By Phillip Smith
The Israeli cabinet Sunday gave its approval to medical marijuana guidelines that will govern the supply of marijuana for medical and research purposes. In so doing, it explicitly agreed that marijuana does indeed have medical uses.
"The cabinet today approved arrangements and supervision regarding the supply of cannabis for medical and research uses," said a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's spokesman. "This is in recognition that the medical use of cannabis is necessary in certain cases. The Health Ministry will -- in coordination with the Israel Police and the Israel Anti-Drug Authority -- oversee the foregoing and will also be responsible for supplies from imports and local cultivation."
The cabinet move comes on the heels of the Health Ministry's decision last week to deal with supply problems by setting up a unit within the department to grow medical marijuana. That unit will begin operating in January 2012.
The Health Ministry also decided that the country's medical marijuana supply should be domestically produced. Israeli police had lobbied for medical marijuana to be imported instead, in a bid to reduce diversion.
Israel currently has about 6,000 medical marijuana patients, but the program is so popular that there are estimates that number could rise to 40,000 by 2016. Medical marijuana for existing patients is currently provided by private Israeli growers.