Now that my second child is 12 weeks old, my 14-week maternity leave is almost up. It’s part-time nanny hunting time for me again. Finding a sitter for the second child got me thinking about pot smoking…not that I am a smoker. It’s just that our last sitter Jenny came to our first meeting just after helping some “old people smoke up.” Should I have been worried? Screened her for some references?

Not at all. Israel is a very advanced country for medical marijuana. I believe it even beats the U.S., Canada and Holland for its regulations and research.

Israel’s story with medical marijuana is a long one  (you can read a fairly recent and longer piece I wrote here on the industry), starting with Prof. Raphael Mechoulam from the Hebrew University. Back in the 60s he was the first in the world to isolate and describe the cannabinoid THC, and from that research he has pioneered research that allows other investigators worldwide to try to apply marijuana’s compounds in various ways, sometimes as the basis of clinically tested drugs, sometimes for general use as medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana which is grown and distributed to patients in a controlled way can treat pain from cancer, alleviate the effects of MS, HIV side-effects, and it can help people under treatment for chronic pain, Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. Post-traumatic stress disorder too. Most recently Mechoulam tells me, an international team has taken some work of his on schizophrenia and found that medical marijuana can treat that too.

As for Jenny she was helping old people try medical marijuana. It was a challenge she said since many elderly people have never rolled a joint, let alone smoked a cigarette, she explained. They didn’t know how to inhale. (Reminds me of the days when I had to give my mom “mouse lessons” on the computer). Plus many older people have arthritis and can’t roll or handle all the paraphernalia that goes alone with dosing. She and her then boyfriend were trying to establish some sort of protocol or device that could make it easier for the elderly to inhale either the smoke, or pure vapour created by using a medical marijuana vaporizer. She tried some reverse blowing techniques but wasn’t satisfied.

Linking this all to a recent article in the Puget Sound Business Journal, I see some awesome business opportunities for Israel as the self-proclaimed Start Up Nation.

Apparently now that medical marijuana is becoming more mainstream in the U.S., investors are starting to take note and will be meeting in February to review some potentially big money making ideas which could form the basis of a new “gold rush”, according to the Puget article. This gold rush could be as big as cigarettes and alcohol. One entrepreneur hoping to get startup capital has developed a vaporizer the size of a cigar for ease of use.

This is just the beginning as pot loses its sleaze appeal. With Israel as a country of high-tech creativity and medical device-making minds, plus a history of medical marijuana use and therefore a great test group for trials on new devices, I say it’s “high” time that Israelis start pioneering devices for the medical marijuana market.

New devices will make smoking safer, and as protocol developed, dosing more precise and effective.

And Israel has the world’s secret weapon on its side: Prof. Mechoulam, now in his 80s and still very much kicking. He told me that much more work needs to be done on creating standards so that dosages can be metered out in a defined way, using a controlled level of the cannabis. Vaporizers might be a good start to making the whole business a little more healthy. He wrote me today: “Nobody has done a really good comparison between inhaling smoke or vapour. I believe that vapour is better as the user does not have to get into his/her system additional compounds.

He adds: “Don Tashkin from UCLA has shown that although, most probably cannabis smoke does not cause cancer it does cause airway inflammation. Both are used as [sic] medical marijuana.”

Medical marijuana can change the quality of life for people who have nowhere else to go. One of my good friends died from lung disease with an unsmoked joint in his hand. As a survivor from Hodgkin’s lymphoma his organs started deteriorating from all the radiation and treatments he got to fight the disease. I know that pot helped him live his life as himself – out of the hospital – until the end of his days with his dog by his side.

If this new “old” medicine gives people relief and dignity, let’s help them access the treatments in the safest and best way.

Who’s up for the challenge? I’d be interested in being part of some innovator’s idea.

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