(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Roni “duda” (craving) Zuaretz cursed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s wife Sara with a sexual slur and said he had no fears about the Israeli Police, hours after Netanyahu on Sunday called on police and the health ministry to launch a task force to fight the cheap, legal drugs sold at kiosks across Israel with impunity.
Zuaretz, the self-styled pioneer who brought “hagigat” – a cheap methamphetamine – to kiosks across Tel Aviv nearly a decade ago, said he had no worries, and that he’d been arrested and harassed countless times by police in the past, each time emerging unscathed, just like his colleagues in Israel’s burgeoning, profitable legal drugs trade.
Zuaretz, who also helped pioneer the synthetic cannabinoids trade during a serious hashish shortage a few years ago, was sitting outside of a locked kiosk on Allenby Street, at a spot near the intersection with Ben-Yehuda Street, where several kiosks sell fake weed and hagigat around the clock, at a junction seen as the epicenter of the trade.
Though he shrugged off the police raids over the weekend, a short walk revealed that within just a two-block stretch of Allenby, six kiosks that typically sell the legal drugs at all hours were shuttered and locked, as were two other stores further up on Ben-Yehuda.
At Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu called on Israel’s police, health and legal officials to work together to stop the sell of legal drugs at kiosks across Israel, saying that “in recent days, another issue has been brought to my attention regarding the distribution of drugs to children and young people in our cities, and to all people via various special stores. We are not prepared to accept this.”
Netanyahu added that he had spoken to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch by phone over the weekend and asked him to form a special task force along with Health Minister Yael German, and that he expects them to issue a proposal on a course of action within 30 days.
“We will clean up our streets from drugs destined for children,” the prime minister added.
Netanyahu’s comments followed the airing of a segment on Channel 2’s Friday night news program – the most watched news hour in the country – which highlighted the trade in synthetic marijuana and cheap methamphetamines sold over the counter openly and legally at kiosks across the country.
As highlighted in a Jerusalem Post feature in February, police have wanted to act against the drug kiosks for years, but a lack of legislation or drug ministry guidelines against them leaves their hands tied.
The dealers of the kiosk drugs know that their merchandise isn’t covered by Israel’s anti-drug laws, and that it takes Israeli authorities usually around six months to get a certain strain of methamphetamines or synthetic cannabinoids outlawed.
The kiosk owners tend to sell all of a certain recipe as soon as they can, and if it does become outlawed, they merely tweak the ingredients and have a new, legal brand to sell, and the cycle continues.
The only method police have had to deal with the stores has been to get a court order to close a store on suspicion of selling illegal substances, and then to take all of the confiscated drugs for a lab test. When the results come back from the labs, they are invariably found to be legal substances, and by then the court order has already run out anyway, with the stores typically having been reopened for some time, selling other brands of kiosk drugs, until their seized drugs are returned.
On Sunday morning, Israel Police announced a nationwide campaign against the kiosk drugs, saying that they will carry out “specific and coordinated operations of police from all districts and border police – in cooperation with the pharmaceutical crimes department of the Health Ministry and the antidrugs authority.”
The statement added that over the past weekend police had carried out searches at more than 150 businesses across the country and seized some 12 kilograms of material “suspected of being substitute drugs,” and that 15 suspects were taken in for remand extensions.
Despite the vows by the national police headquarters on Sunday, Tel Aviv police admitted that without any sort of change in the country’s drug regulations, there is basically nothing they can do.
Officials from the Tel Aviv district said Sunday that over the course of the week they would continue the raids that had taken place over the weekend, with the usual procedure – closing the stores while they wait for the lab results.
They admitted that unless the results show the drugs to be illegal, they will have to return the merchandise, and no charges will be filed, adding that without new guidelines from the health authorities, all of the talk of fighting the kiosk drugs will be in vain.