by Martijn on 02/10/2013 | Uncategorized

Cannabis in Israel: history, legislation, medicine & activism: part 1

Cannabis has been used in Israel, the Middle East and Mediterranean countries for over 1,000 years, as revealed by ancient literature and archaeological remains found at several sites. In historical terms, before the arrival of nationalism and modern borders, Israel was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes between Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The products that were transported along these routes included spices, perfumes and hashish.


In recent times, there has been an increase in the recreational and medicinal uses of cannabis in Israel, as shown by the large number of people who use it for recreational purposes and the maturity and scope of the medicinal cannabis programme, with 5,000 licensed patients, approximately half the number of approved patients in the whole of Canada, whose population is five times larger than Israel’s.

There are several reasons why cannabis is so popular with Israelis:

  • The government and its supporters’ historically monopoly of the media in the form of anti-cannabis propaganda has been overcome by the free distribution of knowledge and information via the Internet.
  • People have intrinsic intelligence and, in this turbulent country choose to relax using a substance that is safer for their health, despite being illegal.
  • Political activism and the rise of the Ale Yarok (Green Leaf) party as a legitimate political power in Israel have widened the debate on cannabis and brought it closer to the general public.
  • The rapid increase in the consumption of medicinal cannabis has helped create a positive view of cannabis in general.
Maimonides (source: Wikipedia
Maimonides (source: Wikipedia

Cannabis references in the Bible

Cannabis has been used in Israel, the Middle East and Mediterranean countries for over 1,000 years, as revealed by ancient literature and archaeological remains found at several sites. In historical terms, before the arrival of nationalism and modern borders, Israel was at the crossroads of ancient trade routes between Africa, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The products that were transported along these routes included spices, perfumes and hashish.

The word cannabis is thought to come from the Hebrew word, Qaneh Bosem, which literally means ‘fragrant reed’ or ‘aromatic reed’. Some believe that there are references to cannabis and its use in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

  • Genesis 1:11: “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and fruit trees yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.”
  • Genesis 03:18: Genesis 3:18: “… and thou shalt eat the herb of the field.”
  • Psalm 104:14: “He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man…”
  • Proverbs 15:17: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”
  • Revelation 22:2: “In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for healing the nations.”

Moses Maimonides (or Moses Ben Maimon), a Jewish doctor and philosopher, was born in 1135, at the end of the Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain. He trained in both Córdoba and Fes, and gained widespread recognition among doctors during the Middle Ages and beyond. In his works he speaks about the medicinal uses of cannabis oil, among them its ability to cure headaches and unblock ears. He also mentions the “seed of the roasted desert kanbas’, as an ingredient in a preparation to induce hair growth… Yes, maybe cannabis can help reduce baldness (try this at home and tell US how you get on).

Returning to Israel, during an archaeological dig (Joe Zias, 1989) in a cave on the outskirts of the city of Beit Shemesh, near Jerusalem, a Roman tomb was found, thought to be 1,600 years old. Inside the tomb, the archaeologists found the bones of a full-term foetus within the skeleton of a young woman who had died during childbirth. Alongside these remains, the archaeologists found 7 grams of a brown substance, which they sent off to be analysed at the police forensic laboratory and the Hadassah Hebrew University of Jerusalem Medical Faculty laboratory, where Professor Raphael Mechoulam, the world leader in cannabis research, carried out his extraordinary work. The analysis revealed the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main active principle of cannabis, which indicated the presence of Cannabis Sativa in the sample (Zias et al. 1993). Zias supposes that the cannabis, in the form of incense, was inhaled to reduce pain during childbirth and to increase contractions.

Dr. Joe Zias
Dr. Joe Zias

Thus, in Israel, cannabis is considered by some people to be an indigenous plant, which stopped being used for some time, but now once again occupies a natural place in the modern pharmacopoeia and is used to treat a large number of medical symptoms.

The legal status of recreational cannabis in Israel appears to be lagging far behind that of medicinal cannabis. In other words, we have managed to medicalise cannabis, but we have not yet managed to legalise it. (Sensi Seeds published an article about the primary reason why cannabis is illegal in most parts of the world. Click here to read it, ed.)

Israeli cannabis law

According to the law, the possession of 15 grams of cannabis (which is considered the limit tolerated for personal use!) is punishable with a sentence of up to three years in prison and a fine of up to US $25,000. Although these maximum sentences are rarely applied, the industrial system of the law enforcement agencies (police, courts, prison wardens) violates citizens’ rights on a large scale, searching them in the street (especially young people), entering their houses (without a search warrant) and sabotaging the Million Marijuana Marches, organised worldwide by Dana Beal, the founder of “Cures, Not Wars”, and currently in prison. There were also picnics held in Tel Aviv, organised by the Green Leaf party, which for years used to bring together thousands of people.

As someone put it: “the main health risk of using cannabis results in bumping into the police”.

But there is a glimmer of hope. A few years ago, the government’s legal service issued a directive advising the police that those arrested for the first time for the possession of cannabis should be let off with a warning. If they were arrested for a second time, they would be taken into custody. The problem is that this directive is not universally followed, and what really happens depends on the police officer who makes the arrest.

Tomorrow Sensi Seeds will publish the second part of this interesting story about cannabis in Israel. Stay tuned.

Author: Boaz Wachtel

Comment Section

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IOANA MAGULEANU

I AM 62 YEARS OLD- MORE THAN 20 YEARS I SUFFER OF PANNICKS E CANNABISATTACK-BIPOLAR DEPRESSION- MY LIFE IS A LIVING HELL HEAVING 3-5 PANICK ATTACKS IN A WEEK- I CAN'T TAKE NO MORE- CLONEX 2 MG,NO EFFECT-AND I HAVE A FRIEND- WHO RECIVED FROM HER DOCTOR-REFERENCES TO GO TO AN INTERVIW IN A CLINIC AND SHE RECIVED 30G OF CANNAVIS FOR A MONTH-SHE IS IN A GREAT STATEOF HEALTH- NO PANIC...NO PILLS...PLS. HELP ME,SAVED MY LIFE TO MY AGE.YOURS,RESPECTFULLY-Ioana M aguleanu-nazareth-ilit-Israel

03/04/2016

Jonathan

I distinctly remember seeing a documentary where an archeological team recovered many Isrealite/Levite artifacts from a tomb. Included were huge pots containing what was to believed to be annointing oil. Years later ( many artifacts/oil was low priority for examination )
they discovered the oil to be 80+% THC.

I would appreciate any info you have on this.
I am certain this was a news/documentary/educational source of some kind.

Thank you for your time
Jonathan Wood

28/01/2019

Scarlet Palmer

Hi Jonathan,

Thank you for your comment, the film you mention sounds very interesting! I cannot find any reference to it, but my research time is limited - perhaps one of our readers knows? I would be happy to receive a link to it if anyone can find one. In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the blog.

With best wishes,

Scarlet

06/02/2019

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