Israeli Army to Allow Off-duty Soldiers to Smoke Marijuana Up to Five Times

The more lenient policy, expected to take effect in early 2017, replaces current orders calling to court martial any soldier caught possessing any narcotics.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
Illustration photo: A man smokes marijuana
The day may be approaching when lighting up a joint is no longer considered an illegal act for which you could go to prison in Israel.Credit: Daniel Tchetchik
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

Israel's Military Prosecutor plans to revise its policy on marijuana use, and permit IDF soldiers to smoke weed up to five times, as long as they're off-duty when they do so, Haaretz has learned.

The new policy is expected to take effect in early 2017.

Current orders call to court martial any soldier caught possessing any narcotics, marijuana included, even in a civilian setting.

Any soldier convicted of such an offense is also tarred with a criminal notice in his or her records which hurt their chances of getting a job in Israel after their discharge from duty.

The revised policy would still permit a soldier to be charged for smoking marijuana or hashish even off duty, but provides an easy loophole to get the case closed or the charges dropped.

The accused soldier would have to provide urine samples once a month under a year's probationary period, exhibit motivation for rehabilitation and commit to completing their term of service with a clean record, and showing they are "back on the right path."

The IDF also intends to alter its policy toward refusal to provide a urinary sample, and submit such offenders to a disciplinary rather than a criminal proceeding.

Commanders will also be able to punish soldiers within a shorter period for refusing to take a drug test, rather than have to wait for the results of an investigation by military police. Last year, 128 soldiers were charged with this offense.

The policy change may not necessarily bring more lenient sentences for this infraction, as currently the penalty for rejecting a narcotics exam is usually brief incarceration, while disciplinary action decided by a commander can be harsher.

The army intends to take a similar approach toward other less-serious offenses, such as minor property theft and falsely calling in sick.

The new directives will apply only to soldiers in compulsory service, not to officers or non-commissioned officers (NCOs). A ban on smoking marijuana or partaking of any other drugs while on the base will remain in force.

IDF policy calls for no leniency to be shown any soldier convicted of using narcotics, even for a single offense.

Soldiers suspected of pushing narcotics would also continue to be prosecuted.

The Military Prosecutor’s office says that the harsher policy pursued for decades has not proven effective and that resources would be better spent rehabilitating soldiers using the substance occasionally rather than having them spend a month in a military prison.

An estimated 40-50 percent of military police intelligence resources is spent on investigating drug-related crimes in the military, more than any other type of infraction.

The army hopes the new policy will make it possible to reduce the dropout rate, since sentencing soldiers to time at the stockade often leads to the end of their military service.

The policy would also permit the IDF to focus more on enforcing the law against those accused of committing more serious offenses.

The IDF Spokesperson has confirmed the details of these planned revisions.

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