Israel moves to decriminalize personal marijuana use

Posted by Sagar Satapathy on January 30, 2017.

Taking a major step toward marijuana decriminalization in Israel, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has announced a new policy that will cut down on prosecution for recreational use of marijuana. The policy now requires the Cabinet approval to be effective.

The proposal comes on the heels of a Justice Ministry recommendation that marijuana use not be prosecuted criminally, but instead fined or punished by administrative sanctions.

If the government approves the new policy, Erdan said, persons caught smoking marijuana would be fined rather than arrested and prosecuted. Criminal procedures would be launched only against those caught repeatedly.

Under the new policy, adults caught smoking marijuana in public would be subject to a fine of 1,000 shekels (around $265), with the offense not appearing on their criminal record. Those caught for a second time would face the fine double. A third offense would result in sanctions such as drug treatment and suspension of driving privileges, while a fourth offense would bring criminal charges.

For minors, on the first strike the youth would be directed to treatment. The second strike would see the offender enter a rehabilitation center, and after the third offense criminal procedures would begin.

"We want to educate our youth that using drugs is damaging," Erdan said. "On the other hand, the police do not have the right tools to deal with the damage caused by using drugs. For example, police do not know how to deal with people who drive under the influence of drugs. This is why we must have a broad and conclusive policy change."

Marijuana use is fairly common in Israel. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has reported that around nine percent of Israelis use marijuana for various purposes.

In the United States, as many as 28 states have legalized marijuana for medical use while Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, D.C. have approved marijuana for recreational purpose. Some of the European countries have also legalized marijuana for recreational use.

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