How Do Other Countries Compare?
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main cannabinoid in marijuana, was first identified by Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam in 1956. It’s one of the plant’s 545 active compounds, and many researchers believe that it’s the synergy between these ingredients, rather than any one in isolation, that produces medicinal effects.
At least, that’s the view of Mechoulam’s compatriots who set up the National Medical Cannabis Program. Boaz Wachtel, who advised the Israeli Ministry of Health when establishing the program, told IFLScience that “our conclusion is that there always needs to be multiple cannabinoids, and the idea of patenting isolated ingredients is a grotesque invention of politicians who feel that THC, because it gets you high, is inappropriate.”
He also claims that “Israel is a world leader in cannabis research by default, because if the American government and the DEA had been more reasonable, then probably the US, with all its resources and talent, would have led cannabis research.”
Unlike in America, the Israeli government does give licenses to marijuana growers, which means that researchers have a huge number of different strains of marijuana to choose from. “Right now there are over 100 strains available, and that variety is the core of the success of the Israeli medical cannabis program,” says Wachtel.
By experimenting with plants that have different concentrations of active ingredients, scientists can create the appropriate strains to treat specific illnesses. For example, weed with high amounts of THC and low concentrations of another cannabinoid called cannabidiol (CBD) may work for some conditions, while the reverse may work for others.
At present, Israeli scientists are working on creating marijuana strains to treat conditions like multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, and several types of cancer.
Similarly, British researchers are able to obtain cannabis from private growers. The Beckley Foundation, for instance, is studying the effects of cannabis on brain tumors, cerebral circulation, and alcohol addiction, among other things. In the past, they have sourced their weed from companies like GW Pharmaceuticals in the UK and THCPharm in Germany.