Israeli Cabinet minister proposes policy to decriminalize marijuana use

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Israeli Cabinet member in charge of law enforcement said he supports decriminalizing the use of marijuana.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said at a news conference Thursday that he supports the conclusions of a task force he empaneled that recommended “moving the focus and weight of our policy to education and treatment.”

A new policy on marijuana possession, which is illegal in Israel expect for medically prescribed cannabis, would have to be approved by the Cabinet.

Under the proposed policy, first-time offenders in possession of up to 15 grams and smoking publicly would be fined and not receive a criminal record. The fines would continue, doubled, until the fourth offense, when the possessor of the marijuana can be indicted. First-time minor offenders would be referred to a treatment program.

Erdan said the process of getting the policy approved should take about three months.

He said he is against growing cannabis and that respect for the law and the dangers of drug use must remain in the forefront.

“We want to continue to educate youth that drugs are harmful,” Erdan said, adding that “over the years I met normal people who have no criminal background, whose chances to succeed in life were negatively affected by having a criminal record due to recreational cannabis use. This led me to the conclusion that I must rethink my stance and Israel’s policy on the matter.”

Last summer, the government approved a plan to increase the number of doctors who can write prescriptions for medical cannabis, remove limits on the number of marijuana growers, make cannabis available at public pharmacies, and make it possible to receive medical cannabis with just a doctor’s prescription.

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