(March 7, 2018 / JNS) Legislation that will pave the way to legalize the use of cannabis in Israel passed unanimously on Wednesday in its first reading in the Knesset.
The bill, which focuses on public enforcement, levies fines for those caught in public with cannabis, with only criminal charges being brought on an individual’s fourth offense.
Israel’s Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has spearheaded the legislation, which he says will “reduce the harms of drug usage regularly, but avoid as much as possible the criminal stigmatization of average citizens,” reported The Jerusalem Post.
Israeli Knesset member Tamar Zandberg, a supporter of legalization, said that while the bill marks an “important step,” the law is “far from perfect, but it is a foot in the door on the way to a policy of full legalization.”
While cannabis use in Israel still remains illegal, the Jewish state has been a pioneer in medical cannabis research and development. However, the country’s industry recently faced a setback when a plan to export medical cannabis was stalled over funding disputes related to how to securely hold the drug at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport.
The export proposal, which may net Israel more than $1 billion annually, also hit other roadblocks as well, with U.S. President Donald Trump reportedly urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to nix the planned medical cannabis exports.
Nevertheless, Israel’s Medivie Therapeutic, a medical cannabis company, recently signed a $110 million deal to grow and export medical cannabis to an international investor. The deal is contingent on Israel allowing the export of the drug.