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On Sunday, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation will vote whether or not to loosen up the nation’s cannabis laws. Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, said during an interview yesterday with Army Radio that the new policy would prevent marijuana possession from resulting in a “criminal act.”

Should the new policy move forward, Israelis ages 21-and over possessing under 15 grams of cannabis would receive fines and no longer receive blemishes on their criminal records. People caught smoking cannabis in public would receive a heftier fine of 1,500 shekels ($388) while those caught smoking at home would be fined 300 shekels ($78).

The bill, however, does not legalize cannabis and therefore does nothing to protect Israelis who grow cannabis in their own homes. A comparable bill that would have decriminalized up to five grams of cannabis was rejected in March, but this one appears to have more momentum.

An aid of Minister Shaked’s indicated that the goal of this bill is, since so many Israelis smoke cannabis, to stop arresting people for this commonplace act. The aid stated that

“The minister is examining various possibilities to refrain from incriminating people for using soft drugs like cannabis. This includes converting criminal registration to administrative fines. Drugs are a negative thing, but the incrimination of people using soft drugs should be examined.”

Considering Israel is the European hub for medical marijuana with 21,000 registered patients, this bill makes a lot of sense. Moreover, the nation aims to become the European and perhaps worldwide cannabis hub.

Decriminalizing possession would pave the way for that hub to become a reality.

Bernie Canter

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