get their joints or the raw materials from angel face and the volunteers at the organization he founded, named "Tikkun Olam." The distribution of these cigarettes, at the improvised "clinic" and with the government's blessing, is perhaps the most surreal and heartwarming sight to be seen at any medical facility - light years away from the atmosphere at oncology wards at hospitals.

Angel face provides relief for Parkinson's patients in wheelchairs alongside Crohn's disease sufferers and cancer victims, who smoke together in the yard. Patients over 70 years old suddenly get up from their chairs and begin to move around. A child suffering from Tourette Syndrome, who was forced to leave her school due to ridicule from her peers, stopped cursing thanks to the drug, went back to school, and is now in a relationship with her first boyfriend. And everyone has a smile on their face. The Cannabis they receive has a much higher concentration of the active ingredient than marijuana sold illegally.

The process of obtaining the authorization to supply marijuana can testify to the quiet revolution. At first, only angel face was permitted to handle the drug and prepare joints. Then, due to the growing demand, Baruch authorized several volunteers to help prepare the drug. Ultimately, the volunteers were given authorization to transport the drug all across the country.

Angel face doesn't receive any payment from the state for the production of the Cannabis, and the patients don't pay for it either. However, it is clear to everyone that this cannot continue, in light of the growing demand and the cost of production. "There must be payment," Dr. Gur-Ariyeh declared. "Who will pay for this - the state, the HMOs or the patients - that's a different question." Baruch, as a representative of the Health Ministry, shares Gur-Ariyeh's opinion and has already begun compiling a financial model.

Medicinal Cannabis - a combination of helpless patients and a drug with a hint of the wild - has sparked the attention of many entrepreneurs. The phone call Yohai Golan-Gild received a year ago was from his American friend, Rick Doblin, the founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, which promotes the use of these substances in medicine and research. When he heard about the revolution underway in Israel, Doblin quickly contacted his friend Golan-Gild, who was in California at the time. Last week, Baruch and other ministry representatives visited the hothouses built by Golan-Gild and his two partners, with an initial investment of NIS 1 million. (They asked not to make public the location of the hothouses, for fear of theft.) They will be the second supplier of medicinal marijuana.

The Health Ministry - which thinks it is impossible to rely on one supplier for a drug that is grown agriculturally and is susceptible to disease or other potential damage - plans to increase the number of authorized medical Cannabis growers to five or six. According to Baruch, this number would grow and supply enough Cannabis to meet the expected demand. At first patients would receive the drug for free, but they will soon be asked to pay for it.

"There are 160 varieties of Cannabis in the world and each one has its own side effects," said Golan-Gild, adding, with pleasure, "I can suit each patient with his or her type - one that will cause exhaustion, one that will turn you into a ball of energy in the morning and one that will cause a diagonal erection."

Baruch sees "the potential market in Israel reaching tens of thousands of medicinal Cannabis users, with each one paying NIS 5 or 10 per gram of the drug, or NIS 5,000 to NIS 10,000 per person per year."

However, Golan-Gild claims that growing one gram of Cannabis costs NIS 15, more than what Baruch expects patients to pay. The difference, he says, would need to be subsidized by the Health Ministry or HMOs, in the same way that they do for drugs included in the public health basket.

The inclusion of Cannabis in the public health basket seems far off, especially considering most HMOs are developing complementary insurance programs, which serve as additional source of income for them and traditionally include more alternative therapies.

In the mean time, Golan-Gild plans to open three "mercy centers," as he calls them, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Ra'anana. There patients can not only smoke joints, but also - for an additional fee - participate in yoga and Pilates classes and receive training on how to use the Cannabis properly.

Light years away from all these initiatives, in a small simple Tel Aviv apartment, the "Tikkun Olam" group continues to distribute Cannabis for free and insist that patients must not pay for it out of their own pockets.

<span class="postbold">Munchies</span>

When Cannabis was approved for medicinal purposes in 1999, it was originally intended for terminal cancer and AIDS patients. Today it is being used in earlier stages of illness and for a wider array of diseases, including Parkinson's, Tourette Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, chronic pain and shell shock. The medical establishment is also increasingly recognizing Cannabis' effectiveness in treating illness.

At the Hadassah Ein Kerem hospital's Bone Marrow Transplantation department, patients including children and babies are treated using drops of oil derived from Cannabis. "It has no side effects and is largely effective in treating patients," said department chief, Professor Reuven Or. "I would say it is effective in 80 percent of patients, which is a lot."

Professor Or continued, "It stimulates the appetite and minimizes nausea and vomiting, which is of great importance in Oncology. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in cases of infection or inflammation caused by radiation. Along with this, Cannabis eases the coping process for patients - it improves their morale and lowers depression, and these are important parameters for patients battling disease."

Half of the patients being treated with Cannabis are Oncology patients, while about a quarter suffer from chronic pain.

<span class="postbold">A multipurpose medicine</span>

At age 6, Liat Benny began experiencing pains that would over the years become stronger and spread, until doctors diagnosed her with a rare autoimmune disorder that harms blood vessels, the eyes and joints.

Benny describes the pain she feels every hour of every day as an "insane stabbing sensation." Three years ago, Benny's right eye was surgically removed, and while she still has vision in her left eye, she says it is limited and blurry. She has undergone dozens of operations, treatments and hospitalizations, in addition to multiple morphine treatments, but her disease worsened to the point that Benny had to stop working.

Ten years ago, Benny's father told her about medicinal Cannabis, and three years ago she was introduced to "Tikkun Olam." Today she is one of the patients authorized by the Health Ministry to use medical marijuana. Benny also lectures on the subject, tries to persuade more doctors to lose their preconceived notions about the drug and increase the number of users.

"I live with interminable pain that reaches level eight to nine (ten is considered the highest pain level)," said Benny.

"Smoking Cannabis allows me to talk to you and sound coherent even if I haven't slept all night," she continued. "Cannabis is a multipurpose drug that should be included in the public health basket. Its use significantly decreases the use of other drugs, which is cost-effective for the state. Cannabis improves all patients' functioning, and we are not just talking about relief from symptoms but also about a certain form of therapy."

Several weeks ago, Benny established an organization to advance the use of medicinal Cannabis. "I see this as my mission," she said.
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Patients to pay for medical marijuana as demand spikes

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:16 pm

The Jerusalem Post wrote:Patients to pay for medical marijuana as demand spikes

Jan. 18, 2010

In several weeks patients in Israel who take medical marijuana as treatment will pay a NIS 360 monthly service charge to cover administrative and distribution costs, a source inside Tikkun Olam, the nonprofit organization that produces the country's medical marijuana, told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.

In addition, starting on Sunday, patients will pay a one-time NIS 116 administrative charge.

Until Sunday, patients had received the drug for free. But following a wave of publicity caused by media reports and a film on the benefits of medical marijuana, aired on Channel 2, Tikkun Olam has been flooded with a nearly 500-percent increase in requests for the drug, said a source inside the organization who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Currently neither the government nor insurance companies fund medical marijuana production. Donations received by Tikkun Olam have become inadequate for keeping up with the dramatic rise in demand, he said.

Furthermore, Tikkun Olam expects the number of requests to continue to rise, and with it the drug's price in coming months. A Health Ministry study estimates that there are nearly 40,000 ailing Israelis who would benefit from use of the drug.

There are also concerns within the organization that if tension rises on the northern border, where Tikkun Olam's confidential growing facilities are located and where Hizbullah is known to be stockpiling an arsenal of missiles, production could be disrupted, causing prices to rise further.

Shai Meir, a Tikkun Olam spokesman, said the organization was based on compassion and believed that patients should not have to pay for medical marijuana. However, until the Knesset's Labor and Health Committee creates a plan on how to subsidize it, patients will continue to pay, he said.

The committee is currently working on a plan, which is expected to be released in March.

But Dr. Yehuda Baruch, director of the medical-grade cannabis program within the Health Ministry, told the Post that it was the government's opinion that Tikkun Olam's implementation of the monthly fee would violate the law banning the sale of marijuana in Israel.

"We recognize that it is expensive to produce marijuana, and there will be a discussion in the Labor and Health Committee to see if they will be allowed to sell it," he said. "But until we decide, it is our position that it is illegal for them to charge a monthly fee. If they implement the fee without permission, we will pursue them in court."

Baruch added, "We don't have a problem with the NIS 116 fee. But as we understand it, the NIS 360 would cover much of the production cost. We think they are going through a backdoor avenue to sell it. We know that the costs of transportation and administration are far less."

Yael, a patient who takes medical marijuana to help ease the pain of chemotherapy, said she had been informed of the price hike when she stopped to pick up her weekly portion of 15 grams last week, and been forced to reconsider her use of marijuana as a medicine.

"I can't work because of the treatment I am undergoing," said Yael. "A lot of people who take marijuana as a medicine are in my position, and it's a lot of money for someone who doesn't have an income. Even though it works so well, I am thinking about getting off of it because of the high price."

Yael said she understood Tikkun Olam's decision to charge for the medicine, but believed that a treatment so effective in battling pain and illness was only being excluded from government and insurance healthcare plans because of lingering prejudice against the substance as a drug instead of medicine. MK Ilan Gilon (Meretz) agreed.

"I recognize that Tikkun Olam has the right to charge money to provide the cannabis to patients. However, the payment should not come from the patient himself, but from the government and from the insurance companies," Gilon's spokeswoman told the Post on Monday. "They should recognize the medicine as part of the treatment."

In the meantime, Tikkun Olam will also set up a committee that will consider the economic situation of patients who do not have enough money, said Meir.

If patients were to pay the actual production price, it would come to more than NIS 1,500 per month, said Meir. If patients were to pay street prices for the 60 grams they receive monthly, the price would be significantly higher and the quality lower, he said.
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