"Cannabis exports were seen as election gimmick"

Cannabis conference  / Photo: Yossi Biron

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, a consultant to medical cannabis firm Univo, regrets the delay on export permits.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has told a webinar in Israel this week entitled "Exports and imports of cannabis in Israel and the world," that the delay in arrangements for exporting medical cannabis is a bad mistake that was rooted from the start in the reason it was brought for approval.

The webinar was organized by the Pearl Cohen Zedek Latzer Barak law firm and patent attorneys and Dun & Bradstreet.

Olmert said, "The approval for exporting cannabis didn't happen because one day Sara and Yair Netanyahu decided that cannabis was something with positive potential. We were on the eve of elections and the media was flooded with forecasts that were encouraging for the likelihood that Moshe Feiglin, who spoke openly about cannabis, would receive mass support, and there were broadcasts of his appearances with hundreds of young people that had absolutely no connection to his political worldview but were enthusiastic on the issue of cannabis. After that, for reasons not connected to what interests us in cannabis, the government went and approved it so as not to lag behind in popularity and take the credit for itself."

Olmert, who today serves as a business consultant to medical cannabis company Univo, added, "The Ministry of Health wasn't prepared to handle the matter seriously and the government ministries thought that it was an election gimmick. Momentum was created and the Israeli companies that were already working in the area on this matter moved in and this led to impressive market value for Israeli companies."

Regarding his own move into the medical cannabis sector, Olmert said, "Turning to me and to Ehud Barak and the others stemmed from the need of the cannabis sector to receive a gloss of public legitimacy that it was lacking. It was generally referred to as 'grass' or 'hashish' and 'marijuana,' and conventional thinking in Israeli law was that it was considered overall as an offence."

He continued, "When you bring along mainstream people who are not exactly grass smokers, like army commanders for example, then a different awareness is created regarding this subject. It was this correct exploitation which pushed up the market value of the cannabis companies. If the Israeli government had continued its regulatory activities at the right pace, then it would have been possible that the momentum would have brought us to a different place than that where we found ourselves when the coronavirus crisis began."

The event was led by Adv. Ilan Gerzi, Chair of the Capital Markets and Securities Group at Pearl Cohen who has supported most of the IPOs and mergers of medical cannabis companies in Israel. He said, "The export permit represents an opportunity for Israeli companies and businesspeople hoping to export medical cannabis worldwide. The markets are huge and include R&D activities, cultivation, production and distribution. Israel is seen as a world leader in the medical cannabis sector and Israeli companies can capture a significant market share. We work to assist companies in realizing in the best way the market potential through sales agreements, collaborations with local and international bodies and assisting in receiving the regulatory permits for operations."

Yohanan Danino, the former Chief of Israel Police and Chairman of the Board of Together Pharma spoke about why he joined the medical cannabis sector. He said, "People ask me how can it be that the chief of police goes into the cannabis sector. You have to sit down with patients and see what it does for them, and how it changes their lives. Patients who were addicted to pain killers and paid vast amounts every month, switched to medical cannabis and their quality of life improved in a dramatic way."

Regarding the export of cannabis, Danino said, "Israel has something to export, mainly because we are a pioneering country in the field of medical cannabis. No one else has the experience gained in treating patients with Israeli products and there is data here for the past 10 years. That is an advantage and especially now in the period after the coronavirus, when we see the economic situation. This is a channel in which we have to invest, and exports will bring jobs."

Adv. Masha Berkovits, Pearl Cohen Capital Markets and Securities Group Partner explained that, "The medical cannabis industry has been flourishing over the vpast two years and is not a bubble but a genuine industry including cultivation farms, factories and R&D laboratories. We believe that completing the regulatory process regarding exports will contribute greatly to the sector in particular and the Israeli economy in general."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on June 2, 2020

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2020

Cannabis conference  / Photo: Yossi Biron
Cannabis conference / Photo: Yossi Biron
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