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March 6, 2017 12:32 pm

Israeli Government Votes to Decriminalize Recreational Marijuana Use

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Israelis gather at the Rose Garden in front of the Knesset legislature to smoke marijuana on April 20, 2016, marking the international “4/20” marijuana celebration day and advocating for Israel to legalize the drug. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90.

Israelis smoking marijuana in front of the Knesset legislature on April 20, 2016, marking the international “4/20” marijuana celebration day and advocating for Israel to legalize the drug. Photo: Hadas Parush/Flash90.

JNS.org – The Israeli government has voted in favor of decriminalizing recreational marijuana use, joining several European countries and US states in adopting similar measures.

According to the new policy, first-time offenders will receive a $270 fine, which would double for a second offense. A third offense would warrant a police investigation and fourth offense would result in criminal proceedings. Selling and growing marijuana would still remain criminal offenses.

At Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that a team of experts had studied the issue and “this obviously needs to be done in a careful and controlled manner.”

“On one hand, we are opening ourselves up to the future. On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two,” he said.

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Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the vote “an important step toward implementing the new policy, which will place the emphasis on awareness and treatment rather than criminal enforcement.”

Israeli police figures show that only 188 people were arrested nationwide in 2015 for recreational marijuana use, a 56-percent drop since 2010, and that many of those apprehended were never charged.

Israel’s decision to relax its marijuana laws follows a long history with the drug, in which Israel has been a world leader in medical marijuana research. The country’s scientists have been among the first to identify key compounds in marijuana, such as THC, the principle psychoactive compound found in marijuana.

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