Israel: Ministry Releases Guidelines For Marijuana Decriminalization

Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel

The Public Security Ministry on Tuesday published draft legislation that would decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Under the proposal backed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, first-time offenders would be charged a NIS 1,000 ($265) fine but would not have a criminal case filed them. That sum would be doubled on the second offense.

Those caught for a third time could still evade prosecution on the condition they accept a number of possible measures, including loss of their gun or driving license and participation in a rehabilitation program. Only those caught smoking in public on a fourth occasion would be subject to criminal charges.

The plan would also see minors under the age of 18 criminally prosecuted if they refused a rehabilitation program.

The draft legislation will be submitted to the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on February 18.

Erdan’s plan did not specify the amount of marijuana that would be subject to sanctions but the Anti-Drug Authority has in the past recommended that fines apply only for possession of more than 15 grams of marijuana.

Among Western countries, Israel already has one of the highest per capita rates of legal marijuana use, with over 21,000 people medically licensed to use the drug.

Israel is well-known as a pioneer in medical cannabis. Two years ago, the government approved a plan initiated by Health Minister Yaakov Litzman to relax some of the medical cannabis requirements. That plan aimed to expand the number of doctors who can prescribe cannabis to patients, remove limits on the number of marijuana growers, make cannabis available at approved pharmacies, and possibly eliminate the requirement for a permit from the Health Ministry so that just a doctor’s prescription will be sufficient.