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Israel’s Drug Enforcement Body Recommends Decriminalizing Marijuana

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Israel’s central drug enforcement body, the Israel Anti-Drug Authority (IADA), expressed its support of marijuana decriminalization during a Knesset special committee hearing on Monday. Eitan Gorani, chairman of IADA, said the authority “favors the Portugal model,” referencing Portugal’s focus on marijuana, and all other drugs for that matter, as a public health issue, not a criminal one. Portugal decriminalized all drugs, including marijuana, in 2000.

Gorani’s statement came during the Knesset’s Special Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse. “We believe that, as a result of developments in the world, the main problem of using cannabis is social and medical, while the criminal matter is only tangential,” he said.

Israel has some of the most liberal medical marijuana laws in the world, and certainly in the Middle East. Recreational cannabis is illegal, but Israel has a wide-ranging medical program, and pharmacies will be selling the drug in the next few months. About 27,000 Israelis are medical marijuana patients, and use medical marijuana to ease their maladies.

Gorani was not the only person present at the special committee hearing to express support for decriminalizing weed. Tamar Zandberg, chairman of the special committee, said: “Israel is advancing toward a new era, and it seems that legalization of marijuana is just a matter of time.” But not every member of the Knesset, Israel’s legislative body, is in favor of legalizing marijuana.

Oren Hazan, a member of the Likud Party, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party, said it is “absurd for a committee that is supposed to fight drug addiction to encourage the use of a drug that will mess up young people’s heads and destroy the Israel Defense Forces.” And Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman, while proposing a bill earlier this year that widened the scope of Israel’s medical marijuana program, has been opposed to legalizing it for recreational use.

There have been a number of bills that have been proposed legalizing small amounts of marijuana, but all have been struck down. Monday was the first time Israel’s drug enforcement body recommended decriminalizing marijuana. But as the top cabinet members, including Litzman and Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan oppose IADA’s recommendation, decriminalization could still be a ways off.

Alec Siegel
Alec Siegel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. When he’s not working at Law Street he’s either cooking a mediocre tofu dish or enjoying a run in the woods. His passions include: gooey chocolate chips, black coffee, mountains, the Animal Kingdom in general, and John Lennon. Baklava is his achilles heel. Contact Alec at ASiegel@LawStreetMedia.com.

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