Is the party over?

The Knesset elections were not good for Aleh Yarok. The party only received 13,132 votes or 0.39 percent (the Mature Green Leaf/Holocaust Survivors received 2,346 votes) and reconfirmed its status as a fringe party. "The macro-political environment has changed because of the war," says the party's former leader Boaz Wachtel. "Everyone was afraid that Binyamin Netanyahu would take over, and we were part of the trend to crush the smaller to medium parties." That sentiment is backed up by Danny A. the 58-year-old recreational user from the center of the country, whose profile matched what the party was hoping its constituency would be. But Danny says he didn't vote for it because marijuana was not at the top of his agenda, "especially this year, with so much at stake." Dr. Yehuda Baruch, who runs the country's medical marijuana program, says that Alei Yarok had approached him about appearing in one of its TV ads, but he refused. "I don't want to be connected in any way to a political issue regarding marijuana. I told them, 'I am a doctor, I use it as a medical drug, and my personal opinion on whether it should be legalized or the social use of marijuana is irrelevant,'" says Baruch. Despite the setback, Aleh Yarok's Shlomi Sendak explains that there is still room for optimism. "During the campaign we met with a few current members of Knesset who support expanding medical cannabis, like Labor's Eitan Cabel, Kadima's Yohanan Plesner and Nitzan Horowitz from Meretz. If they're going to carry the fight on, it's fine with me, as long as someone's doing it," he says, adding that the goal of getting in the Knesset was just an intermediate goal. "Our achievement has been in changing the public perception of cannabis. In 1994, it was akin to using heroin. Today, people are being healed and treated with marijuana."