Israel’s justice minister suggests further decriminalizing recreational cannabis consumption

Israel’s existing rules for recreational cannabis expire in March.

On Wednesday, February 9, Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar released a list of suggested new cannabis regulations. If the recommendations are approved, the recreational use of cannabis would be further decriminalized across the Middle Eastern country, which is famed for being a medical cannabis research hub.

A report by the Times of Israel indicates that Sa’ar’s new guidelines would not criminalize adult-use cannabis in any way. Rather, consumption of cannabis in recreational form would be considered an administrative offense, much like a traffic violation would be.

Despite the proposed guidelines for cannabis in Israel, it remains illegal to consume the plant in recreational form. This is true, even though cannabis was partially decriminalized in the year 2017 by the Public Security Ministry; a law that imposed fines and recovery options for first-time offenders, as opposed to criminal sanctions.

An overview of the existing and proposed regulations for recreational cannabis in Israel

Israel’s existing rules for recreational cannabis expire in March. The rules stipulate that first and second-time offenders are subject to fines.. 

Anyone who is charged with a third offense must abide by a conditional settlement deal, whereas a fourth offense is punishable by a possible indictment. It’s important to note that Israeli law calls for people with criminal records to face charges after their first offense.

Should the existing rules be replaced with Sa’ar’s suggested regulations, prosecution would only be allowed “in exceptional cases,” such as for people who have a criminal record. His proposed regulations would cap fines at NIS 1,000 and there would be no distinction between a first and repeat offense. Police officers and soldiers who operate will be exempt from the plan.

“As we have pledged to the public, self-use of cannabis will not be considered a criminal offense,” said Sa’ar, adding that, “The lack of a policy on the subject makes, in practice, many normative citizens in Israel criminals, violates the rights of the individual and undermines trust between citizens and law enforcement.”

Israel’s former justice minister championed recreational cannabis legalization

Avi Nissenkorn, the former justice minister, presented an in-depth strategy in 2020 that could have potentially legalized cannabis for recreational purposes. Unfortunately, when the government crumbled and a new phase of elections started, Nissenkorn’s cannabis reform effort was shot down

All hope is not lost, however. In fact, Sa’ar’s cannabis legalization effort stands a better chance than previous attempts. Members of Sa’ar’s New Hope party, such as MK Sharren Haskel, are actively pushing for cannabis decriminalization in Israel something that she believes will “put Israel back on the forefront” of the industry.

Specifically, the cannabis reform efforts could effectively tear down bureaucratic obstacles for scientists that specialize in the area of cannabinoid research. Additionally, Sa’ar’s reforms would likely relieve export restrictions and authorize the marketing of cannabidiol (CBD).

It remains uncertain as to whether or not the proposed plan will be officially implemented across Israel.