Top cop calls for rethink on cannabis prohibition
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Top cop calls for rethink on cannabis prohibition

Yohanan Danino says Israel must ‘reevaluate its position’ and learn from other countries on marijuana use

Israel's Chief of Police Yohanan Danino in Jerusalem on November 13, 2014. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90.)
Israel's Chief of Police Yohanan Danino in Jerusalem on November 13, 2014. (Photo credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90.)

Signaling a possible shift in attitude towards the recreational use of marijuana, police chief Yohanan Danino called for the government to reassess its current policies in light of growing calls from lawmakers and the public against prohibition of the drug.

Speaking to high school students in Beit Shemesh, Danino told them they will be “surprised to hear” current police policy on cannabis.

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

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

Danino said he had spoken to several of the freshly elected Knesset members, and advised them to reexamine current policy, which entails massive allocation of funds and manpower to impose the prohibition.

Danino, who told Israeli daily Yisrael Hayom two years ago that he “does not care about individuals smoking joints on their balconies”, said it was time to “sit down and study cases from around the world.”

Police detain a protester during a rally for the legalization of marijuana outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 20, 2014. (photo credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash90)
Police detain a protester during a rally for the legalization of marijuana outside the Knesset in Jerusalem on April 20, 2014. (photo credit: Matanya Tausig/Flash90)

He added that he spoke to Amsterdam’s police chief and several other law enforcement officials in countries where recreational use is decriminalized.

Last week, several Knesset members from both right and left wing parties were among over a thousand people gathered in Tel Aviv for a march and demonstration against the prohibition on marijuana use, as well as the harshness of measures taken by authorities against recreational users of the drug.

Jewish Home’s MK Yinon Magal, a legalization advocate who attended last week’s march, told Walla that the police chief’s remarks came following a conversation between the two earlier in the day.

“During our conversation, we reached an outline that will allow recreational use of cannabis to be decriminalized, as long as consumers remain law-abiding citizens,” he said.

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

MK Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, who had also marched in Tel Aviv, applauded Danino’s remarks. “It is time for major change in regards to cannabis. The public has progressed and understands marijuana consumers are normal citizens who do not harm anyone, and there is no reason to persecute and incriminate them,” she told Israeli media.

“It is now time for elected officials to advance and overhaul legislation.”

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.

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.

Times of Israel Staff contributed to this report.

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