CannaTech is a world-leading medical cannabis event bringing together industry mavens, researchers, creators, and policy-makers to accelerate cannabinoid-based innovation. This sector is ever-expanding and endlessly profitable, however all of this growth pivots on the fulcrum of patient access. At CannaTech Tel Aviv this April, a thousand cannabis experts convened to make deals, talk tech, and discuss the future. Among our guests were patients and families who have been directly impacted by medical cannabis. We deeply appreciate these voices in the conversation and will be featuring some inspiring and heart-wrenching stories in a series called Patients of CannaTech. The first of these profiles will highlight Me’aleh, an organization founded by the parents of Oz Mandelovich, a young soldier killed in Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Me’aleh has five main goals:
- Honouring the memory of Oz Mendelovich through various activities.
- Facilitating access to cannabinoid medicine while maintaining the day-to-day functioning of medical cannabis patients.
- Promoting research into medical applications for cannabis.
- Operating in strict adherence with the recommendations of the Medical Cannabis Unit of Israel’s Ministry of Health (“Yakar”) and disseminating information regarding these recommendations.
- Disseminating information and increasing awareness about the medical benefits of cannabis to overcome stigma and reduce barriers to access.
We sat down with Oz’s parents, Eli Levi and Osnat Mendelovich, along with Irit Avisar, who among other accomplishments founded the Israeli Medical Cannabis Nursing Association, to discuss Me’aleh. Their inspiring work currently focuses on creating recovery and rehabilitation centers for military veterans incorporating medical cannabis as a part of treatment protocol. These Oz Centers will tailor health solutions to the individual needs of patients and offer ongoing guidance and support to restore normal daily functioning.
Eli: “Me’aleh means ‘from the leaf’. Many military veterans self-medicate, either for PTSD or pain. While Israel does license medical cannabis for use in treating PTSD, there is very little guidance associated. Therefore, we strive to improve and streamline access to medication while promoting responsible consumption to ensure that patients can lead functional lives. We would like to see a network of clinics working in partnership with cannabis suppliers, pharmacies, and healthcare providers to improve access. In addition, the Oz Centers will offer peripheral services to patients, including ongoing therapy and social activities, and will provide healthcare provider training in the dispensation of medical cannabis.
Apart from the Oz Centers, Me’aleh seeks to break stigma regarding treatment with medical cannabis. In many ways, heroism and cannabis are viewed as mutually exclusive in Israel. Soldiers suffering from PTSD are often ashamed to seek help, and when they do receive help it is insufficient and incomplete.”
Irit: “Intake at clinics will be streamlined and treatment plans individualized by trained medical professionals who are knowledgeable about cannabinoid-based medicines. In this way we can tailor quantity, strain, and delivery system to suit each patient. There needs to be a unified approach to responsible treatment with cannabis to ensure that people can get back to living their lives. We believe in a three-pronged approach: treating symptoms with appropriate medication, healing underlying injuries, both physical and psychological, through therapy, and providing ongoing guidance to maintain positive health outcomes.”
*After speaking for some time, Oz’s mother Osnat asked for us to speak in private. Wearing a medal around her neck engraved with Oz’s face, Osnat explains that the loss of her son only gets harder with time, but that the prospect of memorializing him through the good works of Me’aleh give her hope and purpose.
Osnat: “When we lost Oz it was very traumatizing. Our son was so accomplished and his future was so bright. Oz was brilliant at math and always won prizes in academics. He was also a violinist who was performing with our local orchestra from the age of eleven. Beyond his skills, Oz was kind and a wonderful friend. He had a soft shoulder and everyone who knew him could come to him for advice or comfort and he was always there for them. It is this part of Oz’s legacy that Eli and I decided to commemorate through Me’aleh. We want to connect his life to the work we are doing in his honor after death. In a way, I have become a surrogate for my son. His friends and fellow soldiers now reach out to me when they are sad or hurting, when they reach milestones or happy moments.
Oz’s platoon was attacked in one of the first incursions across enemy lines in 2014. They were trapped in a building with a terror tunnel and suffered heavy enemy fire. In his line, Oz was killed instantly. Two other boys were shot, and the fourth soldier took a bullet in his own gun cartridge, which miraculously saved his life. Even though these boys survived the attack, they continue to suffer from trauma. Each is suffering in his own way, but they reach out to me and always stay in touch. They miss Oz so much and I have become his replacement in some ways. This is why Me’aleh and the Oz Centers are so important. I am memorializing my son and he inspires me from above to help veterans and their families. This way it’s as though Oz wasn’t killed, and in some ways his legacy will outlive even us.”
Eli and Osnat are inspiring in their dedication to preserving Oz’s memory through helping others, and we applaud and support their efforts. Me’aleh is currently looking to Canadian veteran rehabilitation models for guidance. The organization was meeting with Breton CannaPharms (BCP) at CannaTech Tel Aviv, and we were fortunate to be joined by BCP’s Fabian Henry and Jim Mustard. This late stage license Canadian cannabis cultivation applicant based on Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia is realizing the vision of comprehensive veteran treatment facilities incorporating cannabis and is discussing potential partnership opportunities with Me’aleh. CannaTech looks forward to great things from Me’aleh and from BCP on behalf of military veterans living with PTSD.
Patients of CannaTech is a series profiling medical cannabis patients in their struggle for fair access to safe, evidence-based, dosable and consistent cannabinoid-based medication.