Use of Recreational Cannabis May Be Fully Decriminalized in Israel

Recreational usage of marijuana will be considered an administrative offense punishable only by fine, according to drafted regulations released by Israel's justice minister

Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit
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Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar in Jerusalem, Tuesday.
Israel's Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar in Jerusalem, Tuesday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Chen Maanit
Chen Maanit

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar has released a draft of new regulations that would decriminalize recreational use of marijuana in Israel.

According to the new regulations released on Wednesday, recreational usage of marijuana will be considered an administrative offense punishable only by fine. Currently, the use of marijuana can result in criminal prosecution and is included on one's criminal record.

The new regulations are being promoted just as a temporary order pertaining to the decriminalization of marijuana issued in 2019 is expected to expire at the end of March.

In November 2020, then-Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn drafted a law to legalize marijuana after an interministerial committee recommended legalizing the sale and use of cannabis for recreational purposes in those 21 and older. The bill, which required primary legislation in the Knesset, never advanced.

The temporary order in place since 2019 eliminated the threat of marijuana use being place on one's criminal record for first and second offenders, and replaced the risk of criminal conviction with fines of 1,000 to 2,000 shekels. Third-time offenders were at risk of probational criminal sentencing, and fourth offenders faced criminal charges. Additionally, criminal charges were always pressed against first, second, or third offenders if they had a pre-existing criminal record of drug use.

According to the new drafted regulations, no cannabis user will be charged criminally, regardless of their existing criminal record, and the administrative fine will be limited to 1,000 shekels. Soldiers, police officers, prison wardens and minors will be excluded from the proposed decriminalization.

Speaking on the issue, Sa'ar said that “We promised personal use of marijuana will not be considered a crime. A lack of policy on this issue has, in practice, turned many normal Israeli citizens into criminals and has harmed individual rights and undermined the trust between citizens and the law enforcement system.”

“This move,” he continued, "is one of many I am taking towards full decriminalization and reducing the amount of criminal cases that require attention," said Sa'ar. He went on to thank fellow his fellow Knesset member Sharren Haskel, who serves as chairwomen of the Knesset's committee on marijuana and worked for years on the issue.

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