As soon as the procedure was authorized, Canonic began a two-pronged race: handling multiple regulatory permits simultaneous to creating a supply chain geared to sales in Europe, with emphasis on the German market. Following exerted efforts Canonic became the first Israeli company to literally set down roots and raise Israeli cannabis strains in Europe. The objective: commercial production across the continent at the fastest pace possible.
When we open a boxed 1,000 piece puzzle, our first task is to find the pieces which provide the baseline for moving ahead. From that starting point we slowly piece the puzzle together. Piece by piece, step by step, Canonic assembled the large scale puzzle to produce a unique picture: making history by becoming the first Israeli company to send diverse strains of medical cannabis as cuttings for rooting and propagation in Europe.
January 2022 finally saw a constellation of factors, from upholding strict regulatory standards to establishing a unique supply chain, coming together before the first shipment. By the end of this long process, Canonic became the first Israeli company to send strains of medical cannabis from Israel to Europe, aiming to study their traits and examine options for producing a medical treatment suited to a European commercial launch in 2023.
“Canonic is interested in selling its products in Europe, hence the importance of growing the strains in their sale location,” Gai Adler, Canonic’s Products VP, explains. “It’s why we connected with a farm in Portugal which has become a business partner, and we decided to export strains that, to date, have only grown in Israel. Our goal is to examine whether the plants’ traits are preserved, or perhaps even improved, under different topographic and climatic conditions, opening up the possibility for Canonic to sell its products from Portugal to the European market.”
“We believe that the strains will grow at least as well as they do in Israel”
Specializing in plant genetics, Canonic Israel honed a scientific process which begins with scanning and characterizing thousands of cannabis strains, followed by developing medical cannabis for patients while receiving ongoing feedback from the clients themselves on product characteristics, and ends with sales of its products in pharmacies.
Research, plant strain development, and production are carried out in Israel. “We examined the plants under various growth conditions in Israel. They are top quality strains,” Adler says. “Our objective for growing them in Portugal is to conduct validation by examining their appearance and traits of active components and terpenes towards ensuring that these are preserved despite a topography which is vastly different from that of Israel. This level of checking is not usual in the world of medical cannabis. However, we believe that the strains will grow at least as well as they do in Israel due to the similarity between Israel’s climate and the climatic conditions at the Portugal farm, its proximity to the ocean, and so on.”
At this stage Canonic began assembling the export puzzle. Until 2021 a prohibition prevented exporting medical cannabis from Israel for overseas propagation. “For some two years we worked together with our business partner to introduce changes that would enable export. The government’s erasure of the prohibition paved the way for that move. We began building Israel’s medical cannabis export procedures together with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health. Once both ministries green-lighted the export framework, we made the first shipment of its kind to Portugal carrying our first cannabis strains. Because cannabis is nonetheless officially defined as a drug, government offices, customs clearance, and regulatory organizations joined forces to make the shipment possible.”
“Everything must be precise, run like clockwork”
Canonic decided to export the cannabis plants to Portugal as unrooted cuttings, also known as clones. A cutting is a disconnected part of the plant that is able to grow roots, branches and leaves. An example is when we separate a stem from a plant and put the stem in a glass of water, encouraging root growth. Once roots have sprouted the cutting can be planted properly. Using cuttings rather than seeds accelerates the process.
“By opting for unrooted branches the lapse between taking the cutting and rooting it in earth is reduced,” Adler explains. “Timing is key. From the moment a cutting is taken, it needs to be preserved in the supply chain under refrigeration until it reaches the Portuguese farm. To comport with regulations and freightage everything must be precise and run like clockwork. We were required to comply with regulatory issues set out by Israel’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Agriculture, and simultaneously ensure that in Portugal all relevant documents and import export licenses were viable for both countries. Shipping from the Israeli farm to the airport, and from there to the farm in Portugal, also involves regulatory oversight by both countries. We structured the supply chain successfully, overcoming a diversity of challenges along the way, such as producing Ministry of Agriculture certification. I must add that Ministry of Agriculture staff was available to us 24/7 to help overcome every obstacle that arose, providing maximum service to ensure a successful operation, including availability on Fridays. They were truly there for us all the way.”
As January 2022 came to a close, Canonic’s cuttings arrived at the Portugal farm, bringing the operation to an optimal conclusion. “In April 2022 we began examining the strains. In June – July this year we will already have results,” Adler states. “Should the strains we exported to Portugal prove suitable for growing there, and various additional aspects function correctly, we will commence commercial production in Europe.”