Like cool, man: Israel decriminalises personal cannabis use
PHOTO: BY REUTERS/AMIR COHEN
Despite the objections of ultra-Orthodox protesters, the cannabis laws now being promoted at the Knesset are nothing short of a revolution
“THIS IS A VERY EXCITING moment,” said Knesset member Ram Shefa of the Blue and White party in addressing the Knesset plenary on June 24 as he introduced legislation regulating the cannabis market in Israel.
He knew his historic bill was assured a majority at the first Knesset hearing after the ultra-Orthodox Knesset members, the legislation’s staunchest opponents, cut a deal with coalition Chair Miki Zohar to absent themselves from the vote.
In addition to its preliminary approval of Shefa’s bill (it needs to be approved in two more hearings to be enacted), the Knesset also approved a draft bill decriminalizing the personal use of cannabis. Its author, Likud Knesset member Sharren Haskel, led the fight for cannabis legalization in recent years and was instrumental in convincing Netanyahu to go along.
Haskel’s persuasive powers notwithstanding, Netanyahu, as usual, was swayed mostly by poll results presented to him on the eve of the April 2019 elections, showing legalisation was a highly popular agenda issue among not only younger voters and was not an expression of social debauchery.
Netanyahu’s current government partner, Blue and White party leader and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, did not need much convincing, and thus, following a two-decade political and public campaign, the Knesset “said ‘yes’.
While police have eased enforcement of cannabis criminalization for recreational use in recent years, Haskel’s bill would anchor it in legislation stipulating that possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis for personal use would be an administrative rather than a criminal offence.
Photo: An employee tends to medical cannabis plants at Pharmocann, an Israeli medical cannabis company in northern Israel, June 24, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Amir Cohen.