Stop Hounding Grass Smokers

Israel's police force is wasting resources indicting citizens who pose no danger to society.

In 2012 the Israeli police opened 22,895 cases against people for possession of drugs for personal use and indicted 5,254 of them. In contrast, only 2,226 indictments were issued for drug dealing, importing and exporting, while 313 were indicted for growing and manufacturing drugs. In other words, these more serious crimes accounted for less than half the number of indictments issued  for personal drug use..

These figures show that the police, inexplicably, deal harshly with small-time light-drug users, who are not involved in any criminal activity beyond smoking grass.

Despite the attorney general’s directive to the police to exercise judgment when they catch someone with a small amount of light drugs for personal use, the police keep persecuting light-drug smokers. They persist in doing so regardless of Knesset members’ confessions to having smoked drugs and despite declarations by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority heads, including former director general Haim Messing, that people who use light drugs in their free time pose no threat to society.

The victims are usually from the periphery. A senior police officer said that if they tried to enforce the law in the center of the country, the officers would have to “cordon off every bar and club in the city with police tape and interrogate people all day long.”

In Israel, as in the Western world, smoking light drugs is not associated with criminal activity. So the police efforts to enforce the law in this matter are no more than a terrible waste of resources and a superfluous demonstration of power against civilians. Contrary to the police's claims that the wholesale indictments are part of the policy imposed by the State Prosecutor’s Office, prosecution officials made it clear yesterday that no such policy exists. In addition, the prosecution certainly has no intention of turning tens of thousands of individuals into criminals by indicting them, the officials said.

The Israel Police must stop hounding the smokers. The Knesset must consider changing the Dangerous Drugs Law, which defines the possession of light drugs for personal use as a criminal offense, and adapt it to reality. This distortion is not conducive to preserving Israelis’ safety but only encourages invasive, unnecessary harassment.