Founded by a retired biologist who supplied cancer patients with home-grown marijuana, Tikun Olam farm grows the herb and gives guidance to people disabled by pain.
We may associate growing marijuana with furtive operations and police raids, but in Israel there are at least seven facilities authorized to grow the herb for medicine. See our recent post on Israel’s newly-relaxed regulations on medical marijuana. And while illegal traders make big profits, Israel’s biggest authorized cannabis suppliers simply gift it to licensed patients who can’t afford to pay.
Tikun Olam is the name of the farm, and its name, which translates as “repairing the world,” reflects its idealistic origins.
Dora Cohen, a retired biologist with a big heart, began cultivating the plant in two rooms of her own home to help cancer patients. With official recognition of marijuana’s effectiveness in pain management, she and her family founded a facility with 11,000 square meters of greenhouses, automatic climate control systems, and a meteorological station.
The farm is located in an unpublicized area in the north. Police surveillance of the area is stringent, with cameras everywhere and the workers checked for smuggling. Strict safety precautions are taken when the processed marijuana is transported to patient’s homes or to Tikkun Olam’s center in Tel Aviv. When we asked the farm’s spokesperson, Yuval “Tubi” Zolotov, about visiting the farm, he explained that it entails a complicated clearing process through the police. Luckily, he gave us a good picture of medical cannabis in Israel today by phone.
Green Prophet: What’s special about medical marijuana?
Zolotov: The best-known chemical constituents of cannabis are the cannabinoids, and THC is the most famous of those. It’s the strongest one for making a person feel high. But it’s not the most important cannabinoid for medical purposes. We are working on developing other strains of cannabis with lower THC values.
Green Prophet: Do patients get high anyway?
Zolotov: Each person reacts in his/her individual way to cannabis. Our clients are sick people seeking relief from physical or psychiatric suffering. It’s an entirely different atmosphere than when a person smokes it for fun. But presumably some people do experience a mild high. On the other hand, every conventional medication for major pain relief produces side effects and dependencies. Cannabis’s are far milder.
Green Prophet: Once a person has obtained a license to buy cannabis, do they just take the cigarettes home and start smoking?
Zolotov: We provide trained guides on managing safe treatment at home. We can’t recommend dosage because every patient has an individual pain threshold which he/she must learn to manage according to need. Some patients prefer to absorb cannabis through a tincture in alcohol (administered in drops), an edible oil from the seeds, or to eat chocolate or cookies containing marijuana.
(Find Green Prophet’s recipe for Majoun marijuana candy here.)
Green Prophet: Approximately how many patients are authorized to use marijuana today?
Zolotov: It’s hard to say, because cannabis is usually issued only to patients in later stages of disease and so there are a certain number of deaths, as well as new patients, all the time. But we estimate 7000-8000 people. There are 120,000 cancer patients today in Israel; we estimate that in the future at least 40,000 of them will be using medical cannabis.
Green Prophet: Thank you, Tubi Zolotov.
More about cannabis and other drugs in the Middle East:
- Marijuana Prevents PTSD
- Yemen’s Problems Blamed on Gat
- Book Review: Uses and Abuses of Plant-Derived Smoke