By Emily Ledger
Israel has long been established on the cannabis map, thanks to the State’s high production rate of the crop as well as its cannabis research sector. The State has also been poised to become a significant cannabis exporter for some time. A Bill outlining a number of cannabis reforms has recently been passed by the Israeli Ministerial Committee for Legislation.
Earlier this month, the two biggest political parties that form the government in Israel released a joint statement outlining plans for cannabis reforms. Soon before this announcement, the police minister also backed easing the enforcement of existing laws. The statement also outlined plans to improve patient access to medical cannabis products.
On Sunday, a Bill to legalise cannabis use was approved by the country’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation. The Bill laid out plans to decriminalise the possession of up to 50g of cannabis. The consumption of up to 15g of cannabis by people aged over 21 is also proposed to be decriminalised.
Likud MK Sharren Haskel, co-sponsor of the bill along with Blue and White MK Ram Shefa, wrote in a Facebook post:
“For the first in the State of Israel’s history, my legislative move is officially beginning to regulate the cannabis market in Israel. I’m proud to bring good news to over one million cannabis users and tens of thousands of sick people.”
The Times of Isreal reported that the Bill is expected to be put before the Knesset (the legislature) on Wednesday. In order to become law, the Bill must pass three rounds of votes.
Israel has taken significant steps in recent years to liberalise cannabis laws. For example, in 2017, the Public Security Ministry partially decriminalised the drug. This change set fines and treatment for initial offenders in favour of criminal procedures. Other past Israeli cannabis reforms include the development of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries.
However, many would-be medical cannabis patients have complained about difficulty accessing the medications. It is hoped that this new Bill will help to address this issue by introducing further measures to ease access to medical cannabis.
Cannabis has been consumed in Israel for thousands of years, as a recent excavation of a religious temple close to Tel-Aviv has shown. Archaeologists uncovered remains of cannabis – including THC – in an altar at the temple. It is believed that the plant may have been burned as part of religious rituals. The cannabis sample is thought to be dated from around 2,700 years ago.