Knesset members march in Tel Aviv for pot legalization

In speech to rally, Jewish Home party’s Yinon Magal says current drug policy turns law-abiding Israelis into ‘criminals’

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

Over a thousand people gathered Saturday in Tel Aviv for a march and demonstration against the prohibition on marijuana use in Israel as well as the harshness of measures taken by authorities against recreational users of the drug.

The event was attended by several Knesset members from right and left, including MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, Jewish Home’s MK Yinon Magal and Likud’s MK Miki Zohar, as well as former Likud MK Moshe Feiglin.

Organized under the title “Demanding Cannabis at Rabin Square – Common Sense and Manners,” the march began at the Tel Aviv Museum and ended in the famed square, where a number of Israel’s leading artists performed in between political speeches.

“I did not come here to tell you that there is no reason cannabis should be criminalized, nor to tell you that cannabis is less harmful than cigarettes,” Zandberg said at the event. “I came to tell you what will happen from now on.

“Several bills have already been handed to the Knesset,” she continued. “First, recognize cannabis as a substance of medical benefit, since we know it has medical benefit. Second, decriminalize smoking in one’s spare time. It is time for the Knesset to vote on this.”

Magal, for his part, stressed that the legalization of marijuana was a national interest and that working toward advancing the cause must not be limited to any specific party or group of activists.

“We must understand that this is not a political issue for a particular niche, but a situation in which many smokers like to smoke cannabis in their free time and feel that they are being turned into criminals,” he said. “It’s untenable that otherwise law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and do their reserve army service are becoming criminals.”

Among Western countries, Israel already has one of the highest per capita rates of legal cannabis use, with over 21,000 people licensed to use the drug, according to NRG news website. And while the liberal Green Leaf party fell well short of passing the 3.25-percent threshold required to make it into the Knesset, its pro-cannabis message hit home with IDF soldiers, who awarded it 8,472 votes — or 3.64% of their tally — nearly three times more than the general election percentage, suggesting Israel’s younger generation generally favors marijuana decriminalization.

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