The personal use of marijuana will no longer attract criminal charges in the first instance. On Sunday, the Israeli government voted in favour to approve a plan to partially decriminalize marijuana use in public in favour of fines and treatments.
First time users who confess will be fined 1,000 shekels, that is about $400 Canadian. The fine will be doubled on the second offence, with the third time forcing a probation period on the user. This essentially means that the Israeli government would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.
These new rules were drafted after much debate, by the public security minister, Gilad Erdan. “The government’s approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement,”
However, growing and selling marijuana would remain illegal. This decision comes at a time when numerous American states and European countries are loosening marijuana laws.
Prior to Sunday’s decision, people charged with the use of marijuana would face heavy fines and even incarceration. With this, there were fewer than 200 arrests in 2015.
“On the one hand we are opening ourselves up to the future. On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet.
Within the population of 8.5 million, about 25,000 Israelis hold permits to use medical marijuana to ease symptoms of epilepsy, cancer and other diseases. This number is expected to grow rapidly.
While many are expecting high times ahead for Israel, celebrations should be at a stand still, as the decision still requires the approval of Israeli’s Parliament.
-Loredana Del Bello, Assistant News Editor