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January 26, 2017 2:38 pm

Israel Poised to Decriminalize Marijuana

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A medical marijuanna store in Tel Aviv April 10, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90.

A medical marijuanna store in Tel Aviv April 10, 2016. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90. – Israel is poised to decriminalize marijuana, pending approval of a plan that would consider the drug a public health issue rather than a criminal one.

At a press conference on Thursday, Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said Israel would likely adopt the “Portugal Model,” which would “mean moving to administrative fines, and criminal prosecution would only be a last resort,” the Times of Israel reported.

While the new proposal still needs approval by the cabinet, many ministers within the government have already expressed support for the move.

Under the new model, home use of marijuana would not carry a punishment and only those caught using the substance in public could be subject to fines or possible indictment. First-time offenders would be charged a $265 fine, with the sum doubling on the second offense. Those caught a third or fourth time could face stiffer penalties such as suspension of a driver’s license, mandated participation in rehabilitation programs or even criminal charges.

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Erdan also said those under 18 would only be prosecuted if they refused rehabilitation.

“I don’t take this issue lightly,” he added. “We need to make sure that we limit the criminal procedures while increasing education about the [drug’s potential negative] effects.”

Israel is already a world leader in marijuana research, with over 21,000 Israelis having a medical license to use the drug legally. Last summer, Israel approved a plan to further relax its medical marijuana laws to allow doctors to issue prescriptions more easily while also expanding the availability of marijuana at approved pharmacies.

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