Israel to legalize recreational cannabis use

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The reform will be by way of regulation rather than outright decriminalization.

Minister of Justice Avi Nissenkorn has announced that he will promote the legalization of recreational cannabis use in Israel. From age 21, people will be allowed to use cannabis at home and at special stores. Allowing cannabis use in public places will be examined at a later stage.

Nissenkorn has adopted the conclusions of an inter-ministerial team that was set up to examine reform of the law on cannabis use, headed by Deputy Attorney General Amit Marari. According to Nissenkorn, the government-sponsored legislation will be completed within nine months.

The inter-ministerial committee recommends that the state should introduce regulations to ensure that prices are reasonable, so that users will not buy cannabis on the black market. It also recommends that, alongside the legislation, the state should invest in education, information campaigns, budgeting of addiction programs, and enforcement against those who breach the conditions for using cannabis, as well as continued research to determine whether the steps taken are adequate and advise on changes.

The committee was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Internal Security, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Social Services, and representatives of the public, and was formed in response to private bills sponsored by MKs Ram Shefa of Blue & White and Sharren Haskel of Likud that were examined by the committee.

"There is a majority and general consent in favor of making progress on this matter for the benefit of the Israeli public. The time has come to move ahead in a responsible manner and to find the balance between an individual's right to use cannabis and the other considerations," Nissenkorn said.

"We reached the conclusion that with responsible and precise regulation it is possible to allay the fears associated with cannabis use," said Marari. "It is right to prefer regulation to decriminalization. De-criminalization does not provide an answer to fears such as of contact with the black market."

Until legislation is passed, there is no intention of changing the status quo, which means that fines will continue to be imposed even after the announcement of impending change. So far in 2020, the number of fines imposed for cannnabis use has risen by 58%.

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