Israel to Pass First Hurdle in Cannabis Legalization
The Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a draft bill on Sunday that will decriminalize cannabis for personal use in Israel.
The bill, submitted by Blue and White MK Ram Shefa and Likud MK Sharren Haskel was presented for a preliminary hearing in the Knesset last Wednesday.
This new bill proposes the decriminalization of marijuana possession (up to 50 grams) and the legalization of both consumption and possession (up to 15 grams) by persons aged 21 and over.
It would also legalize the growth of up to 2 cannabis plants for personal use, provided they are grown in a private space and under natural light.
Consuming cannabis in public and driving while using weed will still be prohibited. All advertising restrictions that apply to tobacco will also apply to cannabis products as well.
Recreational use of cannabis in Israel was partially decriminalized three years ago — offenders do not face criminal charges, but they are fined and penalized.
If this bill goes through, it would mean relief to over a million recreational and many thousands of medical cannabis users who will no longer have to fear prosecution or penalities. It will also help regulate the cannabis market in the state and pave the way for the establishment of pot retail shops.
To become law, though, it has to pass the first of three votes in the Knesset.
Israel has been taking huge strides in cannabis-related policies. It approved of cannabis export last year, while recently one of the biggest names on the Canadian weed market has signed a long-term supply deal for cannabis exports to Israel.
In addition to taking historic steps in the legalization of recreational cannabis use, medical cannabis reform bills will also be passed to facilitate patients’ access to treatment and growers’ license approval procedures, a joint statement issued two weeks ago by the two major parties in the country, Likud and Blue&White.
The use of medical cannabis in Israel has been legal since the early 1990s for patients suffering from cancer and pain-related diseases, like Parkinson’s, MS, and PTSD. However, medical pot users have been complaining of difficulties in accessing dispensaries, as well as of the high cost of the drug.
If Israel legalizes recreational use of cannabis it will join other Western countries, such as Holland and Canada, in adopting a more flexible and less punitive approach to cannabis use.
Not everyone is on board, however. Jerusalem Affairs Minister Rafi Peretz, from the national-religious Jewish Home, and former health minister Ya’acov Litzman of the Orthodox United Judaism Party, voted against the bill. Religious Services Minister, Ya’akov Avitan, also did not take part in the vote.
Litzman stated that cannabis is a dangerous drug and that it should be limited to medical purposes only.