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Cannabis Tech

How Israel’s weed tech industry is taking on America’s opioid crisis

  • The American Opioid crisis has found its way to Israel, but not in the manner in which you think. Isreali scientists are in the works of finding a solution to the problem, by finding better ways to administer doctor-regulated dosages of marijuana for pain management 
  • Perry Davidson founder and CEO of Syqe, a Tel Aviv-based startup, developed the first marijuana inhaler. The invention is to help reduce the number of patients in the U.S., Isreal, and potentially in other areas, from becoming addicted to opioids.
  • Although patients and doctors alike have vouched for the benefits of marijuana in place of pills, many people including American veterans want for some much needed regulatory changes.

America is beginning to see cannabis as an alternative to prescription pills. Israel is years ahead – and its entrepreneurs want to curb a crisis of opioid addiction that is completely out of control.

Years ago, when Perry Davidson sold weed in the Israeli desert, he noticed that most of his customers weren’t just in it for the high. From cancer sufferers to those recovering from operations, most came seeking refuge from pain – without the addiction of prescription pills.

Now Davidson is founder and CEO of Syqe, a Tel Aviv-based startup that has developed “the world’s first selective dose, pharmaceutical grade medicinal plants inhaler”. In simple terms, Davidson has created a marijuana inhaler. Doctors can control the Syqe Inhaler remotely, ensuring patients a regulated, reliable dose of marijuana.

Davidson, who is puckish with a thick, close-cropped mohawk, believes his firm is a game-changer for a medical marijuana industry set to be worth $33 billion by 2024 – 37 per cent of which will derive from pain management. His target market isn’t Israel but the United States: namely, replacing prescription opioids that have prompted the White House to declare a public emergency.

In 2016 63,600 Americans died from drug overdoses, two-third of which involved opioids like OxyContin, codeine, fentanyl, and heroin, to which many graduate for its availability and low cost. Over two million Americans are dependent on prescription painkillers. Yet spotty regulation, which varies wildly from state to state, makes the research and development of cannabis fraught. Just nine states allow recreational marijuana use, while 29 permit its use medically.

Enter Israel. The Startup Nation, as it calls itself, prides itself on a robust tech industry heavily backed by government funds. Its startups are pioneers in cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, drones, agriculture and many other fields. Now it is leaping ahead in cannabis-related tech.

In addition to Syqe, Israel is home to firms like vapour capture brand CannRX, genomics platform Steep Hill and MedAware, software aiming to reduce incorrect and overprescription of opioids. To Saul Kaye, an entrepreneur and founder of industry group iCAN, it’s an obvious extension of Israel’s tech prowess. “It comes down to local assets,” he says. “We have a scarcity of water, so we developed water systems. Israel is mostly desert, so we developed how to grow vegetables in the desert. Now we become experts in tech transfer.”

Cannabis is one of very few issues to unite Israel’s political landscape. Orthodox rabbis have…

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