Photo Credit: Abir Sultan / Flash 90

By Yona Schnitzer/TPS

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee ratified a proposal to reduce penalties for illegal marijuana use from possible imprisonment to civil fines. The bill calls for offenders to be fined NIS 1,000 for a first offense, NIS 2,000 for a second, and criminal charges for a third offense.

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Homeland Security Minister Gilad Erdan, whose ministry is in charge of the Israeli Police, praised the law, saying he “hopes and believes that the law will prevent unnecessary incrimination of civilians, while also minimizing cannabis consumption, especially for our youth.”

Knesset Member Merav Ben Ami (Kulanu) added that the signing the bill into law would be “an important first step that the Knesset is implementing in a transparent and positive manner,” adding that the new law embodies “a significant change in the public perception in all things that pertain to cannabis use.”

While the new law pushes the threat of criminal prosecution further away from recreational cannabis users, legalization advocates have criticized it, saying that it would actually lead to more clashes between law enforcement and civilians rather than less, as writing a ticket is much easier and less dramatic than arresting a person.

“This is a bad law, whose sole purpose is to make the punishment more severe and to make the police enforcement easier,” the pro-legalization Green Leaf Party said in response to the law’s approval, adding that Israel’s High Court for Justice opposes the law, as it does the criminalization of cannabis users in general.

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