BBC News: Under armed guard, at a secret location in the hills of northern Israel, rows of cannabis plants in a large greenhouse give off a sweet, distinctive smell. In a nearby processing room, bags of dried buds and leaves are weighed and bagged. A woman in a lab coat operates a device producing dozens of ready-made cigarettes. Cannabis is an illegal drug in Israel but this facility is allowed to operate under a government licence. The company that runs it, Tikun Olam, uses organic methods to grow different kinds of cannabis for medical use. Now, it has developed a new strain that could change the image of the drug. It does not give users the characteristic high or get them “stoned”. Instead the new plant has a high concentration of another of the main constituents called cannabidiol (CBD), a powerful anti-inflammatory.
Moshe Rute survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn full of chickens. He nearly lost the use of his hands after a stroke two years ago. He became debilitated by recurring nightmares of his childhood following his wife’s death last year. “But after I found this, everything has been better,” said the 80-year-old, as he gingerly packed a pipe with marijuana.
Rute, who lives at the Hadarim nursing home outside of Tel Aviv, is one of more than 10,000 patients who have official government permission to consume marijuana in Israel, a number that has swelled dramatically, up from serving just a few hundred patients in 2005.
The medical cannabis industry is expanding as well, fueled by Israel’s strong research sector in medicine and technology — and notably, by government encouragement. Unlike in the United States and much of Europe, the issue inspires almost no controversy among the government and the country’s leadership. Even influential senior rabbis do not voice any opposition to its spread, and secular Israelis have a liberal attitude on marijuana.