A Chinese delegation will jet to Israel next week to learn all about the country’s burgeoning medicinal cannabis trade.
Academics and businessmen from across China will meet with Israeli scientists, tech firms and pharmaceutical companies and explore how a Chinese industry might take shape. Ascher Shmulewitz, chairman of Israeli cannabis company Therapix Biosciences Ltd. (NASDAQ: TRPX), will accompany them on the visit and show them the advancement the country has made in recent years.
Israel is a pioneer in the medicinal cannabis field, having legalized it in the 1990s. The domestic industry is one of the most mature and sophisticated in the world, and it has just permitted exports too. This will allow leading Israeli companies to take on the likes of Canada and The Netherlands as they bid to become world leaders.
There are currently eight producers authorized to cultivate cannabis in Israel and many more are awaiting approval. One leading light, InterCure, created a buzz around the globe last year when it hired former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as chairman, while Syqe Medical raised $50 million in the largest ever financing round by an Israeli company last month.
Therapix signed a $48 million acquisition agreement with FSD Pharma of Canada in October 2018, but the deal hit a snag and it terminated the letter of intent in December, leaving its future uncertain. But it is pressing ahead with plans to develop unique cannabinoid technologies for treatment of central nervous system disorders, and chief executive Shmulewitz will lead the Chinese delegation.
He said that the Chinese academics and entrepreneurs are seeking scientific collaborations with pioneering Israeli firms, and they will find plenty of those.
It could represent a significant development for the global cannabis industry, as China is the world’s second largest economy and it has currently outlawed all use of cannabis. The region takes a hard line on marijuana smuggling, although attitudes are softening as South Korea and Thailand are in the process of legalizing medicinal cannabis.
China has an emerging middle class and it could become a huge consumer of cannabis, as hemp grows in China. There is a cannabis community in the country, and cases of smuggling marijuana into China continue to rise, according to the China National Narcotic Control Commission.
It would take a huge effort to persuade the government to permit medicinal cannabis, but it is interesting to see academics and businessmen taking an interest in it and seeking collaborations with firms in regulated markets.