Want to Research Medical Marijuana? Israel Is Open for Business

Like newborns in an incubator, the 200-plus unique strains of plants in these computer-controlled, camera-patrolled, password-secured greenhouses are monitored around the clock. Their water, fertilizer and light are adjusted as needed, until the flowers are in full bloom. They’re only harvested from their planters after a week of testing finds they are ready to leave this facility in rural northern Israel.

Amid rapid adoption of cannabis by consumers for both medicinal and recreational purposes, the global legal marijuana market is poised to grow to $140.5 billion in 2020 from $28.8 billion in 2015, according to global marketing firm Technavio. Medicinal marijuana accounted for three-quarters of the 2015 figure.

The Israeli government has identified medical cannabis as an economic opportunity. Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel says his ministry will research ways to best grow cannabis, and would back export of locally grown medical marijuana, currently banned under national law. The Health Ministry, which has its own medical cannabis department, is extending the number of licenses granted to growers, doctors and patients to expand the local market and also plans to support industry requests for exports.