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Want to Research Medical Marijuana? Israel Is Open for Business

Patients in Israel smoke, swallow and inhale legal cannabis products.
An employee inspects cannabis plants in a greenhouse
Photographer: Rina Castelnuovo/Bloomberg

Like newborns in an incubator, the 200-plus unique strains of plants in these computer-controlled, camera-patrolled, password-secured greenhouses are monitored around the clock. Their water, fertilizer and light are adjusted as needed, until the flowers are in full bloom. They’re only harvested from their planters after a week of testing finds they are ready to leave this facility in rural northern Israel.

Orchids? Hardly. The tangy smell of cannabis permeates the buildings, where a company named Breath of Life Pharma, along with others in the local industry, is seeking to position Israel as a global hub for medical cannabis research. The active ingredients from the plants will be delivered to some of the more than 25,000 people in Israel suffering from diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and chronic pain. Breath of Life Pharma sees the number of patients growing to as many as 200,000, creating a domestic market with a value of about 1 billion shekels ($262 million).