People using medical cannabis will be allowed to drive even after taking the drug, under a new amendment the Health Ministry introduced on Tuesday. However, there is no way to police the amendment, as it would be impossible to verify when the patient took the drug.
More than 30,000 people in Israel use medical cannabis with a ministry-issued permit. Many patients have complained of restricted movement since they were not allowed to drive, even when not taking the drug.
The new amendment, which will come into effect in about 30 days, stipulates that patients will be permitted to drive three hours after smoking cannabis. If they consumed it in the form of edibles or as oil, they will have to wait six hours before getting behind the wheel, while those who also consumed alcohol will have to wait 12 hours after taking cannabis before being allowed to drive.
The amendment puts further restrictions on drivers who use cannabis, requiring them to be under the supervision of the doctor who signed their medical cannabis permit and to refrain from consuming other substances classified as dangerous at the same time. The amendment also limits the cannabis dosage for drivers to 50 grams a month with an active ingredient concentration below 15 percent, or up to 40 grams a month with an active ingredient concentration below 20 percent.
Cannabis users were previously not allowed to drive since the cannabis plant and all its derivatives and components were classified as dangerous, and the law categorized anyone who had dangerous drugs in their system as “drunk.”
The permit to use medical cannabis says: “While using the dangerous drug it is completely forbidden to carry out acts requiring concentration, including driving and operating heavy equipment.” Until now, the health minister had not used his authority to make an exception for cannabis. Medical cannabis patients were required to declare that they understood they were not permitted to drive if they were treated with cannabis.
Medical cannabis users asked the courts to cancel the prohibition several times, and judges called on the Knesset and Health Ministry to deal with the issue.
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The Health Ministry said the new amendment decriminalizes patients who had become “offenders against their will.” However, the Medical Cannabis Association, which advances patients’ rights, criticized the amendment and said it doesn’t provide a solution for many of those taking medical cannabis.
“There’s no way to ascertain the percentage level of active ingredients in each and every flower, so there’s no way to determine what active ingredient percentage a patient consumed in the hours before he got behind the wheel,“ said the nongovernmental organization.
“On top of that, the number of patients who take more than 40 grams of cannabis a month is significant, as is the percentage of patients who use another narcotic medicine as well. The amendment doesn’t apply to at least a quarter of medical cannabis users,” it added.