Cannabis enthusiasts in the Holy Land have been walking around throughout the last few weeks with a big smile on their face: Despite opposition from several influential factors, some from within the Coalition, the Israeli government has succeeded in passing the proposal to regulate the local cannabis market.
After the government approved the bill, it passed the second legislation phase in the Knesset (Israeli House of Representatives), and the legislative process is scheduled to continue over the coming months.
The big question now is whether the current “unity government”, which is based on a subtle combination of parties that do not necessarily share the same worldview, will not fall apart and be able to hold out until next year and succeed in implementing the decision.
The State of Israel has enjoyed for several years a reputation of a “cannabis superpower” – with advanced cannabis farms, developed scientific research, and tens of thousands of patients entitled to receive the medicine every month from the authorities in an orderly fashion.
However, many in Israel point to significant system failures, such as the difficulty in issuing a medical certificate (in most cases cannabis is approved as a “last resort treatment” – and patients are forced to consume a variety of drugs before receiving the long-awaited permit), along with problems that often arise at the level of service and product quality.
In addition, it should be borne in mind that the vast majority of cannabis consumers in Israel consume the plant for recreational purposes, and while some would argue (to some degree of justice) that the consumption could qualify as some kind of “supportive medical care”, there is still a significant percentage of consumers who do not want to approach a physician and “invent” a medical syndrome. A more transparent and logical solution is required here.
About two years ago, and after a long battle, Israel passed a law dubbed “Decriminalization with responsibility” which many Israelis hoped for as a sign of change.
The actual practice of the policy was very disappointing: the fines imposed on citizens caught with a small amount of cannabis for personal consumption were highly disproportionate (between 1000 to 2000₪ which are approximately 240 – 480 GBP), and cases of police officers who burst into private apartments and performed invasive searches still occurred.
The change in the local politicians’ perception occurred throughout the three election rounds that took place in Israel during the past year. This was the first time in Israeli politics that it was necessary to have two re-elections (in the aggregate, as mentioned, three rounds in one year) due to a lack of conclusion. The results were tight and each party tried to scrape voices from every possible place.
Against this background, several politicians on both sides of the divide have realized the electoral potential of cannabis reform – and by the third and last election round, the two largest parties – “Likud “ headed by Benjamin Netanyahu and “blue and white” led by Benny Gantz, declared their support for the regulation of the Cannabis market in Israel.
When the unity government finally emerged, the picture became clear: For the first time, the government holds a majority of ministers who have publicly announced their support for cannabis legalization, paving the way for the legislative process to begin.
”The Israeli House of Representatives approved two bills that should be consolidated into one single act: first, the Knesset members voted on the Decriminalization bill, approved by a majority of 61 versus 11 opposed. Under this bill, possession of up to 50 grams of cannabis would not be considered a criminal offense. It may not be legal but considered as an “administrative offense” and a mandatory fine of 500 NIS (about 120 GBP) will be implemented.
Knesset members later voted on the bill to regulate the adult cannabis market (“legalization”). The proposal passed by a majority of 53 votes in favor, 13 against, and one abstention. Under this bill, legal possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis will be allowed for personal use, as well as the purchase of cannabis from regulated, designated stores, licensed to trade with cannabis products. Both proposals do not currently allow personal cannabis cultivation at home. The discussions are expected to continue as stated for at least three more months.
Written and Published By Ziv Genesove In Weed World Magazine Issue 147