With Islamists' Support, Israeli Parliament Advances Cannabis Reform Bill

Islamist leader, whose party thwarted the bill in 2019, threw support behind it because of its medical aspects

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United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on Monday.
United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

The Israeli Knesset gave preliminary approval on Wednesday to the cannabis reform bill, with last-minute support from the Islamic coalition partners.

The bill still needs to pass three Knesset votes to be signed into law.

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The bill proposed by lawmaker Sharren Haskel of the New Hope party was approved at the start of the week by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation. It is designed to regularize the use of medical cannabis and, as the bill states, “determine what is required of each party along the supply chain in terms of cultivation, production, distribution, storage and sale of cannabis preparations, as well as how to register and trade in it."

A note explaining the proposed law says it aims to alleviate the problems bedeviling the sector, which “has caused fatal harm both to medical cannabis’ availability and the quality of care for those who need it, and to the businesses that suffer from constantly changing regulations, multiple obstacles and an unstable market.”

United Arab List Chairman Mansour Abbas, whose party thwarted the bill in 2019, explained in a speech in Arabic that his party supports its medical aspects. "We have qualms and questions about the bill and its details, but we will try in the near future to iron out the differences," he said. "If not, we will vote against."

Likud lawmaker David Amsalem called out Abbas on his change of heart, saying: "You are trampling on Islam. They gave you a few dimes, promised you a few jobs and suddenly Islam permits it (cannabis)."

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