Proposed new guidelines from the Israeli Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar will further decriminalise the recreational use of cannabis. Under new draft guidelines, published on Wednesday, recreational cannabis consumption will no longer be considered a criminal offence, and will instead become an administrative offence, punishable with a fine.
The new guidelines are a temporary measure, set to replace an existing measure of decriminalisation, in place since 2019. Under current guidelines, cannabis possession is dealt with by fines for first and second offences. A third offence requires a conditional settlement deal, and a fourth offence means a possible conviction. Anyone with a prior criminal conviction can be charged after their first offence.
According to the drafted update, the new regulations will not allow for prosecution “other than in exceptional cases.” No cannabis user will be charged criminally if caught in possession of cannabis, regardless of their existing criminal record. Administrative fines will be limited to 1,000 shekels, however, soldiers, police officers, prison wardens and minors will be excluded from decriminalisation.
The new guidelines have been proposed as the existing rules expire in March, and without a new policy in place, cannabis possession would revert to a full criminal offence. “As we have pledged to the public, self-use of cannabis will not be considered a criminal offence,” Justice Minister Sa’ar said. “The lack of a policy on the subject makes, in practice, many normative citizens in Israel criminals, violates the rights of the individual and undermines trust between citizens and law enforcement.”
Full legalisation of cannabis in Israel was proposed in 2020 by the then justice minister Avi Nissenkorn, however, the plan was stalled by a change in government. The current ruling New Hope party has backed cannabis legalisation for recreational use.
The country has one of the world’s leading medical cannabis industries, estimated to be worth $264 million in 2021. Over 100,000 residents have permits to consume medical cannabis, according to the Health Ministry, and cannabis consumption in the country is widespread. Results from a 2017 survey suggest that 27% of Israelis between the ages of 18 and 65 had consumed cannabis in the last year.