In a groundbreaking move that will no doubt impact across many nations, Israel voted on Sunday to decriminalize cannabis. In what has been known to be a turbulent government, all sides seem to agree on the idea that treating cannabis users as criminals is an unjust punishment and a waste of important law enforcement resources. While offenders will still face slight penalties, the risk of jail time falls only on those who continue break laws again and again.
Israel unites for change
Israel’s government has a long and turbulent history stemmed from an inability to agree on many different issues. However, one issue both the right and left wings can get behind is the decriminalization of cannabis.
At their weekly Sunday meeting, Israel’s Cabinet voted to decriminalize recreational cannabis.
While medical cannabis has been used in the country since the 1990’s, it wasn’t until recently that Israel decided to take notes from the more than 20 countries worldwide who have made changes to their recreational cannabis laws.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, from the right-wing, understands that while everyone might not support the use of recreational cannabis, they cannot continue to ignore the global shift in opinion about the plant that has more than proven its staying power.
Whether one supports use of cannabis or is opposed, it is wrong to judge cannabis users per criminal law and its derivatives.
The State of Israel cannot turn a blind eye in light of changes worldwide regarding cannabis consumption and effect.
Likewise, Tamar Zandberg, from the left-wing Meretz Party and the chairwoman of the Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse, recognizes the importance of decriminalizing cannabis for the sake of the country’s citizens, as efforts need to continue to lessen cannabis restrictions even further.
This is an important step, but it’s not the end of the road. It’s a message that millions of Israelis who consume cannabis are not criminals.
New rules and regulations
Under the new regulations, recreational cannabis users will no longer face jail time for first offenses, or even second or third offenses. Instead, first-time offenders will be issued a fine up to $250, much like a traffic ticket. Second-time offenders face up to a $500 fine.
A third offense is where the risk of more serious penalties arise, with the chance of being sentenced to rehabilitation, educational class and possible suspension of the driver’s license. If those individuals are caught a fourth time, they will be prosecuted, which comes with the risk of jail time.
Earlier this year, the Ministry of Public Security, Gilad Erdan, suggested the decriminalization of cannabis, as more and more citizens were facing criminal charges for simply possessing a plant.
The strict regulations were causing more harm than good and jamming up court systems with issues that should have been handled with citations and fines.
The Cabinet approval is an important step on the way to implementing the new policy that will put emphasis on explaining and treating rather than on criminal enforcement.