CNBC News: "Cannabis for kids: Israel pioneers pediatric pot"
Dina Gusovsky | 29 Apr 2014
Yaniv Eshed is a big believer in the medical benefits of marijuana for children.
Eshed's 9-year-old son, Aviel, is being treated for bone marrow cancer at Sheba Medical Center, the largest hospital in Israel. Yaniv Eshed told CNBC that he wishes he had learned about medical marijuana before Aviel was already six months into his chemotherapy treatment.
"I was not aware like I am aware now," Eshed told CNBC. "If someone told me at the beginning that there was this option of cannabis, I think I could have saved him a lot of months of pain."
Medical marijuana is estimated to be a $40 million industry in Israel, and research conducted there has helped fuel America's own medical marijuana business, which is expected to be worth more than $2 billion this year alone.
Many doctors in the United States and elsewhere question the efficacy of medical marijuana and call for more research on cannabis before it is broadly legalized. An increasing number of studies also shows that regular marijuana use can harm the development of young people's brains.
The legality of medical marijuana is determined on the state level in the U.S., but it's legal nationally in Israel. That country's largest medical cannabis supplier, Tikun Olam, was started by businessman Tsachi Cohen in 2006 as a philanthropic, private company aimed at delivering marijuana to sick patients for free. Cohen received the first license to grow marijuana from the Israeli Ministry of Health in 2007.
Following initial success with Israeli hospitals, the company is now appealing to Israeli, Palestinian, and international organizations in an effort to bring medical marijuana to sick children who receive medical care not only within Israel, but under the Palestinian Authority as well.
Unlike in Israel, there is still a major stigma about marijuana as medicine in Palestine.
"Currently, we have a qualified Arab-Israeli male nurse that is fluent in Arabic, and we are also treating a number of Palestinian children from Ramallah and Gaza that have cancer and are hospitalized in Israeli hospitals," Eran Rise, spokesman for Tikun Olam, told CNBC.