Israel On Tap to Beat US to Decriminalize Cannabis
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Israel On Tap to Beat US to Decriminalize Cannabis

President Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar issued a special call March 6 to decriminalize personal use and expunge criminal records.

March 7, 2022

Israel is on the brink of decriminalizing adult-use cannabis before the U.S., its Western ally that also happens to be the largest cannabis hub in the world through a patchwork of state legalization.  

While U.S. President Joe Biden has been busy putting policies in place to deny government security clearance to those who have invested in cannabis companies, the Israeli government is moving to approve regulations that would decriminalize adult-use cannabis and expunge criminal records for those with cannabis-related convictions.

Israel President Isaac Herzog and Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar announced March 6 that those with cannabis convictions would be able to submit a request to have their records erased. In addition, individuals with pending criminal proceedings related to cannabis use or possession would be able to have their charges dropped.

The joint statement from Herzog and Sa’ar, who also serves as deputy prime minister, referred to an April 2019 temporary order: The Dangerous Drugs Law stipulates that possessing or using cannabis, when committed for the first or second time (within five years), would be considered liable for a fine. That order is set to expire at the end of this month.

Their special call this week comes after a Feb. 9, 2022, proposal to amend the Administrative Rules and Order law to establish possessing and using cannabis as an administrative offense that would not warrant opening a criminal record, according to the statement.

The statement also said that Herzog and Sa’ar’s call comes out of a desire to erase the label of criminality and the “associated stain” from anyone with prior cannabis-related convictions.

“It must be emphasized that every request will be considered on its merits, according to its particular circumstances, on an individual basis, considering the abovementioned changes of policy and law,” their statement said.

The new regulations would not apply to individuals who were also charged with separate offenses alongside cannabis (except for possession of drug paraphernalia). The special call also clarifies that those who were soldiers or a minor at the time of their arrest would not be included in the expungement provisions.

Under the decriminalization components of the new regulations, minors, soldiers and police would still be charges as before, reported Haaretz, the longest running print newspaper in Israel. Otherwise, the maximum fine would be limited to 1,000 shekels, roughly US$300, for personal cannabis use.

The newspaper reported that Sa’ar is expected to sign the regulations in the coming days, and Israel’s unicameral parliament, Knesset, is anticipated to approve it. Immediate implementation would follow.