Published On: Sun, May 11th, 2014

Cannabis legislation in Israel

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Israel has benefited from quite a developed medicinal cannabis program since the early 1990s. According to testimonies from patients themselves, several nations running similar programs tend to offer a tedious registration process to people seeking a prescription whereas Israeli patients’ access to the plant has been relatively facilitated.
In 2013, no less than 13, 000 licensed patients were registered by the government of Israel, a 30% increase compared to the previous year.

In terms of rules and their enforcement, the IADA (Israel Anti-Drug Authority) is responsible for drug-related policies, as well as prevention and police activity in connection to them. It is also in charge of regulating the medicinal cannabis program, as per instructed by the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, which asks that countries wishing to use an illegal drug for medical purposes put the matter in the hands of a regulating entity. The IADA therefore holds authority on all matters related to production, use, distribution, importation and exportation of cannabis, which means that recreational use is also officially within its reach. The entity is under the responsibility of the Ministry of Public Security, and while it is a statutory corporation, it is practically a governmental agency, under the aegis of the Prime Minister.

On the recreational cannabis front, according to a study conducted in 2013 by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies, whereas the percentage of recreational consumers in the population is not exactly anecdotic (i.e. 4%, approximately 275, 000 consumers) 64% of Israelis are still opposed to complete cannabis legalization.

Culturally and socially speaking, recreational consumption is only relatively accepted. Despite the advanced medicinal marijuana program and the informed views of many Israeli citizens on the subject, cannabis still remains illegal outside of the medical context. This tends to indicate that the actual number of recreational smokers in the country might be more important than the one published, as caution still surrounds the general cannabis topic.

In fact, according to Israeli law, possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis is prosecutable, and punishable by a maximum of three years of prison, as well as a fine reaching up to NIS 87, 000 (USD 25, 000). However, in an attempt to refocus the national policy towards punishing dealers and traffickers rather than consumers, the Knesset issued new directives to the police in 2007. These were that first-time offenders be let go with a warning once it had been duly documented. Indeed, the aforementioned maximal punishment was in fact rarely applied. Before 2007, many arrests led to court cases. These would often be dismissed, making the question of whether or not to burden Israeli judges with thousands of marijuana possession-related cases the centre of the debate. Nowadays, only a second arrest for cannabis possession results in the offender being taken into custody.

While Israel is considered one of the most avant-gardist countries in the world in regards to the use of cannabinoids in modern medicine, the unmatched success of its medical marijuana program has prompted officials to remain cautious when it comes to upsizing it. Two cannabis-related bill proposals are nevertheless being considered by the government, one of them pushed forward by Moshe Feiglin, a Knesset Member from the right wing party Likud. This proposal aims to facilitate further access to medicinal marijuana, but also to give access to recreational marijuana to adult citizens.
The study mentioned earlier in this article incidentally points out that legal cannabis subjected to similar taxes than the tobacco industry’s would result in a yearly income of NIS 950 million (USD 268 million) for the government, on top of the NIS 700 million (USD 198 million) that would already be saved on drug enforcement .
It is highly probable that this estimate will play a major role in the final decision of the Knesset, and if the bill were to pass, the Israeli system could be another fruitful example of cannabis legislation in other countries could inspire themselves from, along with Uruguay’s.

Source: Sylent Jay



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