Israeli Justice Minister Mulls Decriminalization of Marijuana

Ayelet Shaked said to be considering letting pot smokers off with a fine.

Illustration photo: A man smokes marijuana
The day may be approaching when lighting up a joint is no longer considered an illegal act for which you could go to prison in Israel. Daniel Tchetchik

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked is considering a different legal approach to people caught in possession of soft drugs for personal use, the Walla! News website reported Wednesday.

Under the new policy, according to the draft published by Walla! News, people in possession of marijuana and cannabis within an amount classified for personal use will not be charged with a criminal act, but fined instead. The fine’s amount has yet to be determined, but is expected to be a few hundred shekels.

It remains to be decided if only those caught in possession of soft drugs for the first time will be fined, or others as well. The policy regarding minors is also being considered. Today, according to the attorney general’s instructions, when a person is caught with up to 15 grams of soft drugs – the amount classified for personal use – he is not indicted. When people are caught for the second or third times, the police are required to use their discretion.

Many people who are not involved in criminal activity use soft drugs, the attorney general wrote in his instructions to the police in 1985. These guidelines were updated in 2003.

However, Haaretz has reported that in 2012, for example, police opened 22,895 investigations against people for possessing drugs for self-use. In contrast, that year only 2,226 indictments were filed for trading, importing and exporting drugs and 313 indictments for growing, producing and manufacturing drugs. The last two clauses comprised fewer than half the indictments served for self-use.

Police prosecutors demand a minimal penalty of community service or suspended sentence for soft drug offenders, and a maximum penalty of several months in prison. As for possession for self-use, the instructions say “a minimal threshold for non-conviction” will be set.

Shaked will work to reach an agreement on this issue with Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, her office said.

“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,” an aide of Shaked’s said.