The country of Israel recently took a major step toward legalizing cannabis. On March 7, a bill decriminalizing cannabis consumption passed unanimously in its first reading in the Knesset, Israeli’s parliament.
Under the proposal written by the Ministry of Public Security, those who are caught with cannabis will be fined rather than jailed. The fine for first time offenders will be 1,000 shekels. If a second offense occurs, the fine will double, and if a third time occurs, offenders will face a probational period. There is no mention yet regarding the amount of cannabis that would be subject to fines. However, the Anti-Drug Authority has recommended fines for possession of more than 15 grams.
Israel has become a leader in medical cannabis internationally, and the country also has one of the highest per capita consumers of medical cannabis, with about 25,000 licensed patients out of the country’s eight million inhabitants. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimated that nine percent of the country consumes cannabis. Israel has also been a pioneer in medical cannabis, including research on cannabis and asthma, “The law is far from perfect, but it’s a foot in the door on the way to full legalization,” said Tamar Zandberg, parliament member for the green Meretz party. “There is a lot of work ahead.”
“This is a pragmatic and evidence-based move by the Israeli parliament,” said Niamh Eastwood, executive director of Release, a nonprofit that campaigns on drug issues and laws. “Across the world 26 countries have ended criminal sanctions for either possession of all drugs or for cannabis, none experienced an increase in use as a result of the reforms. “More importantly, many jurisdictions including Portugal and several states in Australia reported better health, social and economic outcomes, as well as a reduction in reoffending.”
Israel has suspended cannabis export, an estimated one billion market, to mollify the US’s President Donald Trump as well as the Public Security Ministry which has concerns over “spillover” into the recreational market.