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Government committee said set to recommend full cannabis legalization

Recommendation reportedly to be released in coming days, after Health Ministry changed tack to back recreational use

An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem on April 20, 2017 during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem on April 20, 2017 during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

A governmental committee tasked with reviewing Israel’s cannabis laws is reportedly set to recommend full legalization in a report due to be published this week.

The inter-ministerial committee made up of representatives from the Israel Police, the Public Security Ministry and the Health Ministry will recommend that the government continue efforts to decriminalize cannabis on the way to full legalization, Channel 12 news reported Sunday.

The planned recommendations come after a change in tack from the Health Ministry, which was previously opposed to legalizing the drug beyond medical use, the report said.

Israel has taken steps in recent years to make medical cannabis available and is poised to become a major exporter of the crop, though medical cannabis users have complained of near-impossible access to the few dispensaries licensed to distribute it.

Recreational use of the drug is currently illegal, though the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalized it in 2017, setting fines and treatment for initial offenders instead of criminal procedures.

An Israeli girl poses with a mock marijuana joint in Jerusalem on April 20, 2017 during a rally at the Rose Garden outside the Knesset, to celebrate 4/20 and to express their defiance of current laws. (AFP/ THOMAS COEX)

In June, two linked bills to legalize cannabis use passed preliminary readings in the Knesset ahead of the three votes required for them to become law.

If passed, selling and purchasing marijuana for personal use would be legal for those above 21 in authorized shops, but growing marijuana at home would still be illegal.

The legislation also outlined medical cannabis reform, and will decriminalize the possession of up to 50 grams of marijuana while fully legalizing the possession and consumption of up to 15 grams by individuals above the age of 21.

According to the explanation attached to the bill, 27 percent of all adults in Israel consume cannabis.

Earlier in June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White said in a joint statement that they would advance legislation “to resolve the issue of decriminalization and legalization.”

The matter would be done “via a responsible model that will be suited to the State of Israel and the Israeli population,” the statement said.

The statement noted that they had also decided to push medical cannabis reforms in order to make it easier for patients to get access to treatment and for growers to get a license.

Following the joint statement, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana signaled support for easing enforcement of laws against marijuana use. Ohana, whose ministry oversees the police, was responding to a High Court of Justice petition urging the court to annul the criminalizing of recreational marijuana use and possession.

“The stance of the incoming public security minister is… to minimize harm as much as possible to [otherwise] law-abiding citizens who have offenses linked to the drug,” the ministry’s response said.

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