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Knesset members admit to pot use

After Yachimovich comes clean, at least 11 lawmakers from the center-left say they, too, tried soft drugs

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

A medical marijuana plant (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)
A medical marijuana plant (photo credit: Kobi Gideon/Flash90)

Labor Party leader and opposition head Shelly Yachimovich said last week that she had smoked marijuana on numerous occasions. On Sunday, other MKs admitted to their own drug use.

Hebrew media reports Sunday found that at least 10 other MKs had used drugs in the past.

Eitan Cabel said he had done drugs when he was young, but realized that it “didn’t speak to him,” Maariv reported.

Four lawmakers from Yesh Atid — Pnina Tamanu-Shata, Adi Kol, Yoel Razvozov, and Yifat Kariv — admitted to marijuana use.

Labor also has four MKs who have gotten high. Miki Rosenthal and Stav Shaffir joined Cabel and Yachimovich in coming clean about their past drug history.

Three parliamentarians from the left-wing Meretz party said they had used marijuana — Tamar Zandberg, Ilan Gilon, and Michal Rozin.

All the lawmakers who admitted to using marijuana “are from the center-left,” pointed out Channel 2’s Amit Segal on his Facebook page, “not one from the right. What a dilemma; are there stoners only on the left? Or are the liars only on the right?”

Many MKs gave the same story — that they tried pot a long time ago, but quickly gave it up after realizing they didn’t enjoy it.

Kariv told Ma’ariv she had tried drugs during a vacation in Jamaica 10 years ago, but has not used them since. Kol said she tried weed twice but never succeeded in inhaling, so she gave it up.

“You can count on one hand the times I smoked in my youth,” recounted Tamanu-Shata. “I quickly realized it wasn’t for me. I like to have control over my brain. In addition, I saw more than a few people who reached complicated emotional states as a result of continued marijuana use.”

Some MKs pivoted to policy arguments after admitting to drug use.

“Like many Israelis,” said Rozin, “I also tried smoking soft drugs in the past. Regardless, I see no reason to ban, criminalize, or persecute soft drug users, and also no reason to restrict the access to medical marijuana for the sick. This is Meretz’s position, and it is mine.”

In an interview with the Knesset Channel last Wednesday, Yachimovich said that, unlike other politicians — it was a veiled reference to Finance Minister Yair Lapid — she did not attempt to hide decisions she had made earlier in life.

“I am at peace with my past,” she said.

In early 2013, in an interview with Yedioth Ahronoth, Lapid denied ever having used drugs. In short order, accounts surfaced from people who claimed to have smoked with Lapid.

“I received testimonies of people who smoked marijuana with Yair Lapid — much more than just once,” reporter Uri Misgav wrote in Haaretz.

“According to certain eyewitness accounts, these incidents happened a long time ago — about 20 years back — but not so long ago for Lapid to forget the events… Smoking marijuana by a responsible adult is not the point. Rather, the only point is speaking the truth and avoiding self-righteousness and hypocrisy.”

Earlier this month, 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.

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