Smoking Marijuana Isn’t a Crime

The old-fashioned myth, that using cannabis leads to hard drugs and a life of crime, has long since been debunked by experts.

Israel Police spends some NIS 690 million ($190 million) annually in its efforts to enforce laws related to cannabis. Most of the criminal cases involve use and possession, while only a minority − 16 percent − are related to trafficking. This data was presented in the introduction to a bill submitted by MK Tamar Zandberg, which determines that cannabis users will not be deemed criminals and draws a legal distinction between possession and use of small amounts, and trafficking and possession of large amounts of cannabis.

One can hardly find a more superfluous waste of energy than police hunting down consumers of light drugs. The use of cannabis is considered in many circles, especially among the younger generations, as a legitimate leisure activity, comparable to the legal consumption of alcohol. In most cases, consuming cannabis has absolutely nothing to do with criminal activity. Haim Messing, formerly the director general of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, said recently that cannabis users who possess the drug for personal use do not cause any damage to society and should be free to do with their leisure time as they wish.

Zandberg’s bill is straightforward, dealing with those who smoke cannabis for their pleasure, and not with the effort to legalize it for medical use, which demands separate debate and legislation. The Meretz MK focuses on individual rights and the irrelevancy of existing legislation in regard to reality. In this reality, which is moralistically denied by some MKs, leading them to be caught in a web of lies, smoking light drugs is common and normative, and the old-fashioned myths that smoking marijuana leads to crime or to the use of hard drugs have long since been debunked.

One can hope that the confession of 11 MKs to using cannabis, as well as Zandberg’s bill, will be the opening chapter leading to transparency in the Knesset and government policies, and that Israel will be added to the list of countries who believe in non-criminalization of those who possess cannabis for personal use − a list which includes Germany, The Netherlands, Croatia, Canada, Portugal and Belgium. Israeli lawmakers now have a chance to prove that they are truly respectful of individual rights, and that they are not divorced from the realities of Israeli society.