Cannabis possession decriminalised in Israel after near-unanimous Knesset vote

The bill will extend to all Israeli citizens, bar children, soldiers and previous criminal offenders


The Knesset has passed a law decriminalising the private use of cannabis in Israel with a near-unanimous vote.

Under the law, a cannabis user would only pay a 1,000 shekel (£200) fine if caught for the first time – with the penalty doubling for a second offense within five years.

It will cover all citizens, bar children, soldiers or previous criminal offenders.

The bill, sponsored by the Government and promoted by MK Meirav Ben-Ari, was passed just before the Israeli parliament broke up for summer recess.

Only one member voted against it, with another abstaining.

Oren Lebovitch, CEO of the Israeli Cannabis magazine, told the Herb news site that the law will not extend to “parallel offences”, such as attempting to dispose of evidence of cannabis use.

Mr Lebovitch added: “The good news is that at least some Israelis will be able to avoid criminal records.

“The change in the law allows us, for the first time, to file a petition to the Supreme Court against the incrimination of cannabis consumers in Israel.”

According to recent polling, 70 per cent of Israelis oppose criminal charges for cannabis consumers, while nearly 30 percent of Israelis have said they consumed cannabis in the past year.

Medical marijuana has been permitted in Israel since the early 90s.

In the UK cannabis is categorised as a Class B drug, and it is illegal to possess, give away, sell, transport or grow for personal or commercial use.

Anyone found in possession of cannabis can face up to five years behind bars, as well as an unlimited fine. Supplying someone else with the drug can result in up to 14 years’ imprisonment.

Last year the JC spoke to Saul Kaye, the CEO of Israeli firm iCAN:Israel-Cannabis, who attributed Israel's progressive approach to cannabis legalisation to the country's "innovative culture".

He said: “It really has impacted many, many lives. When your grandma is recovering from chemotherapy for cancer, she will be a typical user.

“There is a really good set up in Israel. Innovation wise, we’re already there, leading the way. In Israel we don’t stop someone using a product if it’s helping them, even if it’s illegal.

“No one should be put in jail for owning a plant.”

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