“In the Israel of 2014, a prime minister has been convicted of crimes, a president is serving jail time for rape, and organized crime is tearing up the streets, so I really don’t understand why my marijuana joint makes front-page headlines,” wrote fashion designer Motty Reif on Facebook. The police had called him in for questioning about his use of soft drugs.
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Reif and actress Keren Mor, whose apartment was also searched, were called in for questioning and a warning after their names were found on a list in the apartment of nightlife personality Eyal Peleg. Also found were 23 cigarettes, containing a total of some 42 grams of marijuana and hashish. That amount is way too low to be considered intended for sale. Another well-known actor was also called in for questioning; his home was also searched.
Reif’s comments reflect Israel’s morally problematic approach toward soft drugs. Recreational use of soft drugs has become more accepted, and the attorney general and senior figures at the Israel Anti-Drug Authority have admitted that marijuana use normally does not involve criminal behavior.
But the police spend an exorbitant amount of resources chasing marijuana users, even those possessing the smallest amounts intended only for personal use. In 2012, for example, the police opened 22,895 files for personal use, and 5,254 indictments were issued.
One can only hope that the Reif case, as well the 11 Knesset members who admit they have smoked soft drugs in the past, will contribute to the discussion and end the needless waste of police resources. In a world where U.S. presidents have confessed they’ve used soft drugs in the past, there’s no reason to treat marijuana smokers as criminals.
As a result, there’s no reason marijuana smokers should be forced to hide. “I decided that I didn’t want to have my face blurred — to stop people in Israel from thinking I did something wrong,” Reif wrote.
The Israel Police should focus on more urgent issues than hunting down pot smokers. The Knesset and cabinet should push through clear, realistic legislation on the subject that would prevent the names of otherwise law-abiding citizens from being tarnished.