Marijuana decriminalization law inches toward approval

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan proposes a 'four strikes' policy to decriminalize, but not legalize, recreational cannabis use.

Culture de marijuana près de Safed (photo credit: REUTERS)
Culture de marijuana près de Safed
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Nine months after Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan initiated legislation to decriminalize, but not legalize, recreational cannabis use, his proposal on Tuesday night was sent to the attorney-general for approval.
Upon announcing the policy shift in January, which would still include fines but not an initial criminal record for possession of less than 15 grams, Erdan said adult offenders would be afforded “four strikes” before criminal proceedings are initiated.
Following the first offense, an unspecified fine would be levied.
After the second offense, the fine would double. If caught a third time, offenders would be offered the option to attend rehab or have their driver’s license revoked. A fourth strike would result in criminal prosecution.
For minors, three strikes would be instituted. Following the first strike, the youth would be directed to seek treatment. The second strike would necessitate the offender to enter a rehabilitation program. After a third offense, criminal procedures would be initiated.
“We want to educate our youth that using drugs is damaging,” Erdan said. “On the other hand, the police do not have the right tools to deal with the damage caused by using drugs. For example, police do not know how to deal with people who drive under the influence of drugs. This is why we must have a broad and conclusive policy change.”
While noting that the “legitimacy of using marijuana has only grown among the public,” Erdan said he nonetheless takes the issue very seriously, and would not allow its use to be inconsequential.
“We are promoting this policy as an important step forward, which will enable us to shift the emphasis from criminal enforcement to measures of education and public awareness,” he said on Tuesday.
While many MKs across political lines have overwhelmingly supported the policy as a first step in Westernizing Israeli law and destigmatizing marijuana use, MK Oren Hazan (Likud) said he fears it will lead to an increase of drug dealers.
“A fine is not like a criminal record, which deters those who wish to take advantage of the situation to earn easy money,” he said. “It is a dangerous policy for our young generation and for the entire State of Israel.”
However, iCAN: Israel-Cannabis, an NGO that runs the annual CannaTech Conference promoting the legalization of cannabis, lauded the policy shift as an opportunity for economic growth.
Udi Shaham contributed to this report.