Israel decriminalizes cannabis
Israel decriminalizes cannabis

Get Caught with Weed in Israel? You Are No Longer a Criminal Now!

Israel plans to decriminalize cannabis and move toward recreational marijuana

Posted by:
Joseph Billions on Monday Feb 21, 2022

israeli decriminalizes

Israel's Justice Minister announced that the government is currently going through some proposed policies that would legalize the use of recreational cannabis. As one of the founding cannabis markets globally, it is time for the government to make additional changes to the existing cannabis reforms. This announcement suggests that the country is at least a step closer to establishing an adult-use market.

Israel partially decriminalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2017. The Public Security Ministry has implemented the law. If the new lists of regulations are approved, recreational cannabis will be made available across the country.

Gideon Sa'ar, the Justice Minister, wrote that the new lists of regulations and policies are currently being scrutinized. The new guidelines would classify adult-use cannabis as an administrative offense, which is better than its current status as a criminal offense.


Cannabis in Israel

The partial decriminalization of cannabis in Israel keeps thousands of Israelis from prison and penalizes them with tickets and fines. Its current status as a criminal offense does not automatically mean the consequences must be one or more criminal charges.

The current regulations penalize offenders based on the severity of their offense and the number of times they've been caught disobeying the law. For instance, first-time offenders pay a NIS 1,000 fine, while second-time offenders pay between NIS 1,000 and 2,000. The third is usually followed by a settlement plea, while the fourth usually ends with sentencing.

The new guidelines will reduce these penalties to fit administrative offenses. According to the published information, the maximum fine for cannabis offenders would be a thousand shekels (about $300). The criminal penalties will be eliminated, and cannabis will be handled the same way alcohol is. Possession will be dealt with like traffic misdemeanors, and only the members of the Israeli Defence Forces will be authorized to issue out fines.


More Details on the New Guidelines

If cannabis offenses are regarded as administrative cases, the prosecution will only be allowed for unique cases. Note that this won't distinguish penalties based on the number of times the offender has been caught. Here, the offender could be convicted if found guilty, but rest assured that for a case to be prosecuted, it must be very severe.

These new regulations have not been signed into law, but they are still being observed to see if they hold enough water to replace the almost defunct laws in March. The current guidelines, signed in 2019, were conditioned to be effective for three years. If these new guidelines aren't approved, Israel could take a step backward with cannabis reform and move back into the period where cannabis was utterly prohibited and regarded as a full criminal offense.

Many cannabis advocates in Israel remarked that the proposed laws are still far from satisfactory. The groups further added that the new policies are not even close to the final victory they have been craving and lobbying for so many years.

This is not the first time the government has chosen to hold off on the full legalization of cannabis. The previous justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn, proposed full reforms, but the change of government put the movement on hold. This new government has decided to maintain temporary laws rather than write and sign adult-use reforms into law. For the new rules and regulations to be effective by March, they must be approved and signed into law by the respective office holders in the government.


The History of Cannabis in Israel

Records show that Israel has the oldest medical cannabis market in the world. The country conducts the most comprehensive studies on cannabinoids globally and has used this research to develop better medications for patients.

Raphael Mechoulam, an Israeli scientist, was the first cannabinoid researcher to discover the compounds months after the Second World War. The last decades have featured innovation after innovation, and some of these developments sparked controversy at some point. Despite being at the forefront of cannabis research, cannabis patients still have difficulties accessing other drugs. Like in other countries, cannabis advisors have had to lobby and fight for cannabis reforms and access to cannabis-derived medications for patients. The government finally created better access to cannabis drugs in 2014, a few weeks after Israeli patients vowed to immigrate to Colorado.

Since then, advocates have turned their attention to recreational reforms. This has stalled in the country due to differing views from prominent wings. The extreme right-wing has shown the most formidable opposition against the measures. The schedule 1 status of cannabis in all international laws is another issue slowing down cannabis legalization.


Changing the Narrative

A few countries are on the verge of fully legalizing cannabis, and Israel is one of them. The issue is that lawmakers in Israel are not motivated to hasten this process. The cannabis discussion has always been a politicized one, not only in Israel but also in other countries like Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Irrespective of the Israelis' non-aggressive way of passing cannabis reforms, the country will likely approve complete reforms before this year runs out or sometime next year. If either the United States or Germany motions to support and implement federal cannabis legislation, it will motivate the Israeli government to reform. It's not a secret that the Israelis have been looking to delve into the global medical cannabis sector, only that Canadian and German firms have been edging them out successfully. To clarify, no Israeli firm has won a cultivation bid since 2017.

Right now, notable names like Ehud Olmert, Ehud Barak, Zohama Danino, Tzipi Livni, and Yaakov Peri are flocking to the medical industry to raise awareness and domestic capital to grow the sector. These men have, in the past, held high political offices in the country.


Bottom Line

Complete cannabis decriminalization will go a long way toward opening up the Israeli economy. It would also remove the stigma associated with the drug's use, making it easier for medical officers to prescribe cannabis-derived medications to patients suffering from conditions like PTSD, epilepsy, chronic pain, and cancer. The main question is when this great victory will become a reality. Till then, Israelis will continue to make the most of the available reforms.







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