In a move that was not entirely unexpected, the Israeli government voted on Sunday to decriminalize — to an extent — adult-use marijuana.
Rumorss and announcements flirting with the idea had been circulating since the beginning of 2017, when Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan stated his support for a new policy that would stop making criminals of the millions of Israelis who partake in a little weed.
The new rules, which still need to be ratified by Parliament, would not get someone entirely off the hook for smoking a joint. First time offenders caught using cannabis would receive a fine of approximately $265 USD, with second time offenders facing a fine of $530 USD. If the user is unlucky enough to be caught a third time, it can result in the loss of their driver’s license or perhaps their gun if they own one. If nabbed a fourth time, the marijuana-lover can be subject to automatic indictment.
Regardless of these potential punishments, this move is a much more open-minded view and of stark contrast to the previous system, which caused marijuana users to potentially suffer criminal records.
Minister Gilad Erdan stated that “the government’s approval is an important step on the way to implementing the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement.”
Erdan said that Israel’s marijuana arrest policy was re-examined because of legalization efforts around the world and that the money from all fines will go to into treatments such as anti-drug education.
Speaking ahead of the meeting on Sunday, Israel’s leader, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated to his cabinet that “on the one hand we are opening ourselves up to the future. On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two.”
This move has a much greater significance than simply allowing cannabis users some basic freedoms to enjoy their life as they see fit. Israel is widely seen as one of the only democratic nations in the Middle East and has incredible religious significance all over the world. Their decision to decriminalize will undoubtedly influence other countries to follow suit.
Regardless of how it all happens, congratulations are in order to the people of Israel for this important legislation.