The history of medical cannabis research in Israel is as rich as the Nevada County cannabis culture, with its unique microclimates, the high quality and diversity of its strains, as well as the healthy soils in which it is cultivated.
While the Emerald Triangle produces close to 75% of the state’s cannabis, Nevada County and the Gold Country region are known for artisanal cottage cannabis farms that have produced some of the world’s best medical cannabis for decades.
So it was no surprise when a group of Israeli cannabis farmers, activists, and innovators recently visited the area to learn about Nevada County cannabis, our soil, and the people behind our movement. They came to talk to organizations that help shape public policy like the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance, and to see model organic farms, such as Bloomfield & Co. and Medicine Box, to learn about the most innovative cultivation techniques.
Nevada County Cannabis
Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains — anchored by Nevada City, Grass Valley, and Truckee — the region features a combination of dry weather, mineral-rich soil, and long summers, creating an ideal environment for the cultivation of some of the best cannabis in the world.
Steeped in gold mining history and a “back to the land” mentality, the region features stunning outdoor destinations with elevations ranging from 800 feet in the lower Sierra foothills to over 9,100 feet in the Donner Pass area — allowing cultivators to develop cultivars appropriate for each unique microclimate.
Cannabis in Israel
By contrast, Israel boasts some of the most hostile growing environments on the planet. High temperatures and a lack of water and fertile soil have fueled incredible advancements in agricultural technology and innovation. Despite being a pioneer in cannabis research since the 1960s, many researchers, innovators, and new cannabis businesses are looking to California, especially Gold Country, as a beacon of hands-in-the-soil knowledge.
Noa Barel and Danna Meltzer cultivate fruits and vegetables in one of the most arid regions of Israel — the Arava region. They plan to launch a cannabis company that can supply the growing medical cannabis market in Israel, and when Israel opens cannabis up for export, to supply countries like Germany and the Czech Republic.
Israel Leads the World in Cannabis Research
As impressed as our visitors from Israel were with our farms and the people behind them, the Israelis have something we don’t have: research. Since the US classified cannabis as a Schedule I substance in the 1970s, research in this country is limited to anecdotal studies that reinforce the idea of prohibition. In contrast, Israel is indeed the promised land when it comes to information about the effects, benefits, and medical uses of cannabis. Research abounds in the areas of oncology, epilepsy, and autism.
Raphael Mechoulam, known as the Godfather of Cannabis Research, first discovered, isolated and, synthesized Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main psychoactive principle of cannabis. A researcher at Hebrew University, he remains a leading pioneer in cannabis research. Mechoulam also co-discovered the endocannabinoid system, the largest receptor system in the human body. He also found that the human brain produces its own cannabinoids — compounds that stimulate the body’s receptor system, also found in cannabis, the same cannabis that we farmers cultivate in Nevada County.
Collaborating for Progress
With Israel leading the world in cannabis research, and California, specifically the Nevada County region, at the helm of cannabis cultivation with a deep-rooted homesteader culture, it’s only appropriate to collaborate. They have what we yearn for and we, as a cannabis movement, have deployed the genetics, techniques, and sustainable practices that will only skyrocket a progressive industry in Israel and give their research efforts more efficacy. If it were only that easy. As I write this with my colleague in the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance office the term “Think Globally, Act Locally” comes to mind.
The efforts put forth by the team at the Alliance and its 368 members, its tentacles into the state capitol and the handful of collaborative and creative cannabis brands within the county before 2018 state regulation has only shown the entrepreneurial and advocacy spirit that the cannabis culture infuses the culture around it.
The Future of Cannabis
Local brands such as Medicine Box, Temple Extracts, Legion of Bloom, Bloomfield & Co., Verdant Valley, Essenciere, The Caladrius Network, House of Harlequin, and Forever Flowering Greenhouses (who hosted our Israeli guests) among others, are seeing long-term opportunities arise as we delicately dance through this transitional year into a more professional industry. Not only are they influencing their local communities, but they are also making a positive impact within the statewide marketplace.
Collaborative by nature, the creative minds behind these brands, along with the Alliance, are pushing for a sustainable local ordinance that is harmonious with the statewide regulations. The Nevada County cannabis community is aligned together with a common goal. Making an impact on a local level this early on has only shown what the positive effects as a social and cultural movement surrounding cannabis can ignite. Now, imagine what the possibilities if the cannabis movement in Nevada County and the state could sync together and carry that spirit across the globe?
Written in collaboration with the fantastic Maria Herrera of the Nevada County Cannabis Alliance.