Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman addresses the annual health conference in Tel Aviv on March 27, 2018. (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)
He did it in front of lawmakers considering cannabis reform.
Things got wild in the Knesset recently. During a committee discussion on changes to Israel’s medical cannabis rules, an impassioned Israeli cannabis activist chugged an entire bottle of cannabis oil, according to the Jerusalem Post.
“I have cannabis medical oil that contains 30% THC,” he said. “You say it’s a dangerous drug, what will happen to me if I consume it?”
The Post reported that he then swallowed the bottle, saying ”you can’t overdose on medical cannabis oil.” He was promptly removed by Knesset ushers. The man is a former soldier who says he depends on cannabis oil to treat his PTSD, reports the Times of Israel.
Another man, whose daughter depends on cannabis to stop her seizures, said he would resort to the black market if cannabis reforms currently being considered forced him to. The reforms are rumored to include changes that would prevent certain strains of cannabis from being sold by distribution companies in Israel, sending patients who depend on those strains into a panic.
“I’m taking it now, even though it’s expired, because my daughter is not twitching anymore,” said the father, before drinking the oil. “If you touch her license to get cannabis, I’ll open a drug lab myself.”
The mother of another patient was also removed, although she didn’t go quite so far as to chug cannabis oil, simply causing repeated disturbances to the hearing. On her way out, she called Health Minister Yaakov Litzman “heartless.”
Litzman assured attendees that the Ministry of Health has no intention of stopping them from accessing strains in Israel. Patient fears were also stoked by rumors of greatly increased prices, and he promised that they were working to address cost issues as well.
“Cannabis is a drug,” he said. “It was I, and not my predecessors, who proposed reforming the field. It is not easy. We want to prevent leakage from the growers; we want only eligible people to receive the cannabis with dignity in the pharmacies. We added doctors who can prescribe cannabis for patients, and we will add more. This reform is good, but there are difficulties here and there. There is a problem of expensive prices for the heavy users, and that too will be dealt with.”
Medical cannabis has been legal for specific conditions in Israel since the 90s and there are currently about 26,000 registered patients in the country, which is expected to double this year. Patients who have obtained a doctor’s authorization in Israel currently obtain their cannabis from eight distribution centers supervised by the Ministry of Health’s Medical Cannabis Unit, with the one of the largest, Tikun Olam, growing about 230 unique strains. Fittingly, it was one of Tikun Olam’s products that the former soldier consumed, Avidekel, a high-CBD cannabis oil with minimal psychoactive effects.
While Israel is known as being on the cutting edge of medical cannabis research—Israeli scientist Raphael Mechoulam first isolated THC from cannabis in 1964 and Israeli companies are leading the field—recreational use remains illegal. A bill to decriminalize cannabis is currently making progress in the Knesset.