Police to explore decriminalizing pot

Police chief Yohanan Danino to review policies on recreational cannabis use; lawmaker ready to push bill

Then Israeli chief of police Yohanan Danino, February 11, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)
Then Israeli chief of police Yohanan Danino, February 11, 2015. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Chief of Police Yohanan Danino is to establish a team to reexamine the police position on the use of cannabis, possibly paving the way for a change in legislation, Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal revealed on Tuesday.

Danino hinted two weeks ago that the “traditional position” of the state and law enforcement agencies should be reconsidered.

“It is only the beginning and the road is still long,” Magal said according to a report on the Hebrew language NRG website. “I thank the police chief for his efforts.”

The development came after talks between Magal and Danino regarding the decriminalization of cannabis. Danino plans to consult with the police intelligence and investigations branch to compare the status of cannabis and medical cannabis in Israel with that of other countries.

Based on the findings of the police team, Magal intends to sponsor a bill to legalize marijuana use.

Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal (Photo credit: Flash90)
Jewish Home MK Yinon Magal (Flash90)

Two weeks ago during a talk with high school students in Beit Shemesh, the police chief told the pupils they would be “surprised to hear” current police policy on cannabis.

“More and more citizens are demanding marijuana use be permitted,” Danino said. “I think it’s time for the police, along with the state, to reevaluate their traditional position.”

A number of Knesset members have spoken out in support of decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, following a trend that has seen laws against use of the drug taken off the books in several countries.

Magal, a former TV news anchor, said during before the national elections held earlier this year that he is an occasional pot smoker. Asked about the insistent refusal of former finance minister Yair Lapid to admit that he ever partook of the substance — which became comical when associates of Lapid said they’d shared joints with the Yesh Atid leader (albeit before he entered politics) — Magal said he didn’t see why it should be such a big deal. Asked if he ever smoked pot during the last election campaign, Magal answered, “Yes, and not even so long ago.”

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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