(photo credit: INIMAGE)
Charging people who are normative personal users of marijuana with criminal offenses is wrong and a change in policy is needed, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said on Monday.
Erdan was speaking to the Knesset Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse as part his effort to push forward a plan to decriminalize marijuana use by first-time offenders. The plan must gain support in the Knesset to make the changes in legislation needed for its full implementation “I was among the biggest objectors to easing legal treatment for cannabis users, but reviewing our policies on this matter is essential,” Erdan said.
“I still think that using drugs on a regular basis is harmful, but we are trying to emphasize here the care-taking, prevention and education on this issue.”
The cabinet on Sunday approved the proposed reform.
If the reforms are adopted, people caught with non-medical cannabis will incur fines rather than face jail time and may not face criminal charges until their fourth offense.
Erdan responded to claims that the new policy will encourage the police to increase enforcement of the law in order to increase revenues from fines.
“We are trying to make it possible that money from fines in this matter will not go to the police budget or to the Finance Ministry, but rather to NGOs that deal with education and awareness to the harms made by using drugs.”
Committee head MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) called it a joyful moment, when the government finally understood that using cannabis is not a crime and should not bring the criminalization process with it.
“We should not make hundreds of thousands of Israelis criminals against their will,” she said. “This policy is starting to shift us from viewing cannabis [use] as a crime to a situation in which it is not.”
Zandberg added that the desired policy has not yet been achieved and that the committee will continue to oversee the progress of the plan.