The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday postponed discussion of two competing medical marijuana bills, one of which would allow all family doctors to write prescriptions for medical marijuana. The measures are to be brought up again next week.
The first proposal was sponsored by Moshe Feiglin, a Likud MK who has been an outspoken proponent of loosening the laws that control use of the substance. “I will do everything in my power through legislation to legalize cannabis and to ease its use for medical purposes,” Feiglin told Maariv in January, “but also to permit personal use of cannabis by adults.”
The second bill, put forward by the Health Ministry, would expand the number of doctors licensed to prescribe the drug from 20 to 30 nationwide. The bill was called “very problematic” by Feiglin on Sunday, who said he hoped negotiations with the Health Ministry could result in a single, comprehensive bill.
Medical marijuana use rose sharply this year, according to figures released by the Health Ministry, which indicated that some 13,000 patients in total were approved for legal use of cannabis in 2013, an increase of 30 percent over 2012’s 10,000.
Although Israel is considered one of the most progressive countries in the world with regard to the use of medical cannabis, the government remains cautious over expanding access too quickly. In 2009 a decision was taken to establish a separate government authority to oversee production of the substance, but the decision has yet to be implemented, leaving the Health Ministry still in charge of regulating marijuana use.
In October, a study by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies found that 275,000 Israeli adults used cannabis over the past year, and 75 percent of the people surveyed said they believed marijuana had a legitimate medical use. However, only 26% favored its legalization, versus 64% who opposed it.
Feiglin also suggested in January establishing a regulatory body to control the dissemination of the substance, which is restricted to medical use only under current laws. The body would determine the amount any individual could obtain for recreational or medical reasons, he explained.
Gavriel Fiske and Spencer Ho contributed to this report.