Police minister backs eased enforcement against cannabis users

Police minister backs eased enforcement against cannabis users

Responding to petition seeking annulment of laws barring recreational use and possession, Amir Ohana says he’ll seek to ‘minimize harm’ to offenders

An illustrative photo of a man smoking a joint. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)
An illustrative photo of a man smoking a joint. (Yossi Zamir/Flash90)

Public Security Minister Amir Ohana on Wednesday 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.

It also said Ohana intended to appoint a team to weigh a more lenient policy toward recreational marijuana use.

The petition the Public Security Ministry was responding to was filed by Oren Leibowitz, a pro-legalization activist who in February appeared alongside Ohana in a Likud campaign video backing the creation of a legal marijuana market similar to Canada, as well as wiping the criminal records of those convicted of cannabis in offenses.

Minister Amir Ohana (R) and pro-legalization activist Oren Leibowitz in a Likud party campaign video released on February 25, 2020. (Screen capture: Facebook)

In the video, Ohana decried the “heavy-handed” enforcement of marijuana laws.

“They took law-abiding citizens and turned them to criminals. Not because they harmed another person, God forbid, but rather because they allegedly harmed themselves,” Ohana, who was justice minister at the time, said in the video in an apparent reference to police and prosecutors.

The video, which was released days before the March 2 elections, came after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Likud, said he would seek to wipe the criminal records of Israelis convicted for using or possessing marijuana.

Israel has taken steps in recent years to make medical cannabis available and is poised to become a major exporter of the crop. Recreational use of the drug remains illegal, though the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalized it in 2017, setting fines and treatment for initial offenders instead of criminal procedures.

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