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Medical cannabis

Medical cannabis

What is the status of medical cannabis during shemitah?

Rabbi Moshe Bloom

Plants grown for medical purposes do not have kedushat shevi'it. This is also the opinion of Rabbi Asher Weiss, in regards to medical cannabis specifically.

Since it is used for medicine, the rabbis of Torah VeHa'aretz Institute maintain that we can be lenient regarding sefichin. 

This means:
Buying and selling is permitted
Commercial harvest is permitted
It need not be rendered ownerless (just think what would happen...😬)
No need to perform bi'ur 

Which issues can be halachic problems nevertheless and what is the situation in the field?

There are two possible halachic issues:

Planting during shemitah - cannabis plants are annuals and it is forbidden to plant or benefit from something planted in a forbidden way.

Forbidden work (ne'evad) - weeding, fertilizing, etc.

Conventional growing practices in Israel

A medical cannabis grower, at Telcann in Ganei Tal, told me that under Israeli law medical cannabis can be grown in greenhouses on detached platforms only. Yet, some grow the plants on porous surfaces, meaning they are not actually detached from the ground.
Telcann has halachic supervision and uses halachic detached platforms in their greenhouses. That means that planting and maintenance work is permitted.
While the vast majority of medical cannabis growers do not use halachic detached platforms, they do perform heter mechirah.
It is best to purchase from places like Telcann, who work with detached platforms and have ongoing halachic supervision. Nevertheless, those who rely on heter mechirah can certainly purchase from growers who have a heter mechirah certificate.

Note, though, that this is only true for legal, regulated cannabis, and not for illegally-grown marijuana (the two above problems still exist of planting and forbidden work, aside from the halachic issues involved in performing illegal activities and taking drugs 😱).