Karin Kloosterman
Forecasting technologies and design to better the planet

Blockchain, butter and cannabis: Israel needs help sorting out priorities

Blockchain promises to create opportunities in farming, shopping local, even in distributing rights and royalties to data owners. In cities like Jaffa residents have been enjoying big discounts on shopping (up to 30%) when the pay for purchases using a blockchain-based app called Colu

Unlike buying Bitcoins in Tel Aviv which may require standing in line to use a machine that takes only cash, Colu keeps all the complicated machinery of crypto away from the consumer, providing easy transactions using a credit card which converts fiat currency to Colu cash. 

Paying with Colu cash earns you rewards in Colu cash which can be up to 30% of your transactions if you live in Jaffa. The municipality of Tel Aviv entered a partnership with Colu to give rewards to locals who shop at stores along Jerusalem Boulevard. It’s been rundown from the railway construction and businesses are finding it hard to survive. Colu offers a new stream of clients, mainly millenials who love the idea of hacking the current system and using a new kind of payment system that has a local impact. 

It’s strange for me that this app, otherwise a counter-currency has been allowed to grow in Israel where it’s difficult to set up a Paypal account and transfer money abroad. Every bank here will make you feel like a spy if you try.

Even basic things like getting your hands on butter is a huge challenge in Israel. My local Jaffa Whatsapp group is often asking who’s got it in stock. Then we all run. I go to my local grocery stores and bargain with the owners to get me some butter from their hidden stock. Someone on a facebook group suggested we create a new app like Telegrass, but for butter. 

So yeah sometimes it feels a bit like a banana republic or the Kremlin over here. But still, give us this much… we get some points for mercy: even when Telegrass founder Amos Silver went to jail he got to eat like a vegan. So Israel you see is a strange place – part Kafka’s Castle, part so very merciful. And the fact that the founder of Telegrass is called a Kingpin of Cannabis is another issue. Like cannabis is a hard drug.  Israelis everywhere enjoy smoking cannabis for medical reasons or not. The fact that the legal rights of patients and people who want to self-medicate freely cannot like they can in Canada really confuses me considering that Israel’s ex Prime Ministers are now deeply involved in running cannabis startups. 

Yeah, the law is the law, I know. But when will it change? Have you read how badly people like Harry are suffering because he can’t access the medicine he needs?  

Israel  is out there lauding itself on cannabis research around the world, while at home it takes at least a year and jumping through hoops to get a prescription and then, well good luck if you can afford it or get your hands on it. 

Israel says it’s a democracy, still in business it acts like a theocracy. And it’s confusing to the outside world. 

Same is true in hightech. One of the stories we tell is that Israel is a startup nation. While online gambling falls in the grey area in Israel, the country’s biggest hightech success story is an online casino developer that made it possible almost single handedly for the online casino industry globally to thrive. And why don’t we talk about it? Why is it an elephant in the room.  Are we embarrassed about PlayTech? I know from firsthand experience that a good number of Israeli startups are seed funded with earnings from gaming software Israel created, like 888 whose early investor Gigi Levi is now a very active angel and early stage investor. 

So come on. Get with the program Israel. Let us buy bitcoins. Let us buy butter. Let us buy cannabis butter! And for goodness sakes, let those who want to play, play. 

Israel is currently holding a complete monopoly on the sports betting industry, there is absolutely nothing a foreign or local company can do in order to cater to the Israeli population. The exact same issue can be seen in Norway as well.

This is where blockchain technology has been helping gaming companies penetrate new markets. One of the best examples of blockchain’s role in the gambling industry is actually Australia.

The reason why Australia is such an important example is that the industry is popular but the government is pushing a monopoly from its top betting company. Using the blockchain, a slightly smaller gambling platform Playamo has been providing pokies in Australia for years now.  That’s how you say gaming there. (They also use the PlayTech platform.)

Crypto gambling falls into this really weird space, kind of like Colu cash. Where we know it’s another kind of currency but it’s easy to access and regulators don’t know how to deal with it. 

The exact similar thing is happening in both Israel and Norway. And like the military industry has benefited medical imaging technology, I am hoping the gaming/crypto developers will help open new ideas in social change, in helping climate change issues take root. It’s not a stretch. For instance..

We tried in our startup — the startup I founded in 2015 — to apply blockchain technology to help people grow cannabis and well in a big brush stroke, to save the planet. Blockchain is known as a way to pay for things and as a currency but it is also a format for sharing and saving on a decentralized network, so no one entity owns it. So no one company like Monsanto or Syngenta will hold our planet’s data for their own sake of selling seeds or pesticides.

Sure the idea was appealing for security reasons because it’s risky to share your data in any sort of way if you were growing cannabis in Canada before the law changed (people can now grow 5 plants each, no problem). But we loved the way the blockchain can keep data secure.

Don’t be afraid of new technologies and how they are applied. Be willing to learn and find new ways to improve them and put them to good use for humanity.

About the Author
Karin Kloosterman was born an activist, focusing that spirit to align human desires with Earth-friendly approaches. She's a published scientist, award-winning journalist and a serial entrepreneur who founded flux to cognify Earth's data. She is the founder of the world-leading Middle East eco news site Green Prophet www.greenprophet.com Reach out via karin@greenprophet.com
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