Israel: Ministers Green-Light Reduced Penalties For Pot Smoking, Decriminalization

Photo Credit: BAZ RATNER

Individuals who use cannabis in public will not be subject to criminal proceedings until they are caught for the fourth time, according to a Public Security Ministry bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday.

Enforcement will focus on the public use of cannabis. Those caught for the first time will be fined NIS 1,000 (about $282) – twice that when caught for the second time. On the third occurrence, the case will be closed under a conditional agreement, under which the offender agrees not smoke again – and on the fourth occasion, criminal proceedings will be opened.

The bill, spearheaded by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, still has to undergo three votes in the Knesset before it can become law.

Knesset Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who has publicly called for the legalization of marijuana, praised the ministers’ vote.

“When we started our struggle, people disrespected us, but the Ministerial Committee’s decision today is proof that a real, persistent struggle succeeds in the end,” she said. “This bill is far from being perfect, but it is a foot in the door on the way to full legalization.”

MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) said that Erdan’s policy is not what she hoped for, but is a change in the right direction. Like Zandberg, Haskel has similarly pledged to work toward complete decriminalization of marijuana.

“When we began, no one believed that any change, even a minor one, is possible, so this is an achievement. I will continue fighting in the Interior Committee so that the outline will do justice with the Israeli public and will match the health and economic research, and the stances of the Justice Ministry, the Anti-Drug Authority, and public representatives,” Haskel stated.

Per capital, Israel has one of the world’s highest per capita rates of legal cannabis use, with more than 21,000 people medically licensed to use marijuana.