BIG LIES and SIMPLE TRUTHS: Medical Cannabis in Israel Today

Two weeks ago mothers of children who were denied access to therapeutic continuity as a direct effect of the irresponsible “Reform” that CEO Magister Yuval Landschaft was forcing upon the country since April became desperate. They began filming children suffering unnecessary seizures because of the interruption of care. The media took it up; President Rivlin proposed to take a look and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s team weighed in. Since then, the form of Medical Cannabis in Israel has become a professional spinning operation worthy of the attention of would-be big-time liars world-wide. The Big Lies have left everyone speechless (that’s how Big Lies work, no?). So I propose here to try to simplify matters, in preparation for a High Court hearing on September 22.

Seven Simple Facts:

  1. Cannabis has medicinal properties. Therefore it cannot be a Schedule 1 Drug, which by definition has no medicinal properties.
  2. A citizen has an absolute right to unrestricted access to medically necessary treatments.
  3. The State of Israel, despite more than a decade of medical cannabis, still defines cannabis as Schedule 1. By doing so, the State restricts access of its citizens to medically necessary treatment.
  4. The State therefore assumes absolute responsibility in its Medical Cannabis program to ensure that the restricted and regulated access for medical cannabis be provided in a manner that optimizes medical care. This includes continuity of care.
  5. No one in the world except Magister Yuval Landschaft thinks that all strains of cannabis are equivalent according only to CBD and THC concentrations. His “Green Book” is a medical travesty and a scientific absurdity. By applying its logic, Magister Landschaft irresponsibly restricts access of citizens to continuity of care that it his absolute responsibility to ensure.
  6. The proposed “Reform” of Medical Cannabis obstructed access of patients to continuity of care in an irresponsible manner. By enforcing the immediate application of the Reform in the past two weeks, Magister Landschaft irresponsibly restricts access of citizens to continuity of care that it his absolute responsibility to ensure.
  7. Patients need and are entitled to a responsible and responsive Medical Cannabis Authority which gives priority to their continuity of care and to their emotional security in knowing this continuity will be ensured. Magister Landschaft has wantonly broken promises he made to the High Court in July, and by sudden shifts of policy has created an emotional maelstom among 50,000 chronically disabled citizens during the past two months.

Now for the Big Lies. None of them refute any of the simple facts stated above. None of them justify IMCA’s and the Health Ministry’s behavior since the Reform was announced. None of them respond to the needs and rights of patients. Over the past two weeks, Landschaft has lowered his profile, and most announcements are made by some clueless nonmedical Health Ministry functionaries.

BIG LIE 1: The plan is to legalize (it means liberalize) medical cannabis.

Simple fact: Vice Minister of Health Litzman announced that the new plans do nothing different than what was there before in the Reform. NO ONE has said that the Green Book is no longer valid. The Green Book is the basis of the “reform” as it makes all strains equivalent. Until IMCA announces that it is cancelling the Green Book, the rest is spin. That has not happened. I personally received a letter signed by Rabbi Litzman a few weeks ago (I have no doubt he never saw it) saying there are no strains, hopelessly confusing genotype and phenotype.

BIG LIE 2: IMCA has tried to get the greedy suppliers to provide to pharmacies but out of greed (today’s spin: a “suspicion of cartelling”!) suppliers have hogged all their material to make bigger profits.

Simple fact: It was IMCA over months was forbidding the suppliers to market to pharmacies. A bare faced lie.

BIG LIE 3: There will be new legislation to insure that patients are able to get the cannabis they need in either pharmacies or from suppliers, as they choose, and the strains they need. More growers will be encouraged and importation as well.

Simple facts: IMCA is confiscating cannabis from growers and closing their supply sites. What is allowed in the Reform is a small number of the strains patients have been using. No one has ever requested importation, that’s just a spin. There are licenses for new suppliers. All of their strains are not continuous with previous care and being forced to use new strains constitutes a violation of patients’ rights to continuity. More suppliers may be a good idea, but that does not justify in any way damaging the current suppliers. Unless, of course, the Magister has interests in some of the new suppliers, as one complaint has been lodged against him.

BIG LIE 4: The Reform provides better access and better care

Simple fact: The system was not broken, and the aggressive way of “fixing it” was needless. It was entirely possible to help pharmacies become stocked, without all the threats of closing suppliers.

BIG LIE 5: Cannabis will be cheaper under the Reform.

Simple Fact: The cost to consumers has doubled or tripled. That’s the fact. The rest is a spin, no one sensible believes it. Just today the Health Ministry blocked a request for medical cannabis to be included in the“Basket” of subsidized medications. Why? And no one has recognized the obvious fact that there is no justification for IMCA denying patients their right to grow their own. Why does medical cannabis have to be controlled? This restricts free access and is a violation of the basic right of a citizen to grow his own medication and which sure cuts costs.

BIG LIE 6: The quality of cannabis will be better under the Reform.

Simple fact: The material sent to pharmacies to date has been horrible. IMCA has made no effort or shown any ability to supervise the, Pharmacies have had no qualms about selling old, dry, ineffective and infected material. That’s how the reform looks to date. Growing your own – as above.

BIG LIE 7: Patients will find it easier and cheaper to get prescriptions from physicians under the Reform.

Simple fact: There are very few functioning physicians in the list of 80+ doctors who can provide prescriptions who are actually doing so I have families with children with autism that I send hunting since IMCA has accepted very few of my requests over the past months (a stark change from a year ago) but they cannot find anyone to do it.

BIG LIE 8: IMCA is operating in the patient’s best interests.

Simple fact: Brutalizing patients does not square with this. IMCA is undoubtedly operating out of someone’s interests; stay tuned as we find out who’s?

See how it works – if you read the Big Lies as a text:

The plan is to legalize medical cannabis. IMCA has tried to get the greedy suppliers to provide to pharmacies but out of greed (including  a “suspicion of cartelling”!) suppliers have hogged all their material to make bigger profits. There will be new legislation to insure that patients are able to get the cannabis they need in either pharmacies or from suppliers, as they choose, and the strains they need. More growers will be encouraged and importation as well. The Reform provides better access and better care. Cannabis will be cheaper under the Reform. The quality of cannabis will be better under the Reform. Patients will find it easier and cheaper to get prescriptions from physicians under the Reform. IMCA is operating in the patient’s best interests.

Hell has just been portrayed as Paradise. Go argue with it…

About the Author
Alan Flashman was born in Foxborough, MA, and gained his BA from Columbia, MD from NYU, Pediatrics, Adult and Child Psychiatry specialties at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, The Bronx, NY. He has practiced in Beer Sheba since 1983, and taught mental health at Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben Gurion University. He is currently CEO of Family Instiute of Neve Yerushalyim, sponsoring a first fully accredited post-masters training in family therapy for the Haredi community. Alan has edited readers on Therapeutic Communication with Children (2002) and Adolescents (2005) in Hebrew, translated Buber's I and Thou anew into Hebrew, and authored Losing It, an autobiography, and From Protection to Passover.
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