Israeli Cabinet Set to Vote Sunday to Decriminalize Marijuana Use

First-time offenders will face NIS 1,000 fine if caught using marijuana in a public place, but criminal charges will only be brought if person re-offends four times.

A user rolling a marijuana joint in the Netherlands coffee shop.
Peter Dejong/AP

The cabinet is expected to vote Sunday to decriminalize the use of marijuana in Israel.

According to the proposal formulated by the Public Security and Justice ministries, any first-time offender caught using marijuana in public would receive a fine rather than face criminal action.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called the change a welcome one. “This is a milestone so thousands of ordinary people will no longer be considered criminals,” she said.

The proposal was based on the conclusions of a committee headed by Public Security Ministry Director General Rotem Peleg, with the recommendations accepted by her Minister Gilad Erdan.

The panel recommended switching the focus on marijuana usage from the criminal level to the educational one, and expanding responses to marijuana use beyond opening criminal files and prosecuting users.

According to the new policy, first-time offenders caught using marijuana in a public place will incur a fine of 1,000 shekels ($271) but the offender will not face criminal charges. The fine will be doubled on the second offense. The third offense will lead to probation, with the record of the offense only being expunged after a brief period. Only on the fourth offense will criminal charges be pressed.

The money from the fines will go to financing antidrug education and treatment.

Erdan said Wednesday that if all government agencies help apply the new policy, “we can act on it within a few months.”