Sa'ar drafts decriminalization of cannabis plan

The justice minister's new bill aims to make cannabis offenses punishable by a NIS 1,000 fine on each occurrence.

GIDEON SAAR in his Knesset office this week: Leadership is based on advancing your ideology, and the public respects that. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
GIDEON SAAR in his Knesset office this week: Leadership is based on advancing your ideology, and the public respects that.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar submitted his decriminalization of cannabis plan for public comment Wednesday morning. The plan aims to recategorize cannabis-related offenses from criminal to civil offenses, meaning criminal records will not be affected by cannabis charges.

Currently, marijuana use is only partially decriminalized in Israel, as the first two incidents result in fines and an indictment will only be filed upon the fourth offense. Saar's new bill aims to reduce the escalation of penalties by making cannabis offenses only punishable by a NIS 1,000 fine on each occurrence.

“Use of cannabis will not be considered a criminal offense,” said Sa'ar. “The lack of policy on the subject makes, in effect, many normative citizens in Israel criminal offenders, violates individual rights and undermines trust between citizens and law enforcement systems.”

The new draft law also protects cannabis users from all criminal prosecution (other than in exceptional cases), removes the distinction between a first offense and subsequent offenses, and allows people with criminal records to be subject to the same decriminalization laws. Currently, people with criminal records are tried in criminal court for any marijuana-related offense.

Hundreds of Israelis gather in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 20, 2021to protest in favor of cannabis legalization and for reforms in the medical cannabis market. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)Hundreds of Israelis gather in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv on April 20, 2021to protest in favor of cannabis legalization and for reforms in the medical cannabis market. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

The proposal takes on increased importance as the 2019 temporary order enshrined in section 7 of the Drugs Ordinance, which originally decriminalized weed, is due to expire at the end of March. Recommendations for comprehensive regulations of cannabis laws were submitted by an inter-ministerial team in November 2020.

"I congratulate the Minister of Justice, Gideon Sa'ar, on another historic and important decision,” said MK Sharren Haskel, who heads the Knesset Cannabis Committee. “With new hope, we have promised to abolish the criminal record of cannabis users, and now the promise is coming true. This is a huge line [of opportunity] for thousands of ordinary citizens who have been wronged."