The Israeli government has finally approved a law that would permit the export of cannabis for medicinal use.

Lawmakers voted 21-0 this week in favour of Knesset member Yoav Kisch’s bill, and it now just needs approval from cabinet ministers and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kisch is a member of Netanyahu’s party and he hailed the huge economic potential for the state and farmers to export “a blessed product that eases the suffering of the sick”.

The country hopes to boost its economy by a billion shekels ($265 million) per year.

The country hopes to boost its economy by a billion shekels ($265 million) per year through exports after noting demand from Australia, Germany, Austria, and Mexico.

If the bill is successful it would make Israel one of just a handful of countries to export cannabis, following in the footsteps of leading lights such as Canada and The Netherlands.

Israel has long been a pioneer in the medicinal cannabis industry after legalizing it in the 1990s. But exports have always been forbidden, as it was feared a glut of production could fuel a domestic black market. However, the economic argument appears to be winning the day after a unanimous vote in the country’s Knesset this week.

Eight companies are currently permitted to cultivate medicinal marijuana in Israel, but many more have filed applications to join the industry. Some leading producers in Israel have threatened to move their headquarters to Europe if they are not allowed to export cannabis, and the proposed law is designed to keep them from decamping to places like Portugal.

Saul Kaye, chief executive at Tel Aviv-based iCAN: Israel-Cannabis, welcomed the “long overdue decision” to approve this bill. “Israel, already the most advanced nation in cannabis research and development, will now be able to produce and market cannabis and cannabis-based products that will help millions of people suffering from illnesses including cancer, MS, Parkinson’s, sleep disorders, epilepsy, and PTSD, to name just a few,” he said.

He believes Israel is perfectly positioned to “disrupt” the global cannabis industry and he feels exports will rise to $1 billion per annum in the next five years.

The law permits the Interior Ministry and the Israeli police force to monitor the budding export industry to ensure it does not spark a domestic black market. Firms already have technology in place that can allow the police to track every gram of cannabis for export and the local market in an effort to stamp out any nefarious activities. It also demands regulatory approval for any foreign producer that wants to buy more than a 5% share in an Israeli cannabis company.