Enforcement That Has Passed Its Time

It is astounding that in 2011 the use of 'soft' drugs in Israel is something that requires a police investigation.

Fifty students from the Zafit school near Kiryat Malakhi have been questioned by police on suspicion of smoking hashish and marijuana, and several criminal cases were subsequently opened.

As Or Kashti reported yesterday in Haaretz, the investigation continued for several days, with police resorting to methods typically used when dealing with violent crime and terrorist organizations: intelligence gathering based on rumors and gossip circulating among students and coaxing those questioned into implicating one another.

It is astounding that in 2011 the use of "soft" drugs in Israel is something that requires a police investigation. The students summoned to the police received a lesson in survival in the interrogation room. They also learned how to get ahead in life if they betray their friends. A few of them will be left with the stain of a criminal record that will burden them in the future.

The Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service both decided a few years ago that the use of soft drugs would not disqualify candidates for service in sensitive positions, as had been the case in the past. The reason is clear and understandable. Even security officials understood that there was not point challenging the consensus in society and that if they insisted on discharging anyone who had on occasion smoked marijuana, they would be left without soldiers.

Drug policy is typically characterized by hypocrisy, prejudicial thinking and accepted lies, not only in Israel. Alcohol and cigarettes are sold freely, and it is not hard to get a hold of powerful addictive prescription drugs. But marijuana and hashish, which are much less harmful, are perceived as contraband, and their users are considered criminals. This is an outmoded approach from which most Western countries are gradually distancing themselves in favor of legalization.

In Israel, however, there is almost no public debate regarding the legality of drugs and the need to revise an enforcement policy that has passed its time. High school students deserve to be given explanations and guidance rather than interrogation room visits and a police record. The attorney general can issue fresh directives, as was done in the past in the case of permitting homosexual relations. The police should focus their efforts where they are needed, such as on apprehending drug dealers and preventing driving under the influence of drugs rather than suppressing behavior that has become routine.