A move to decriminalize the use of cannabis cleared another hurdle Sunday when a bill tabled by Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
Under the law, while the use of cannabis will be decriminalized, persons caught in possession of cannabis for personal use will pay a fine of NIS 1,000 for a first offense and NIS 2,000 for a second. However a third offense will lead to registration of the offense without criminal proceedings, and a fourth offense will lead to criminal proceedings.
The law will not apply to minors under 18, soldiers and persons with previous cannabis or criminal convictions.
The bill was approved unanimously and is expected to go to a preliminary reading this week. The bill will then have to pass two further readings in the Knesset before being adopted as law.
“I do not think that anyone who used (cannabis) a few times should have a criminal stain,” Erdan during the hearing.
Knesset Committee on Drug and Alcohol Abuse chairwoman Tamar Zandberg (Meretz) backed the Ministerial Committee’s decision.
“Today’s decision is another big step,” Zandberg said. “When we started this struggle, they scorned us, but a real and determined struggle in the end succeeds. This law is far from perfect but it is a foot in the door on the way to the policy of full legalization. Proud of all the activists who accompanied us and fought along the way. A lot of work ahead.”
“After two years of extensive political and public struggle, the cannabis policy will change,” added Likud MK Sharren Haskel. “While Erdan’s outline is far from perfect, it is a beginning for fundamental change.”
The Green Leaf Party, a liberal political party known for its ideology of legalizing cannabis, opposed the bill, saying it would lead to more incrimination against cannabis users.
A Green Leaf spokesman said that the proposed legislation while purporting to delegitimize cannabis would in fact still define it as a crime and make it a fineable offense.
“The law will not eliminate criminal records from the past and will not stop current criminal proceedings … while leaving the police with extensive enforcement powers, therefore leading to tens of thousands of fines per year. This is a very bad result and therefore we call to oppose the proposal and return to the original non-incrimination bill,“ the statement read.