Legalization of marijuana could be a gold mine for the state coffers, bringing in as much as NIS 1.6 billion in annual tax revenues and savings for law enforcement.
It would save police and the courts some NIS 690m. in annual costs, and bring the state NIS 950m. in tax revenue, according to a study released on Wednesday by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies.
Each year there are more than 18,000 criminal cases – 5.2 percent of the total – involving marijuana, over 70% of them involving amounts that are for “personal use,” the researchers said.
Furthermore, some 5.4% of prison inmates are serving time for marijuana-related charges.
The economic figures are based partly on estimates that if marijuana were legalized, usage would increase from 24.7 tons per year to 30.7 tons, and its price would drop from NIS 100 per gram to NIS 59. From this the researchers calculated that the sales would bring in NIS 1.81b.
The pollsters questioned 500 Jewish Israelis in July.
While only 26% supported marijuana legalization and 64% were opposed, when respondents were taught more about the issue, more than 50% said they’d support legalization.
The report, which dealt only with marijuana and not with any hard drugs, found that 14.5% of Jewish adults had tried marijuana, and that around 270,000 Israelis had used marijuana over the past year.
The level of support for legalization is connected to political affiliation, with 75% of Meretz voters saying they are in favor, while only 15% of Likud voters and 10% of United Torah Judaism voters support legalization.
Secular Israelis are much more likely than the Orthodox to support legalization – 38% versus 4% of haredim and 18% of national-religious Jews.
Men were more likely than women (34% to 25%) to support legalization.
Seventy-five percent of Israelis believe there are legitimate medical uses for marijuana.
The main reasons respondents said they opposed legalization were that they believed it would increase use of marijuana, including among youths, increase crime, and lead to a rise in “drug tourism” to Israel.