Israel mulls decriminalizing cannabis
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Israel mulls decriminalizing cannabis

Justice minister suggests fines will replace criminal proceedings, while local report says ministers will vote Sunday on draft bill

Illustrative photo of a marijuana bud (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of a marijuana bud (Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

The Justice Ministry is exploring the possibility of Israel decriminalizing the use of soft drugs such as cannabis, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked said Wednesday.

Shaked told Army Radio said that under potential guidelines, those caught using soft drugs would have to pay a fine, but it would no longer be considered a criminal act.

When the interviewer asked Shaked whether this could be the first step in legalizing soft drugs, the minister stressed that “we are talking about decriminalization, not legalization.”

The rationale behind the potential policy, Shaked said, is that the use of soft drugs is too widespread to be considered criminal, but by issuing fines, it remains as an act that is not permitted by the government.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked attends the weekly Jewish Home party meeting at the Knesset on March 28, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Shaked said she began looking into changing the policy towards soft drugs soon after entering office last year, and that extensive work had already been done on the matter.

While the justice minister did not go into details, Israel’s Hebrew-language online magazine Cannabis said Tuesday that the Ministerial Committee for Legislation would vote Sunday on a bill to decriminalize the drug.

According to the report, the new legislation will decriminalize possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis for anyone over the age of 21. Those caught in their home with a personal amount of cannabis would pay a fine of NIS 300 and those caught in public would be fined NIS 1,500.

The new policy would not change the ramifications for those caught growing the drug in their homes nor for users under the age of 21, the report said.

In March, a similar legislation was rejected by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which would have allowed up to five grams of cannabis for personal use.

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

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