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To Placate Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Blocks Medical Marijuana Exports

The interference seems inconsistent with the president's support for cannabis as a medicine.

TwitterTwitterLast week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blocked plans to allow the export of medical marijuana, citing objections from Donald Trump. "I spoke with Trump," Netanyahu reportedly told members of his cabinet, "and he told me about his general opposition to the legalization of cannabis, and I'm not sure Israel should be the export pioneer."

This development, which was originally reported by Hadashot news, is doubly puzzling. Trump has repeatedly expressed support for medical marijuana, and in any case Israeli exports to countries other than the United States would not implicate U.S. law.

Trump has said he opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use, although he also has said the decision should be left to the states. On medical use he has gone further, saying patients who can benefit from marijuana should be able to obtain it. "I think medical marijuana, 100 percent," he said at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference. "I think medical should happen, right?" he said at a rally latter that year. "Don't we agree? I mean I think so…I know people that are very, very sick, and for whatever reason, the marijuana really helps them." He reiterated that position at a 2016 rally: "Medical I agree with. Medical I like...Medical is OK."

After Trump took office, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer indicated that he still supported medical use of marijuana. "The president understands the pain and suffering that many people go through who are facing especially terminal diseases and the comfort that some of these drugs, including medical marijuana, can bring to them," Spicer said at a February 2017 press briefing, noting that Congress had passed a spending rider aimed at protecting state-licensed medical marijuana suppliers. "There is a big difference between that and recreational marijuana."

If so, why would Trump urge Netanyahu to nix exports of medical marijuana, which has been legal in Israel for more than a decade? According to Hadashot, Netanyahu "ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump." That does not sound like something Trump would do on his own initiative, so maybe Attorney General Jeff Sessions or another pot prohibitionist in the administration suggested it.

Shipping cannabis to the U.S., even for patients in the 29 states that allow medical use, would violate federal law, which does not recognize any legitimate use for marijuana. But medical marijuana is legal in several other countries, and Canada already exports it. The Israeli government estimates that exports could generate about $1 billion a year.

"Israel can become an exporter of medical cannabis with an income worth 4 billion (!) shekels a year," Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted last Thursday after visiting a cannabis farm in northern Israel. "We must not miss the train. Today we are the locomotive; if we hesitate, we will become the cars." Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, who accompanied Shaked on the trip, agreed, saying, "There is a potential here for billions of dollars that Israel will gain and the world will gain."

Shaked said she will try to change Netanyahu's mind. "I am sure that when we sit with the prime minister and we lay out for him all the details," she said, "the correct decision will be taken."

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  • DajjaI||

    Please don't criticize Israel. It borders on antisemitism.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    It's like when I laughed at or criticized Berlusconi, I was really attacking baby Jesus, nttawwt.

  • OpenBordersLiberal-tarian||

    Well speaking of "borders," absolutely don't suggest that just because open borders is the correct policy for the US, it must also be the correct policy for Israel. That's a false equivalence logical fallacy promoted by the alt-right.

    - OpenBorders(4USA)Liberal-tarian

  • Eidde||

    I'm trying to think of a tasteful joke here, but it's difficult. Not the joke part, the tasteful part.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    Do ya think Bebe spits or swallows Trump's precious bodily fluids. I think swallowing is the art of the deal.

  • Eidde||

    Hmmm...remind me not to raise the possibility of tasteless jokes at Reason.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

    What?

  • Mickey Rat||

    Again, maybe we should try to change the federal pot prohibition law instead of hoping whoever is in charge of the federal executive might ignore it?

  • Calidissident||

    Does current law require the president to pressure other countries into banning the export of marijuana that is legal in that country?

    Also, while I agree Congress should act, they have already given the executive the power to reschedule marijuana, so that isn't an excuse or defense for the executive's actions on the issue.

  • This Machine Chips Fascists||

  • SIV||

    Yeah.

  • Calidissident||

    Assuming Israel would actually be violating that treaty, I don't see where it is the obligation of the US president to ensure enforcement of this UN treaty in foreign countries.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Excusing executive action is not where I am going. Without the federal pot prohibitikn, the executive's hands would be largely tied on this matter.

  • Verbum Vincet||

    Even though smoking is bad and should be totally banned, I fully support medical Cannabis for a very narrow population of patients with terminal diagnoses, who have unsuccessfully tried at least 3 FDA-approved pharmaceutical antiemetics. As long as medical Cannabis is approved by FDA and strictly controlled under CSA by DEA and dispensed by a duly licensed pharmacist, it should work well.

    Medical Cannabis should also be heavily taxed, both to discourage would-be abusers, and to encourage terminally ill users to select something legitimate that comes in pill form and is government-approved, and only after rigorous testing. Indeed, medicine has a wide range of useful antiemetics over several chemical classes.

    Even though my preferred first-line drug for most all medical cases is Haloperidol (antipsychotic) there are dozens of effective antiemetic drugs like Dronabinol, which is synthetic THC in a gelcap. It can be expensive, but it's a non-issue now that all Americans have free insurance. I would also mandate a special dispensation be purchased from county, state and federal governments every year, like the one necessary to prescribe Suboxone for opioid addicts. Also, the provider should be required to attend an 8 hour seminar on prescribing Cannabis in accordance with the law. Special prescription pads requiring the prescriber's thumbprint should also be designed and limited solely for issuing Cannabis prescriptions.

  • fafalone||

    I really hope this is sarcasm but since it's how many sadomoralist authoritarians who enjoy inflicting the damage of policy drastically escalating the damage of the drug itself actually think, who knows.

  • Teddy Pump||

    What the hell are U babbling about???....IT'S A STINKING NATURAL PLANT....LET PEOPLE USE IT AS THEY SEE FIT!!!

  • Robert||

    If what Netanyahu said is true, it'd be consistent w Trump's protectionist reput'n. He's interested in protecting the domestic cannabis industry. Y'know, exports good, imports bad—i.e. $ good, goods bad?

  • vek||

    I've said this for a long time since Trump spoke favorably of medical... IF Trump were smart he would PUSH to get it rescheduled federally. If he made medical legal under federal law, that would be a huge bump in public support I think. Obviously pushing recreational would be even better, but even medical would earn him a lot of good will. He's already taken the stance anyway, and even many bible thumper prohibitionists are okay with medical. He has nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.

  • Duncan20903||

    What makes you people think that the POTUS isn't long the Canadian cannabis stocks? Cutting Israel out of the picture certainly does benefit those companies. Also Israel would hardly have been the pioneers. Canadian cannabis companies are already exporting to (including but not necessarily limited to) Germany, Italy, Mexico, and Australia. Neither are the Canadians showing any inclination of worry about the opinion of the Presidential administration.

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