Years after they became a fixture of the local landscape in Tel Aviv and cities across Israel, the legal-drug kiosks selling synthetic marijuana and cheap amphetamines may finally be in jeopardy, following a vote by the Knesset Committee on Labor, Welfare and Health on Monday to widen the scope of the banned substances list.
According to the committee, this will include most of the drugs that are now sold legally in kiosks across Israel, including synthetic cannabinoids “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Mabsuton,” as well as the bargain-priced speed, “Hagigat,” sold for as little as NIS 25 a pill across Tel Aviv and beyond.
The committee decision, already approved in advance by the Health Ministry, calls for the chemical raw materials used in the drugs to be recognized as dangerous and illegal drugs, as opposed to just recognizing as such the new compounds made from them.
This closes a loophole whereby once a specific drug was banned, the drug suppliers could simply make new compounds from the same chemicals and sell them legally, while the health authorities would have to identify, test, and ban the new compound, a cycle that would repeat itself again and again.
In a statement put out on Monday, the committee, headed by MK Haim Katz (Likud), said that it had unanimously approved amending the banned substances list, a decision it said will include sending the Health Ministry a very lengthy list of chemicals and components that will now be considered illegal.
“The time has come for us to get creative and win this battle once and for all,” said Katz on Monday. “It’s unacceptable that they will continue to drug our children legally. Instead of us being hounded by criminals who are corrupting our children, the time has come for all of these chemicals to need approval before they are sold, and not afterward.”
After the meeting, the decision was praised by both Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and National Police Commissioner Yohanan Danino.
In late April, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called on police and the Health Ministry to launch a task force to fight the sale of cheap, legal drugs at kiosks across Israel.
This was followed by a sweep of drug kiosks across Israel, which has continued until now, and has seen hundreds of drug kiosks closed temporarily, with most – at least in central Tel Aviv – having reopened since.
Netanyahu’s statement during a weekly cabinet meeting came just days after Channel 2 aired a segment during its Friday night news hour – the most watched news hour in the country – that discussed the trade in synthetic marijuana and cheap methamphetamines sold openly to all comers at kiosks across the country.
As highlighted in a Jerusalem Post feature in February, police have long tried to work against the legal drug trade, but are unable to close the kiosks because of a lack of legislation or ministry guidelines against them, a situation which has left their hands tied.
The article also spoke of how, in the past year or two, Hagigat has shifted from being merely a party drug popular in clubs to one that is gaining more and more users among street-level addicts, who have begun injecting it because it is far cheaper than heroin.
Whether the new regulations will make a difference, or whether the kiosk owners will merely continue to tweak their drug recipes to keep them off the banned list, remains to be seen.