Medical marijuana
Medical marijuana buds being packaged in Israel. Children do not imbibe cannabis by smoking, rather it is administered in drops, in cookies or via an inhaler. Photo by Daniel Tchetchik
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Likud MK Moshe Feiglin says his bill to let any Israeli physician prescribe medical marijuana aims to prevent great suffering and a situation in which patients “are turned into criminals against their will.” On the face of it, the bill, which will be put to a vote Sunday in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, sounds logical. Many studies point to the efficacy of this natural medication and its advantages over legally available drugs, some of which can have serious side effects and are more addictive than cannabis.

But despite marijuana’s benefits, we should consider the position of Health Minister Yael German, who opposes the bill. She argues that letting doctors write prescriptions for cannabis would expose them to heavy pressure from patients who don’t need marijuana for medical purposes, while there would be no clear prescription protocols for doctors.

“It would not be unrealistic to assume that there would be patients who would pressure doctors to write them a cannabis prescription for any bump, headache or toothache,” German wrote on her Facebook page. She said doctors would in effect be turned into licensed cannabis dealers and make marijuana legal in Israel de facto.

There is no prescription protocol for cannabis, no dosage guidelines for doctors or list of possible side effects, German wrote. “If they want legalization of drugs they should say so openly and submit a bill rather than trying to pull one over on the Health Ministry, patients and physicians,” she added.

The question of whether to legalize soft drugs is a legitimate one that affects the lives of the many Israelis who don’t view consuming them as a crime. Most Western countries are holding an open discussion on this issue, and there’s no reason not to do so in Israel.

But the Knesset members who have proved permissive regarding soft drugs should remember that such a discussion relates not to medicine but to civil and social affairs – and that’s where it should stay. The admission by 11 MKs that they have smoked marijuana or hashish at some point in their lives is a welcome step in that direction.

The legislators must show as much leniency as possible to patients who meet recognized criteria for permission to use medical marijuana and make the substance available to them. A separate discussion should be held regarding others who want to use cannabis for various reasons. Drug legalization in a democratic, liberal country should be done through the front door, not the back door of doctors in the community. That’s not their job, it’s the job of our elected officials.