News, Politics

Israel Declares Plans to Legalize Recreational Cannabis in Less Than a Year

November 30, 2020 11:30 am ET
Israel Declares Plans to Legalize Recreational Cannabis in Less Than a Year

From the discovery of one of the most famous cannabinoids, THC, to coining the entourage effect and pioneering cannabis research, Israel takes another giant step in support of cannabis. Israel has announced that they plan to legalize recreational cannabis within 9 months. Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn stated that Israel is planning on legalizing recreational cannabis while balancing “liberalism and responsibility”. 

While Israel has yet to publish a memorandum of the bill, which is to be formulated in alignment with the recommendations of an inter-ministerial team, they have announced that the recreational legalization is set to take effect in nine months. This will allow enough time for the bill to be passed and for the government ministries to prepare. The inter-ministerial team is said to include members of the Israel Police, Public Security Ministry, Health Ministry, Education Ministry, Finance Ministry, and Justice Ministry along with the Likud MK, Sharren Haskel, as well as the Blue and White MK, Ram Shefa. Likud – National Liberal Movement, is a center-right to a right-wing political party in Israel. While the Blue and White is a centrist and liberal political alliance in Israel. 

Amir Ohana, Public Security Minister, explained its’ ministry’s stance on the legalization of recreational cannabis and stated that “the stance of the incoming public security minister is… to minimize harm as much as possible to [otherwise] law-abiding citizens who have offenses linked to the drug”. 

What are the Proposed Recreational Legalization Recommendations?

The following is set to be set in stone, but citizens can expect the following as recreational cannabis is legalized.

  • Adults of 21 years and older will be allowed to purchase cannabis upon showing identification. 
  • Cannabis will not be allowed to come in or go out of the country’s borders.
  • The specialized stores can deliver but edibles resembling candy will be prohibited.
  • The government will “ensure prices are reasonable” in order to encourage consumers to move away from the black market.
  • Smoking in public spaces will likely be banned. 
  • Citizens may need a license to grow at home.
  • Cannabis may not be advertised, just like cigarettes.
  • Current policies disqualifying individuals who consume cannabis from anything will be revised in order to encourage equal opportunity despite cannabis use.

Amir Merari, the Deputy Attorney General, explained that Israel is favoring legalization over the trending decriminalization due to the fact that “decriminalization doesn’t provide a solution for problems such as the black market”. 

With the government support being boosted by Likud, whose lawmaker explained that legalizing recreational cannabis “does justice to more than a million lawful citizens” and support from the Blue and White, whose MK stated that “we will not let anyone in the Knesset or outside it stop us”. The Knesset is the legislative leg of the government and is responsible for passing all the laws. Haskel from the Likud as well as Shefa from the Blue and White are both members of the Knesset alongside their positions in their relevant political organizations. Both of whom have been at the forefront of this plan since day one. 

Recreational Legalization in Israel Could Help Where Medical Legalization Failed

Israelis have seen an increase in medical cannabis patients but have struggled to supply them, as a result, many medical cannabis consumers complained of the near-impossibleness to access supply. Thankfully the Israeli government responded promptly with this plan of legalizing recreational cannabis in hopes that it would make access to cannabis easier, especially when citizens will be allowed to grow their own. 

It was reported that the new shift in legislation came about following a change in tack within the Health Ministry, which was led by Yaakov Litzman until recently. Yaakov Litzman is a known anti-smoking advocate, yet the change of tack has led to the Health Ministry announcement, which was reported on the Sunday preceding the proposed recreational cannabis legalization and recommendations on Wednesday the 11th of November 2020.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White parties released a joint statement which stated that the time allocated before legalization comes into effect will be used to “resolve the issue of decriminalization” and that the legalization will be handled “via a responsible model that will be suited to the State of Israel and the Israeli population”. The statement also included their decision to push medical cannabis reforms in order to improve patient access to cannabis and in order to make it easier for growers to get licenses. 

Keep in mind that recreational cannabis use is still illegal in Israel for now but it has been partially decriminalized by replacing criminal procedures with fines. However, hope is on the horizon and it seems that the government and influential partners are backing the legalization of recreational cannabis- with no signs of letting up on what they’re after. Justice Minister Nissenkorn stated that

“It’s time to make progress and legalize cannabis in Israel… This is a significant, holistic and responsible reform, which shows the State of Israel isn’t ignoring reality and is going in the footsteps of developed countries”.

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