Israeli parliament passes law approving exports of medical cannabis

An employee sorts freshly harvested cannabis buds at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel.

Israel’s parliament has given its final approval to a long-awaited and controversial law to allow exports of medical cannabis, a move that is likely to boost state coffers.

Lawmakers voted 21-0 late on Tuesday in favor of the bill, which still needs approval from cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israeli companies, benefiting from a favorable climate and expertise in medical and agricultural technologies, are among the world’s biggest producers of medical cannabis.

The finance and health ministries estimate exports could raise tax income by 1 billion shekels (an equivalent of $265 million) a year.

The bill to allow exports imposes tough regulations on exporters and threatens jail terms and hefty fines for violations.

There are eight cultivating companies in Israel, many of which have resorted to opening farms abroad to get into the international market. Parliament said in a statement that there have been dozens of requests from business owners awaiting authorization.

Licenses to engage in medical cannabis will be subject to approval from Israel’s Health Ministry and the police.

Separately, Israel’s securities regulator on Wednesday cautioned investors to make informed decisions when investing in the growing number of publicly traded medical cannabis firms such as Cannbit, Together and InterCure, given regulatory uncertainty around the world.

Cannabis company shares were up sharply at midday in Tel Aviv.

InterCure’s controlling shareholder said earlier this month that the company plans a Nasdaq listing by mid-2019.

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