By Matti Bernhardt and Ehud Amiton
Israel Police Chief Yohanan Danino told students in a Beit Shemesh school on Wednesday, May 13, that he is in favor of reevaluating the state’s policy over the use of cannabis.
During a Q&A session with the students, Danino stated he is in favor of looking into how other countries in the world address the marijuana issue. He also added that the number of licenses for medical marijuana have increased, which mandates a reevaluation of the matter.
Danino said that he spoke with new members of Israel’s Knesset and suggested they reevaluate the policy in which much effort and use of the police force has been invested in the enforcement of the ban on marijuana usage.
The Israel police chief would not be the first public figure to come out in favor of changing the policy towards marijuana in Israel. Some MKs on both the left and the right are advocates of this issue.
“In a conversation with the Police Chief we came up with an outline that would abolish the law that incriminates cannabis users, as long as they are law-abiding citizens.” Jewish Home’s MK Yinon Magal, a strong supporter of legalization, told the Tazpit News Agency.
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who has led the fight for legalization In the Knesset for many years, told the Tazpit News Agency that “the time has come to make a significant change in the issue of cannabis.
“The public has advanced to the point that they understand that cannabis users are normative citizens who are not harming anybody and that there’s no reason to persecute them and incriminate them. The time has come for elected officials to change the laws regarding this issue,” Zandberg told Tazpit.
The discussion over legalization in Israel is a long standing one. Although pot isn’t legal in Israel, medical marijuana is available for patients who qualify for it, such as cancer patients and MS patients. In addition to that, a form of de-criminalization is implemented, as cannabis users are not usually punished for possession of under 15 grams. Former Attorney General Meni Mazuz said in 2013 that he gave directions not to deal with soft drugs since it was a waste of enforcement resources.
An Israeli liberal political party called Ale Yarok (Green Leaf), which advocates the legalization of marijuana, has existed in Israel since 1999 and has fallen just short of getting seats in the Knesset in previous elections.
However, a survey published by Israeli news website Mako last year, showed that most Israelis were still against legalization, with 56% saying marijuana should not be legalized, and only 33% supporting such an initiative.
The coming months will show if Danino’s approach will have any effect on the new government’s stance on this issue.