Netherlands and Israel, a Marriage of Cannabis
Reporting from a 5 day fact finding mission in the Netherlands exploring the medical cannabis program and the players in the industry, together with Saul Kaye, our CEO and Jason Ryker, our CFO/COO.
Since we announced our partnership with Israel’s Cannabis Medical Unit and our subsequent postponement of the CannaTech Summit until March, we find ourselves with the time opportunity to investigate interesting markets and build new international relationships.
Our trip began with a walking tour of the tourist Coffeeshops, where legal recreational cannabis is sold ‘legally’. During the week we met with Bedrocan, the only licensed medical cannabis grower in the country. We also met with a number of great companies involved in seed breeding, ecommerce, culture and clinical trials / research.
The law in Netherlands is complex, cannabis is still illegal, however its sale, possession and use has been decriminalized for decades. We’d been expecting to find a developed, mature industry, instead we found a system broken and in desperate need of innovation.
Whilst Cannabis has been widely available in Netherlands for over 30 years, its quasi-legalization has resulted in an unknown supply chain. Literally, nobody officially knows who supplies the coffeeshops. When nobody knows, nobody regulates, leading to standardization loss and non-existent quality control. These establishments are little more than street dealers with social legitimacy pushing a product that nobody really understands beyond it’s super-high effect.
Compound that with the government’s active quashing of cannabis tourism means that whilst the country earns significant revenues from tourism, the massive potential to earn is lost. Cannabis sales are not subject to tax and the coffeeshops are shabby with cliché Bob Marley music breaking eardrums.
Where’s the shiny, upscale coffeeshops? we kept asking ourselves. Where’s the middle class cannabis culture? We pondered throughout the week. It would seem the perception of cannabis is in some cases worse in this country than any other with full illegality. Cannabis is viewed as a low quality, tourist, stoner drug. The use of cannabis as a medicine is barely understood and certainly not appreciated. Research is now only just beginning as universities are now allocating resources and research assistants.
We met with GHMedical, a young vibrant team on a mission to map every cannabis strain and how it acts upon each cannabinoid receptor in the brain. To picture the task at hand, imagine the human genome project but one where the result is a complex matrix of cannabis medicine targeting hundreds of medical indications (illness / disease) GHMedical are currently raising investment and hoping to partner with research institutions around the world….Israeli innovators be ready, there’s opportunity here.
We met with a number of other entrepreneurs, social activists and innovators all with an eagerness to do business. Everyone we met was supportive of Israel generally with a fully 100% non-BDS attitude toward our innovation nation. We’re seeing every day the unequivocal international respect for Israel’s Hebrew University and specifically the fame of Professor Rafi Mechoulam.
We met with the team at StrainHunters & GreenHouse Seeds. StrainHunters is a fantastic youtube channel documenting the founder’s journeys around the world in search of virgin, un-modified cannabis seeds. Their core business GreenHouse is one of the world’s foremost seed banks and exporters. These guys are looking to expand their operations in an opening up world, together with identifying new techniques to optimize their seed genetics…. Israeli innovators be ready, there’s opportunity here.
The highlight of the trip was our visit to the Ministry of Health, Wellness and Sport. Here we met with the head of the medical cannabis unit. This is the department with one of the oldest medical marijuana programs in the world. This is the department that is mandated NOT to advertise itself, has no proactive obligation to educate or support; users, doctors, growers or suppliers. Boasting a paltry 2000 medical cannabis patients in a program that’s been in full swing for over a decade is staggering.
The positives are their understanding of the changes around the world. They see the need to better implement a patient care program, educate all stakeholders and help create a regulatory environment that can deliver real change to the country… Israel be ready, our medical cannabis program is the best in the world and countries want to come and learn how we do things.
After a long exhausting trip, we returned full of excitement for the partnerships we fostered. We’re back in Israel to work on a Dutch delegation for the CannaTech summit in March whilst making the connections today to bond our two Cannabis frontier breaking nations into the future.