Marijuana use is still illegal in Israel. However, the herb is gaining wider acceptance in the country among those who tout marijuana’s medicinal properties.

Although obtaining a license to use medical marijuana legally requires a considerable amount of red tape, a growing number of medical professionals swear by the benefits of cannabis, raising concerns among pharmacists about the potential consequences of the drug’s long term use among patients.

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Inbal Sikorin, the chief nurse at a retirement home in central Israel, says that for too long medicine was not concerned with quality of life. “A few years ago, we found we had lost the way,” she said. “We had learned to prolong life, but without quality.”

The use of marijuana among her patients, as part of a medical marijuana study, she claims helped patients function better and return to doing the things they love.

“It was as if there were divine intervention,” she said, recounting a story of one patient whose stiff hands improved to the point he was able to participate in tai chi lessons at the home.

In fact, the improvements Sikorin observed may have been less about divine intervention and more about the high-tech marijuana offered and engineered in an Israeli lab. Tikkun Olam, a Safed based marijuana grower, is on the cutting-edge of medicinal marijuana, growing strains that target specific ailments and some that offer no high at all.

At a recent press briefing Yuli Edelstein, minister of public diplomacy and diaspora affairs, said that the government sees sites like Tikkun Olam as beneficial to the Israeli people and hopes the government is able to “overcome the legal obstacles for Tikkun Olam and other companies.”

However, pharmacists warn increased use of medical marijuana comes with significant risks, especially for long-term users. A new study published by the Israel Pharmacy Association states, “The effects of cannabis differ from one person to the next,” and notes that the side effects of marijuana in individuals can range from euphoria or dysphoria, calm, anxiety, psychosis or even death.

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