A worker harvests cannabis plants
A worker harvests cannabis plants at a medical marijuana plantation near the northern town of Nazareth . REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The Israeli government has taken a critical step to allow the exportation of the country's leading medical marijuana to the United States.

In a statement, the government has said it will look to pass legislation allowing the sale of the drug abroad. It warned it could take months for the bill to pass through the Knesset.

Twenty-eight US states have legalised medical marijuana since 2012. Colorado, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington State have also passed laws approving cannabis for recreational use.

Market observers suggest the market for medical marijuana in the US could grow to $50bn (£40bn) over the next decade, Reuters reported. If it passes the legislation a large proportion of that money could be snapped up by Israeli companies which are considered world leaders in medical marijuana research.

In Israel 23,000 individuals have permits to purchase medical cannabis from nine licensed suppliers, a market of $15m to $20m.

Israel has been making moves towards the decriminalisation of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The country's health minister Yakov Litzman has publicly backed medical cannabis usage, introducing steps to ease its prescription and sale.