One thousand participants from 45 countries gathered in Tel Aviv this week for the 4th annual CannaTech conference. As one of the premier global medical cannabis conferences, CannaTech saw professionals from the fields of pharma, biotechnology, agriculture, medicine, and business travel from five continents to discuss the booming industry.
The key message this year, said iCAN and CannaTech CEO Saul Kaye is “Normalization into legalization.” He added: “We know it’s normalized in the medical society. Now it’s about the next conversation which is everyone can use it. And Israel is finally ready for that conversation.”
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According to Kaye, the Israeli government’s inhibition of cannabis business in the past, which he says was due to fear of the negative image associated with exporting “guns, cannabis, and other drugs,” made medical cannabis a “heavily illegitimate market.” Despite earlier government backlash, however, continuous pressure and a greater number of resources devoted to medical cannabis research have allowed for CannaTech’s consistent growth since its inception in 2015.
As perhaps the chief representative of the Israeli medical cannabis market, CannaTech’s development signifies Israel’s quick emergence as a global industry leader.
“We’re uniquely placed in innovation, ag-tech, water tech, and now canna-tech in order to propel us into what is the next massive industry […] When you add in the culture of funding startups, and the ability to both black market test and sell your product to an audience, that creates an environment that’s fantastic for a growing ecosystem,” Kaye states.
He also cites Israel’s advanced hospitals, universities and claim to the highest number of PHDs per capita as additional contributors to the country’s potential for sustained success in the industry and the world’s primary innovator and producer of medical cannabis.
“Patients who need medicine now have to get it from somewhere – they can get it from Canada or they can get it from Israel. Those are your options in the world. Canada’s leading and Israel will catch up.”
In January, Israel’s Ministry of Health gave its long-awaited approval for the medical cannabis export law, paving the way for the country to become a leading medical cannabis exporter, and participant in the global cannabis sector. Although law enforcement officials have not yet established a framework through which new international cannabis trade will be executed, the market has already begun to feel the law’s effects. “We are talking about a $2 billion industry next year that, last year, was also a $2 billion industry, it just wasn’t legal,” Kaye says.
By 2029, the global cannabis industry is expected to soar to $33 billion, which Kaye believes is necessarily an underestimate: “It’s the fastest growing industry in the world with more consumers than we know about because they have all been in the closet. So, we don’t really know the size, but it’s way bigger than whatever we think it’s going to be.”
Despite the growing support for medical cannabis within Israel and beyond, there are those who still doubt the plant’s positive potential, arguing that it may decrease societal productivity. Kaye urges doubters to reject “uneducated stigma that they’ve been taught for 60 years” and to instead, turn to cannabis research.
“When Canada went legal, the world didn’t end. The sun rose in the morning and set at night. There’s a lot of smokers in California – a hub for innovation and funding and the most robust economy in the US – and they seem to be alright.”