The High Court of Justice on Tuesday rejected a petition by a marijuana
legalization group asking for a police permit allowing people to smoke cannabis
at an event calling for the drug to be legalized.
The petition, filed by
the Dor Haemet (“Generation of Truth”) movement, which calls for the
legalization of marijuana, asked the court to issue an injunction allowing
police to grant a license for an event on Friday, which they said is part of
“World Cannabis Day.”
That license, the petitioners said, should allow
protesters to smoke cannabis during the event as an act of protest over the
drug’s illegality, without facing arrest.
In rejecting the petition, the
panel of three justices – Supreme Court President Asher Dan Grunis, Noam
Sohlberg and Uzi Vogelman – said that there was no legal basis for the court to
“How could the police, who are entrusted to enforce the law
and eradicate drug dealing, grant a license to violate the law?” Sohlberg
According to Dor Haemet, Israel has over 1 million cannabis users,
whom they say are needlessly criminalized because marijuana use is
illegal. The group calls on cannabis consumers to “use their political
power” to legalize the drug.
Dor Haemet filed the petition after police
rejected their request for a license to hold a three-hour protest in Tel Aviv’s
Rabin Square on Friday.
April 20, known colloquially as 4:20, is
considered an international counterculture holiday for cannabis users, involving
public gatherings often in support of the drug’s decriminalization.
their written refusal to grant a license for Friday’s event, the police had
warned that smoking cannabis is a criminal offense under Israeli law, but said
that if the movement should consider holding its protest in a different format
that did not involve breaking the law, it could approach the police
In response to the petition, the police argued that the High Court
should reject it outright, because the petitioners’ request concerns a criminal
offense and therefore the court has no grounds to intervene.
petitioners, who include attorney Dekel- David Ozer, contended that the police
decision failed to make a correct balance between freedom of speech and the duty
to obey the law.
They argued that the World Cannabis Day event is taking
place in most, if not all democratic countries in the free world, and asked the
court to consider whether the violation of law that would take place if police
allowed protesters to smoke cannabis at the event would be significant enough to
deny them freedom of expression and freedom to protest.
“The event is
limited in time and location and does not violate public sentiment,” the
In rejecting this argument, Sohlberg said that the
petitioners’ request was to “allow drug smoking in public at a gathering of
hundreds of people.”
“Limiting the event in time and location does not
dull the force of law,” he added.
“The parties do not disagree about the
importance of freedom of expression,” Sohlberg said. “Despite the fact
that the petitioners want to hold a demonstration designed to encourage drug
use, the [police] did not rule out the possibility of allowing them freedom of
expression on that issue.”
Instead, Sohlberg said, the police were not
prepared to grant a license allowing the petitioners to break the law by taking
drugs with the police’s express approval.
Sohlberg noted that in the
petition, Dor Haemet had provided extensive details about cannabis use,
including a survey of use in different countries, and said that the legalization
of marijuana was a “weighty political topic.”
Rejecting the petition, he
said, did not prevent the movement from holding a demonstration on these issues
that its members care so deeply about.
Significantly, in his ruling,
Sohlberg compared the current petition about permission to smoke marijuana in a
public protest to a previous petition by members of the far-right illegal
Kahanist movement, who had asked to hold a march and wave pro-Kahane
Although the issues were obviously different, Sohlberg said, the
principle set down by the High Court was the same.
In that 2010 ruling,
the court said that police powers regarding demonstrations intersect with their
duties to maintain public order and prevent crime. While the police do not
prevent demonstrations, they do prevent illegal acts during those
demonstrations, the ruling said.
In response, Ozer said that Israel was
now among those countries – like Russia, South Korea and Syria – that does not
allow citizens to protest marijuana’s illegality by smoking the drug at
“These are countries where freedom of expression does not permit
[citizens] to light a ‘joint’ on International Cannabis Day and thus [they]
prohibit the existence of this day,” Ozer said, adding that Dor Haemet thought
the court’s ruling was “unfortunate” in that it compared “support for terrorism
to support for a change in drug policy.”
Ozer added although he was
dissatisfied with the ruling, cannabis smokers were law-abiding citizens who
would respect the court’s decision, and called on the public to support the
issue by attending a discussion in Tel Aviv’s Hayarkon Park.
want to protest, we just want a change in the law,” Ozer said, adding that the
“cannabis-smoking masses” would effect a democratic revolution through political
means in the Knesset.