Last week, Israel Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar released new guidelines on the decriminalization of cannabis in Israel. Accordingly, the personal consumption of cannabis will no longer be considered as a criminal offense.
Israel decriminalized cannabis for the first time in 2019 and created guidelines that are set to expire in March this year. Under the recently released guidelines, consumption of small amounts of cannabis will be more of an administrative issue (like a traffic offense) that will be punishable by a fine of up to 1,000 shekels. In addition, minors and members of the Defense Force are excluded from the fines.
Israel sets the pace for the world when it comes to cannabinoid research. It is no coincidence that one of the most respected fathers of medicinal cannabis, Robert Mechoulam, hails from Israel. Israel is also home to the world’s leading cannabis research institution- the Hebrew University Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabis Research (MCRR).
Even with Israel having such a rich cannabis history, laws on consumption have been very rigid and punitive even when the offense is trivial. With the new guidelines, Israelis will have more wiggle room to enjoy cannabis without putting a lot of money at stake. Previously, every subsequent offense to the third was fined 1,000 shekels more. A fourth would result in conviction, having being treated as a criminal offense. Moving forward, there will be no difference in fine between the first and subsequent offenses.
Will Israel Legalize Recreational Cannabis?
For now, it is too soon to preempt full legalization of cannabis in Israel. As much as this had been proposed two years ago by the then justice minister, Avi Nissenkorn, things have been moving at a snail pace. The current government has chosen to remain non-committal on this issue. The new guidelines, which still need a final approval, are a good enough reason to remain hopeful.