Is this the end of mass-text cannabis hawking?

Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel established a new regulation that aims to significantly reduce the proliferation of cannabis-touting spam texts.

cannabis background macro close up (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
cannabis background macro close up
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

If you live in Israel and you own a mobile phone, odds are you’ve been offered inexpensive and high-quality marijuana via an SMS message within the past week. The prevalence of text-based weed peddling is in fact so great that the government is now taking steps to nip it in the dank, sticky bud.

On Monday, Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel established a new regulation that aims to significantly reduce the proliferation of cannabis-touting spam texts, along with their most commonly affiliated compadres: good old-fashioned phishing messages.

By the Communication Ministry’s reasoning, these text messages are not only a nuisance to the public, they can even pose some real danger. In some cases, these kinds of texts are used to steal personal information, including credit card details, and could encourage the nation’s youth to get a head start on a drug habit.

“Today we are embarking on an open war [against] cannabis messages and phishing, from which there is no Israeli who does not suffer,” said Hendel. “The reality today is that billions of text messages are sent to Israeli citizens. Most of them are sent in mass circulation. In light of the expansion of that phenomenon and the desire to finish the tasks that began on the eve of the elections, I decided to enact a regulation that requires transparency and strong verification of message senders, and company licenses will be amended accordingly.”

“Today we are embarking on an open war [against] cannabis messages and phishing, from which there is no Israeli who does not suffer.”

Yoaz Hendel
COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER and Derech Eretz Party chairman Yoaz Hendel. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER and Derech Eretz Party chairman Yoaz Hendel. (credit: YOSSI ALONI/FLASH90)

How will the new regulation work?

Within the next six months, the new regulation will obligate cellular companies to identify and limit anonymous senders that are distributing texts en masse. Mass-message senders using messaging distribution systems will be required to undergo strong and reliable verification, such as identification through a video call with a human agent in which they would be required to provide their name, address and Identification documents.

In addition, verification will be performed on the credit card with which the distribution package was purchased after checking that the card was not stolen, and cellular companies will not allow prepaid subscribers to distribute text messages using a mobile device exceeding 50 text messages per day.

By means of these mechanisms, the ministry said, it will be easier for the police to reach the senders of harmful mass messages “when necessary.”

Also included in the regulation are political messages, which could benefit from any reduction in volume or frequency.