Israel’s High Court Freezes Medical Cannabis Reform
Following a petition from the Medical Cannabis Association, an Israeli nonprofit organization, Israel’s High Court of Justice issued an order temporarily freezing medical cannabis reforms.
With this order in place, medical cannabis companies are forced to sell their products at considerably lower prices, similar to the ones offered before the reform was implemented.
Before the reform, medical cannabis patients used to pay a fixed sum of 370 shekels (around $106) a month, regardless of quantity. After September 2019, when the reform came into full effect, pharmacies charged 180 shekels (or $51) for 10 grams, meaning that anyone buying more than 20 grams of medical cannabis would be paying a much higher price than they did before the new regulation.
Now, with the Court freezing reforms, patients can once again buy medical cannabis at a flat price, just like they did before the cannabis regulation took effect.
To further complicate the matters, the Ministry of Health’s cannabis reform ordered growers to surrender all products that do not meet the new standards of quality, which resulted in pharmacists blaming growers for cannabis shortages and jacked-up prices; patients, in turn, blamed pharmacies.
Israel’s medical cannabis reform was supposed to standardize the industry and boost competition by introducing higher quality control but ended up creating a supply shortage and increased prices.
Before the reform, prices were determined by an agreement between the growers and the state. The new regulation, however, was supposed to adjust the cost of medical cannabis according to its active ingredient ratio. In other words, the price was determined by the free market; i.e., the companies, investors, and stakeholders in the medical cannabis industry called the shots when it comes to pricing.
It was the patients who required larger supplies of cannabis (100 grams or more) that had the biggest issue with the reform as they paid significantly more than before.
Represented by the Medical Cannabis Association, they petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to stop the new regulation, which resulted in an interim order that allowed patients to purchase medical cannabis at the old prices and standards. The problem was that not everyone complied with this order — some growers simply refused to supply cannabis products with their old price tags, prompting the Medical Cannabis Association to write to the Court yet again.
On Thursday, the High Court gave growers, who had not complied with the order, 10 days to restore the old pricing system. They also asked the Health Ministry to explain why it had not set the maximum price for medical cannabis.
The Health Ministry announced that they will respect the Court’s decision, however, medical cannabis companies are outraged. They say that the Court has heard only one side of the story mostly due to how the petition was filed and processed. They said that the order to freeze the reform has left the court in the “most demagogic and irresponsible place.”
Currently, chaos rules on the Israeli medical cannabis market with both the old and new policies being put into practice. Will growers comply with the Court’s order? Or will the new ruling create an even bigger mess?