Ministerial committee advances cannabis decriminalization

By the end of September, the government expects Israelis will be able to carry 50 grams of cannabis, or 15 seeds, for recreational use, and reclassify CBD as a food additive.

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. (photo 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.
Just over a year after the last government passed two now-defunct draft bills to legalize and decriminalize recreational cannabis, the Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted on Sunday to advance a bill that would decriminalize the possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis or 15 cannabis seeds for individual recreational use.
The law would also change the current fines system for cannabis use in public. While users now face first time offense fines of NIS 1,000 and second time offense fines of NIS 2,000 before criminal charges are issued, the new law would lower the fines to NIS 500 and eliminate the option to criminalize the user.
If someone is found to possess over 50 grams of cannabis in public, but they can prove that it is for their own personal use, they will receive a fine of NIS 2,000.
While this legislation would still prevent recreational cannabis shops from opening up near your house, the new government sees decriminalization as a necessary first step while they prepare the much more complex legislation needed to create a framework for a legal, recreational cannabis market.
The law would also allow people to appeal to Israel's Attorney-General to retroactively void any criminal records they may have as a result of recreational cannabis use, and reclassify CBD as a food additive.
The bill will now go to the Knesset with the support of the coalition, which agreed in the coalition agreement to pass the bill fully into law no longer than three months after the formation of the government.
“The goal of the bill is to stop the police from pursuing cannabis users who do not harm anyone,” said its sponsor, New Hope faction chairwoman Sharren Haskel. “This will prevent individual users of cannabis from being prosecuted and stop the issuing of millions of shekels’ worth of fines.”
Haskel has been fighting to advance the legislation for six years and expressed hope that it is now on the way to becoming law.
“I am proud to bring good news to more than a million Israeli cannabis users and tens of thousands of sick people whose rights have been harmed,” she said.
The bill is expected to pass, with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's formerly cannabis-hesitant Yamina Party telling the Israeli Cannabis Magazine on Sunday morning that they would be voting unanimously in favor of it.
The Ra'am party, the only potential opposing force remaining in the coalition to this move, announced on Sunday that in any case, its members will not participate in any votes in the Knesset plenum until a new announcement is made in light of the High Court's decision to approve surrogacy for LGBT Israelis.
In a discussion in the Knesset plenum on Sunday, Ra'am leader Mansour Abbas said his party was "still looking at" the law.
The ultra-Orthodox parties, the Religious Zionist Party and the Joint List are expected to vote against the bill, meaning the law's passing could very well rest in the hands of the multiple Likud MKs who have previously advocated strongly in favor of cannabis legalization.
The ministerial committee rejected or postponed all legislation proposed by the opposition, including the Supreme Court override bill proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) and a strict immigration bill proposed by Likud MK May Golan.
It also rejected a bill proposed by Likud MK Avi Dichter that would remove the citizenship of a terrorist who receives a stipend from the Palestinian Authority. When the bill was proposed, 19 MKs in the current coalition co-sponsored it, including committee chairman Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) and Coalition Chairwoman Idit Silman (Yamina).
Officially, Dichter’s bill was postponed by four months. Dichter said he would try to pass the bill in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday, despite the coalition’s opposition.
“We won’t wait four months or even four days,” Dichter said. “Those who support the bill should vote according to their conscience and the desire of the public. Israel needs to stop turning the other cheek for terrorists.”