Is Israel on the way to decriminalizing marijuana?

A police representative said there has been a 71% increase in police files involving the illegal growing of cannabis.

December 12, 2016 20:19
2 minute read.

The battle over Cannabis (Marijuana) in Israel

The battle over Cannabis (Marijuana) in Israel


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The Israel Antidrug Authority surprised the Knesset’s Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse on Monday by saying it “favors and adopts the Portugal model” decriminalizing the use of marijuana and allocating funds to treat drug addiction.

The position was initially presented before an internal committee of the Public Security Ministry. On Monday, the chairman of the Knesset’s special committee, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, expressed support. “Israel is advancing toward a new era, and it seems that legalization of marijuana is just a matter of time,” she said.

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The Health Ministry has liberalized the use of medical marijuana for patients suffering from pain, those with a lack of appetite due to serious illness and others, but Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman has said several times that he would oppose the legalization of cannabis for all residents.

Eitan Gorney, chairman of the Anti-Drug Authority, said, “We believe that, as a result of developments in the world, the main problem of using cannabis is social and medical, while the criminal matter is only tangential. We have pulled the edges in this discussion and put it in the center. I want you to know our position [on the Portugal model] as we presented it to the Public Security Ministry.”

Yossi Fisch, chief scientist of the Anti-Drug Authority, said that he had received the model from his counterparts in the Portugal Drug Authority and that “we learned a lot from this model and their principles.

We think it’s worthwhile to adopt it here.

Portugal is a country with 10.5 million people that suffered in the 1970s from a severe rash of drug abuse. It then developed this model as a national strategy. Marijuana use was recognized as a health problem rather than a criminal one.”

Fisch added that Portugal wanted to reconnect drug users with society. Drug use was made an administrative rather than criminal violation.

Certain drugs, he said, continue to be regarded as being outside the law, but users of up to 25 grams of medical marijuana are not criminalized. Enforcement is carried out only in public places and not in private ones, he explained.

In Portugal, a policeman carries with him a scale, and if the amount of marijuana is greater than 25 grams, the individual is arrested. “If it is smaller, he has to appear only before a committee of the Health Ministry, not the police.

“Today, 7% of Portuguese youths use cannabis, compared to 17% in nearby Spain. In addition, the rate of people moving from cannabis to hard drugs is infinitesimal as a result of the Portugal model,” he said.

Zandberg commented that it is “good that even the Israel Anti-Drug Authority finally understands that the way to treat addiction to hard drugs is not by struggling against marijuana users and turning them into criminals.

The Health Ministry decided not to comment because its said only medical marijuana is its responsibility.

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