MKs, primary candidates split on pot legalization

After two US states legalize marijuana for recreational use, some Israeli politicians advocate permitting its use.

A woman smokes marijuana joint pot ganga toke 311 (R) (photo credit: Toussaint Kluiters / Reuters)
A woman smokes marijuana joint pot ganga toke 311 (R)
(photo credit: Toussaint Kluiters / Reuters)
Some politicians were ready to pass a joint around on Wednesday to celebrate recreational use of marijuana being legalized in Colorado and Washington – but most who expressed opinions on the issue advocated medical use only.
Colorado and Washington became the first US states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use on Tuesday in defiance of federal law, setting the stage for a possible showdown with the Obama administration.
But another ballot measure to remove criminal penalties for personal possession and cultivation of recreational cannabis was defeated in Oregon, where significantly less money and campaign organization was devoted to the cause.
MK Einat Wilf (Independence) headed to Denver on Wednesday to give a lecture, and said she looked forward to hearing the Jewish community’s take on legalization.
“I hope the decision will clarify to more and more people in Israeli politics that this was a pragmatic call that protects freedom of the individual and that turning [pot-smokers] into criminals is not the right way to go,” Wilf, a vocal proponent of legalization in Israel, said.
Several other politicians have voiced their opinions on legalization in recent weeks, citing growing interest from voters.
“In light of questions on the topic, here is my stance on cannabis,” Government Services Minister Michael Eitan wrote on his Facebook profile.
“I actively supported growing and using cannabis for medical needs. As for full legalization, my stance was against it and has not changed.”
Meanwhile, when asked last month in a televised interview by journalist Gal Uchovsky whether he has ever smoked a joint, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar laughed and asked to move on to the next question.
Labor primary candidate and journalist Miki Rosenthal took to Facebook to accuse pro-legalization groups of bullying politicians.
According to Rosenthal, reform is needed in medical marijuana policies, because it is difficult for those who need cannabis to obtain it. However, he did not touch on recreational use.
“The terror campaign on primary candidates’ walls when it comes to cannabis is unacceptable.
If there are party members that condition their vote with a cannabis gun to my head, I don’t need their vote. I won’t be elected because of threats,” he wrote.
Rosenthal’s comments came a week after the editors of the website stood outside a Labor Central Committee meeting with a video camera and asked various primary candidates their opinion on legalization. Two, Emanuel Shahaf and Michal Biran, said they support decriminalization, while most of the others the website editors approached said they needed to research the issue.
Also on the Left, Meretz MKs Nitzan Horowitz and Ilan Gilon have spoken out in favor of legalization.
In a surprising move, Manhigut Yehudit leader Moshe Feiglin published an op-ed in September titled, “God owns the cannabis patent,” in which he advocated legalization of marijuana use.
“I believe that being a Jew means being free,” he wrote.
“This is why I support reducing legislation in general, granting broader autonomy to the average citizen… and this is why I support the legalization of medical cannabis and light drugs.”
On Tuesday, supporters of a Colorado constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana were the first to declare victory, and opponents conceded defeat, after returns showed the measure garnering nearly 53 percent of the vote versus 47% against.
The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group that backed the initiatives, said the outcome in Washington and Colorado reflected growing national support for liberalized pot laws, citing a Gallup poll last year that found that 50% of Americans favored making it legal, versus 46% opposed.
Supporters of Washington state’s pot legalization initiative declared victory after The Seattle Times and other media projected a win for marijuana proponents.
Early returns showed prolegalization votes led with 55% to 44% opposed with about 60% of ballots tallied in the state’s all-mail-in election system.
The outcomes in Colorado and Washington, which already have laws on the books legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, put both states in further conflict with the federal government, which classifies cannabis as an illegal narcotic.
The US Department of Justice reacted to the measure’s passage in Colorado by saying its enforcement policies remain unchanged, adding: “We are reviewing the ballot initiative and have no additional comment at this time.”
Separately, medical marijuana measures were on the ballot in three other states, including Massachusetts, where CNN reported that voters approved an initiative to allow cannabis for medicinal reasons.
Supporters there issued a statement declaring victory for what they described as “the safest medical marijuana law in the country.”
Seventeen other states, plus the District of Columbia, already have medical marijuana laws on their books.
A measure that would have made Arkansas the first state in the South to legalize marijuana for medical purposes appeared headed for defeat by 51% to 49% with about 80% of the vote tallied.