Justice Minister Sa'ar Signs New Regulation Decriminalizing Marijuana in Israel

The personal use of marijuana will become an administrative – and not criminal – violation with a fine of 500 shekels, pending approval by a committee in Israel's parliament

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An employee sorts freshly harvested cannabis buds at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel, in 2017.
An employee sorts freshly harvested cannabis buds at a medical marijuana plantation in northern Israel, in 2017.Credit: REUTERS/Nir Elias

Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar signed an order decriminalizing marijuana on Wednesday, relegating the punishment for personal use to a fine.

Under the new regulations, the fine for marijuana possession will be up to 500 shekels, instead of a crime that could lead to a trial and criminal record.

The new rules will not apply to soldiers, police officers and prison guards doing their compulsory service – as well as minors. However, unlike the previous regulations, people with a criminal record will be treated the same as everybody else.

Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz has agreed to the new regulations, according to Sa'ar, but the new rules will only take effect after they are approved by the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee.

Justice Minister Gideon Sa'ar, this week.Credit: Noam Rybkin Fenton

The new regulations will replace the existing emergency order on the matter from 2019, which is set to expire at the end of the month. The emergency order, introduced by then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, ended the threat of criminal action against marijuana users caught for the first or second time – and imposed a fine ranging from 1,000 shekels ($300) to 2,000 shekels. Those arrested for marijuana use for the third time could have their criminal cases closed conditionally, but after the fourth incident an indictment would be filed. Indictments were also filed for marijuana use against those with previous drug crime convictions.

Sa’ar moved ahead with the new regulations after concluding that there was no chance the current Knesset would pass the full decriminalization reform proposed by former Justice Minister Avi Nissenkorn in November 2020, which would have required passing a new law through the full legislative process in the Knesset. A government committee on the issue recommended legalizing the sale, marketing and use of marijuana for those 21 and over for recreational use – and not just for medical purposes – but the bill never advanced.

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