Jerusalem, March 6: Israel stepped forward to decriminalise marijuana. On Sunday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Cabinet has approved a move to reduce penalties for those caught with marijuana. This means that the cabinet approved a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.But growing and selling marijuana, which is widely used here recreationally and medicinally, would remain illegal. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 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.” The Israeli state will now put emphasis on education about the effects of the drug rather than on enforcing the laws criminalising its use and distribution, according to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
“The government’s approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasise public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. Under the policy, which still has to be approved by the country’s parliament, anyone caught using marijuana in public will be fined 1,000 shekels ($271) the first time. The fine doubles on the second offence, the third time will translate to probation, and, then, finally the fourth time would lead to criminal charges. Any minor caught using marijuana would be exempt from criminal charges as long as he or she doesn’t refuse to join a treatment program
About 25,000 people have a license to use the drug for medicinal purposes in Israel, one of the world leaders in medical marijuana research. Earlier in February, an Israel government committee gave an initial nod for the export of medical cannabis, though final legislative measures will likely take months.