Knesset bill paving way to cannabis legalization advances

A bill that seeks to pave the way for the legalization of cannabis, which is currently illegal in Israel except for medical purposes, passed its first reading in the Knesset.

By: JNS.org and World Israel News Staff

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 is spearheading 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.

Member of Knesset (MK) 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 the use of recreational cannabis in Israel still remains illegal, purchase of medical cannabis for licensed patients is legal.

The Jewish state has been a pioneer in medical cannabis research and development.

For instance, in May, scientists from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and from the University of Bonn in Germany announced that they had restored the memory performance of lab mice to a juvenile stage by administering a small quantity of THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

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 President Donald Trump reportedly urging 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.