Recently cut cannabis plants hanging upside-down on a line to cure.

Rory Savatgy

Israel’s Health Ministry will introduce a new system of medical cannabis distribution in August and invest NIS 2 million (USD $567,928) into the system in order to hire clerks to speed up the process and reduce waiting times, according to a Jerusalem Post report. The reforms will also see about 100 physicians able to provide patients access to medical cannabis without the approval from the ministry.

MK Tamar Zandberg, chairman of the Knesset Committee on Drug Abuse, called the news “encouraging” but “not enough.”

“In recent months, the situation in the field of medical cannabis seems to be becoming more complex, with pain clinics preventing treatment, faxes that disappear, long waits on the telephone, and finally the middlemen who enter the field and benefit from the bureaucratic difficulties in the process,” Zandberg said in the report. “Under the guise of ignorance and conservatism, the medical establishment treats patients as drug addicts and doctors as drug dealers, while narcotic drugs that are harmful and addictive are more freely distributed and in increasing doses.”

Zandberg pointed out that under Israel’s medical cannabis system, oncologists are licensed to approve patients but other specialists, such as psychiatrists and orthopedists, are regarded by the ministry as “second-rate” and are required to cut through a lot of red tape to prescribe medical cannabis to patients.

Health Ministry Associate Director-General Itamar Grotto disagreed with Zandberg’s assessment and challenged her to show him another country that “is doing better than Israel in the field of medical cannabis,” although he conceded that the “situation is not perfect.”

“There is a load of patients and the number of people treating them is inadequate. There is an administrative bottleneck in the office that must give approval,” he said in the report. “We have to add more typists, telephone clerks, and we will try to double the number.”

There are currently 28,000 medical cannabis patients in Israel.

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