(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A Knesset member cannot smoke marijuana just because he or she wants to legalize the drug, the Knesset Ethics Committee told MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) on Tuesday.
The Ethics Committee decision followed a complaint filed by Deputy Interior Minister Faina Kirschenbaum in April after Zandberg said in an interview to the Walla! News site: “Like everyone else, I smoke [cannabis] sometimes.
I’m not a criminal and I’m not a delinquent.”
Zandberg explained that she smokes cannabis in social situations, which is “routine behavior, like drinking wine,” and that negative stereotypes about the drug are rooted in “ignorance and conservatism.”
Kirschenbaum said in her complaint that Zandberg’s statements “can be understood as encouragement and a seal of approval for breaking the law.”
Zandberg responded: “As the MK leading the battle to change the policy [about legalizing recreational drugs] I see myself as an emissary of [cannabis] smokers who cannot admit that they smoke because it is illegal... I do not call to break the law or even to do drugs, drink alcohol or do anything else.”
However, the committee did not accept Zandberg’s stance and said there is a clear difference between leading a battle to change the law, which is an inherent part of being an MK, and publicly declaring that she breaks the law.
“Such a declaration contradicts the job of an MK and can – directly or indirectly – encourage others to break the law even if that is not the MK’s intention,” the committee said.
Lawmakers have automatic parliamentary immunity for actions taken as part of their jobs and can ask the Knesset House Committee for immunity for crimes committed in order to fulfill their jobs as MKs, if the Knesset Ethics Committee already dealt with the action or if going to court would harm their ability to do their job and represent their voters.
Still, the committee said that parliamentary immunity is meant to protect MKs from accidental, unplanned law-breaking that takes place as part of their job as a lawmaker.
As such, MKs who use recreational drugs should be treated no differently than any other citizen who does so, the committee said.