The war on drugs in Israel, a personal encounter

An early morning buzz-killer encounter with the Israel Police

‘I NEVER dreamed that my occasional puffing would lead to a full-scale police interrogation.’ (photo credit: TNS)
‘I NEVER dreamed that my occasional puffing would lead to a full-scale police interrogation.’
(photo credit: TNS)
The relentless knocking roused me out of my 6:30 a.m. slumber and led me, bleary-eyed and zigzagging, to the front door.
“Police!” a voice called out from the other side, and when I opened up, there stood three scruffy men, one middle-aged, leather jacketed and grizzled, and two less weathered in their early 20s but also informally clad.
“Ah, good morning, I remember you,” Grizzly said as I adjusted my eyes to the outdoor light. “You were burgled last year, right?”
“Right,” I mumbled. “Don’t tell me – it’s another break-in?”
“No, this time it’s a drug search,” he responded, holding up a sheet of paper. “Is Yonatan Ben-Ami here?”
My 18-year-old was sleeping in his room a few meters away, blissfully unaware that he’d soon have three cops standing over him along with a baffled father.
I had already gone through this during the burglary when the thieves considerately left my wife’s and my work bags and its contents on the street (but taking cash, checks and car keys). Unfortunately, they also left behind my little pouch that contained my meager stash of cannabis, which was found by the police and resulted in my simultaneously filling out a police report about the break-in and being questioned by a detective about possession of drugs.
I’ve been a recreational user for over four decades, and don’t hide or flaunt it. It suits me well, unclogs the psychic pipes and has much fewer lingering side effects than alcohol. Medical cannabis gets all the ink, but recreational cannabis use is also a fulfilling path toward a balanced mind. I never dreamed that my occasional puffing would lead to a full-scale police interrogation.
After cooperating and explaining to the by-the-book detective – who seemed a little embarrassed at having to do it – that the weed was for my personal use (true) and was a gift from a friend visiting from abroad (a fib to protect the real supplier), I was told that there wouldn’t be any charges pressed and I could leave.
When I returned to the station a few days later to take back the contents of the bags after they had been dusted and fingerprinted, I was surprised to find the pouch along with the usual paraphernalia (rolling papers, lighter) intact.
Of course, the main ingredient was missing, and after thanking the detective, I couldn’t resist saying, “Just be careful if you or your colleagues try it, it’s very strong.”
We shared a smile and I walked out, hoping never to see the inside of a police station again. But now I was in my son’s room and the plainclothes cops were asking him, “Do you have any drugs in this room?”
Laying there shirtless under the covers, he wiped the sleep from his eyes and, glancing at me, said “Yes,” pointing to a shoe box at the bottom of his closet.
I was surprised, but then again, not so surprised. Always a worldly type, Yoni had spent two summers in the US as a camp counselor, and has three older siblings, along with Dad, who doesn’t hide his predilection. But still, to find out your youngest child, seemingly straight and narrow and headed for IDF service in a few months, was doing the same thing I did when I was 18 was somewhat revelatory at 6:30 in the morning.
Mr. Grizzly asked me to retrieve the box. Inside was a small baggie with maybe three grams of cannabis.
“OK, get dressed, we’ll want to talk to you at the station,” he told Yoni, and then turning to me, said, “We’re going to search the rest of the house. Is there any more you want to tell me now?”
I deliberated for a moment and, accompanied by one of the detectives in training, retrieved that same pouch they had inspected a few months before, with another measly stash in it.
“Great, you can come in, too,” Grizzly said to me.
After getting dressed – with a cop standing in the open doorway to make sure I didn’t swallow any other evidence or try to escape through the bars in the window, I found myself back in the familiar station.
While the cops interrogated my son about where he had procured the grass, and scoured his WhatsApp group, asking about every name (“Does he smoke?”) and why he was communicating with his brother in English (“Is that a code for something?”), I was ensconced with another investigator – a woman half my age – who asked the same questions I heard the last time I sat there. But this time there was an extra bonus: a little bit of Jewish guilt thrown in.
“Don’t you feel bad that your son is using drugs because of your example?” she asked, while typing the answers on her desktop computer.
“I don’t think he smokes pot because I do,” I answered. “I think he uses it because everywhere you look – any Seth Rogen movie, any video clip, any reference – pot smoking looks like a blast."
“And to be honest with you, I much prefer that he’s getting stoned with his friends than going out drinking.”
A little taken aback, she typed in the info and asked a few more questions. When she got to “Are there any more drugs in your house?” I had had enough of being treated like a hard-core offender.
“No, you guys keep taking it!” I answered, which elicited a chuckle and then an admonishment by my interrogator. “You know this is serious, don’t you? It’s against the law.”
I nodded, although I don’t really know that possession of a small amount of marijuana in your own home is actually illegal, while being brought in for questioning without legal representation and going through a suspect’s phone and WhatsApp groups is legal. But I kept that to myself.
When the questioning had run its course and she was convinced that I was an unrepentant criminal, the detective said that there wouldn’t be any charges, but I would have to be fingerprinted and have my mug shot taken, as policy for anyone brought in for questioning.
I gave the camera my most Sopranos sullen look, and secretly wished the photos were leaked on social media so I could have a chance at TMZ notoriety. I didn’t look half as bad as Nick Nolte did in his mug shot, but it wasn’t the portrait you’d want on your passport.
I didn’t get a chance to catch up with my son – who had already left to get to his mathematics pre-bagrut test on time (the police can be accommodating) – until that evening.
We had the serious “everything in moderation,” “don’t let it interfere with your schoolwork” and “don’t ever drive while you’re high” talk, and then conspiratorially shared stories about our incarceration and interrogators.
The police are doing their job, trying to keep high school kids clean and looking for those sellers on Telegrass or other online forums. I can’t fault them for that.
But I’m getting tired of them confiscating my stash. It’s enough to drive someone to drink. 