MK Tamar Zandberg (Meretz), Chair of the Knesstet Committee to Combat Drug and Alcohol Abuse, was highly critical this week of the new campaign of the Israel Anti-Drug Authority. She suggested the campaign was “based on false information, outdated, archaic, irrelevant, and most important — disappointing.” She added: “After all this time that we’ve been sitting here, exposed to the real danger of youth addiction, I for one am disappointed.”
It should be noted that MK Zandberg is a known supporter of the legalization of cannabis, and in 2013 submitted a bill decriminalizing personal use of Marijuana. She has been a supporter of the fight of medical cannabis patients against the Health Ministry, and was a guest speaker at a 2013 rally for legalization at Rabin Square. She said in a television interview that she smokes cannabis and views this as “normative behavior.”
Acting Director General of the Authority, Eitan Gorni, told the committee that “we think cannabis is dangerous. After a long time during which we haven’t dealt with cannabis, and in light of the great outcry and the attempt to say that cannabis is not dangerous it was decided to launch a broad advertising campaign. In light of the numerous attempts on the part of the side that supports Marijuana to deliver messages, we believe there should be counter messages, which is why we launched the campaign.”
One 15-second radio ad in the new campaign features a mother who says her daughter was destroyed by using Marijuana, followed by an anchor saying there’s no such thing as light drugs.
Meanwhile, the committee was informed that the Israel Anti-Drug Authority CEO, Yair Geller, has resigned last May, about a year and a half after being suspended for his role in the bribery scandal involving Yisrael Beiteinu, and eight months after police recommended his indictment for bribery, fraud, and breach of trust. During his 17 months of suspension, Geller grossed close to $208,000 in salary and bonuses, according to media reports.
Eitan Eckstein, director of a rehab center, also warned the committee against taking cannabis use lightly. “Go to the beaches and see for yourselves what joints are doing to people. Most of the girls started with grass and it led them to prostitution. On the eve of summer vacation it’s a time to invest a lot in telling parents to set limits, and that if they suspect something untoward they should seek advice.”
Chair Zandberg suggested that “alcohol is much more dangerous, which is why I’m disappointed that you invest in a campaign against a future [cannabis] legislation [instead of fighting youth alcohol use].”
MK Merav Ben Ari (Kulanu) told the committee, “When I was working with youths I had a much tougher time with alcohol than with cannabis.” Turning to the You have to the Israel Anti-Drug Authority officials, she added, “You must understand that you can’t keep devoting your budgets to cannabis. I get the feeling that all you’re campaigning against is cannabis.”David Israel