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Israel to Consider Decriminalization of Cannabis


Marijuana policy reform is not just an important issue here in the United States – there are plenty of other countries where cannabis is illegal and subject to criminal charges with sentences that very rarely fit the “crime” being committed. For the most part, we’re lucky to see a number of nations finally recognizing cannabis as a medicine and making it available for patients with conditions like chronic pain and cancer among many others.

In Israel, cannabis is currently legal for medicinal and research purposes only – for conditions including lack of appetite, chronic pain, epilepsy and a handful of others. However, Eitan Gorney, chairman of the Anti-Drug Authority, recently presented their new opinion on marijuana policy to the Knesset’s Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse – which is that they favor the “Portugal Model”, which decriminalizes marijuana and instead allocates the funds spent enforcing it as a criminal matter to funding drug addiction treatment for those who need it.

Eitan Gorney, chairman of the Anti-Drug Authority, said, “We believe that, as a result of developments in the world, the main problem of using cannabis is social and medical, while the criminal matter is only tangential. We have pulled the edges in this discussion and put it in the center. I want you to know our position [on the Portugal model] as we presented it to the Public Security Ministry.”

Unfortunately, the Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan has been strongly against the legalization of cannabis – as well as the idea of easing punishments related to cannabis. The Anti-Drug Authority is in favor of adopting a similar policy to the one Portugal put in place in 2001, citing a significant decline in drug use, as well as the difference in the number of cannabis users in Portugal (7%) compared to those in Spain (17%). It doesn’t seem that this will be enough to convince Erdan that the “Portugal Model” is the way to go.

If they were able to go through with this, then up to 25 grams of cannabis would be decriminalized – dealt with in a civil fashion, rather than a criminal one. Chairman of the Knesset’s special committee, Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, expressed support. “Israel is advancing toward a new era, and it seems that legalization of marijuana is just a matter of time,” she said. Hopefully Zanburg is right, and Israel will become one of the next countries to start handling cannabis outside the criminal justice system and decide to recognize that possession of a plant should not be a crime.