Israeli Ministers Back Lighter Penalties for Public Marijuana Use

A person caught in a public place using or possessing marijuana for personal use would be fined the first two times, rather than being arrested

File photo: A cannabis plant, January 1, 2018
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The Ministerial Committee for Legislation gave its backing Sunday to a proposed three-year order for the substantial reduction of penalties for marijuana use in public. The order states that a person caught in a public place using or possessing marijuana for personal use – up to 15 grams – would be fined the first two times, rather than being arrested.

The cabinet had already approved a decriminalization policy last March, based on a program developed by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan. The first time a person is caught, he or she would be find 1,000 shekels ($283) and the second time, 2,000 shekels. The money from the fines would be directed toward education about drugs and treating drug addicts.

A person caught possessing cannabis for personal use a third time would be referred to a file-closing procedure, a process allowing the prosecution to close the case against a suspect and delete the criminal record within a short time if he admits to the allegations. A person caught a fourth time would be prosecuted.

“The decision to change the existing policy is aimed at bringing about efficient, uniform and equitable enforcement, based on the understanding that a single or repeated slip by a common person who doesn’t live a criminal lifestyle should be enforced in a manner consistent with the gravity of the act, without tarnishing a person’s record with a criminal or police record that could affect his future,” the decision’s explanatory notes said.

Erdan stressed on Sunday that the fines levied on marijuana users would not go to the police coffers, so that policemen would have no incentive to issue fines. Erdan also clarified that fines would be issued only to people caught using or possessing in a public place. “There is no plan to stick a criminal label on someone” who uses drugs at home, he said.