Bill To Legalize Cannabis Use Passes First Knesset Reading
March 8, 2018 | The Israeli Knesset this week unanimously passed (38-0) a first reading of a bill to legalize the use of marijuana. The bill, which focuses on enforcement, levying fines on those caught with marijuana, will go into effect in the next few months, according to Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who spearheaded the bill. First offenders will have to pay a NIS 1000 fine ($288), NIS 2000 ($577) if caught a second time, rehab and license revocation if it’s the third time and by the fourth time, criminal proceedings. Erdan was quoted by the Jerusalem Post as saying that the bill is meant to “reduce the harms of drug usage regularly but avoid as much as possible the criminal stigmatization of average citizens.” MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), who chairs the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said the bill was “far from perfect, but it is a foot in the door on the way to a policy of full legalization,” according to the Jerusalem Post. Marijuana is still considered a controlled substance, but Israel has been a pioneer in medical cannabis, with plans to push through reforms that would allow for the exports of marijuana plants to the tune of an estimated $1 billion in annual revenue. Last month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to suspend the reforms amid opposition by the Public Security Ministry which said it is afraid of “spillover” into the recreational market and which is demanding more funds (as well as a reported conversation with US President Donald Trump, whose administration is taking a hard-line against cannabis including its medical use.) The Israeli Health Ministry and the National Economic Council are currently reviewing the proposed reforms.