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Israel Police Warns Against 'Repercussions' of Government-backed Reform to Legalise Cannabis

Police officials argue proposed bill, to be debated by ministers on Sunday, would lead to uptick in drug abuse, but vow to 'enforce whatever is decided'

A man smoking medical cannabis at Abarbanel Mental Health Center in Bat Yam, last year. Credit: Daniel Chechik

The Israeli police is expected to oppose a government-backed bill to fully legalise cannabis, senior officials told Haaretz, ahead of a Sunday ministerial meeting to discuss the proposed legislation.

Police officials have argued in discussions about the proposed move that it would lead to an uptick in drug abuse, encourage youth to use drugs and increase crime organisations' influence over the drug trade. However, the police’s stance is considered only as a professional recommendation and policy makers aren’t bound by it.

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation is set to debate the draft bill, authored by Likud lawmaker Sharren Haskel, on Sunday. Ministers are expected to green light the bill, but it is likely to undergo amendments before a Knesset vote to incorporate a similar proposal by Benny Gantz’s Kahol Lavan party. Knesset member Ram Shefa has been tasked with leading negotiations on behalf of Kahol Lavan.

The measures expected to be incorporated into the final bill include removing cannabis from the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, increasing the amount of marijuana allowed for recreational use and enacting regulations on cannabis vendors.

A senior police official told Haaretz that “We must warn of the repercussions of full legalisation,” while another warned of transitioning “too rapidly” from the current ban on selling marijuana to the proposed legalisation measures. He stressed, though, that “at the end of the day… the police will enforce whatever is decided.”

Despite the police’s opposition, Public Security Minister Amir Ohana who's in charge of the police, in fact backs legalisation. Last week, in a response to a High Court of Justice petition, he called for measures to limit enforcement against consumers of marijuana.

The Israel Police said in a statement: “In the near future, the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance will be reexamined by a team that will also include police representatives. During its discussions, the police will present data, information and conclusions backed by its cumulative experience in enforcing the existing order over the past year. The police will continue enforcement according to the law and decisions made on this matter and written into law.”

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A cannabis decriminalisation reform went into effect on April 2019, making anyone caught smoking or in possession of marijuana for the first time face a fine of 1,000 shekels ($290). Second-time offenders have to pay a doubled fine. Suspects caught with marijuana for a third time would face a conditional procedure, an alternative to a criminal procedure where the suspect’s file could be closed under conditions set by the police. Originally published here: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-israel-police-warns-against-government-backed-reform-to-legalize-cannabis-1.8918341

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