Israel has been known to be a country that has always been more on the lenient side, when it comes to marijuana laws. It is one of the nations that have conducted extensive research on the medical benefits of cannabis, and has managed to stand out from its neighbors in the Middle East, in terms of being more open about the herb.
But on Sunday, March 5th, Israel made a ceremonious move when its government decided to decriminalize the use of cannabis, joining the likes of the United States and some European countries to enact such laws.
Trying to ‘Strike a Balance’
According to this report, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to “open themselves up to the future.” But at the same time, understands what could be possible dangers of its use, and his government is trying to find the happy medium between the two.
The new policy on Israel’s marijuana laws has yet to be approved by the parliament, but individuals who would be caught using cannabis would not be arrested. Instead, they would be merely fined with a certain amount. However, the selling and growing of cannabis remain to be criminally punishable by law.
According to Justice Minister AyeletShaked, Israel refuses to turn a blind eye on the changes being implemented across the world, with respect to cannabis use and its effects. She adds that the government intends to educate its citizens on the benefits and harmful effects of cannabis.
Medical Cannabis as an ‘Economic Opportunity’
Israel’s marijuana laws have been more open even before recreational use of cannabis was decriminalized. According to a December 2016 report, the Israeli government has already recognized medical cannabis as an opportunity for them to generate big revenue for the country. In fact, a pharmaceutical company named “Breath of Life” has been advocating further research on medical marijuana.
According to company CEO TamirGedo, their decision to be more open about medical cannabis could only lead to more US-based companies to conduct research in their country. In turn, it could be a more profitable venture for them, as more American companies choose to do business with them.
Breath of Life also intends to put up more greenhouses to increase production within the year. For the second half of 2017, the company will be looking to put up a facility that will further support medical cannabis research, and would entail developing newer strains and delivery systems.
Agriculture minister Uri Ariel adds that they also intend to do more studies on the best and most optimal methods of growing cannabis, as well as the exporting of their locally grown herbs to help boosting economic growth. They also intend to grant more licenses to growers, as well as doctors and patients.
Neighboring Countries Uphold Strict Laws Against Cannabis
But while Israel embraces more lenient marijuana laws, its neighboring countries to continue to uphold strict policies against it. According to this report published in April 2015, 32 countries have drug-related cases that are punishable by death, and this includes cannabis use. At the time the report was published, Indonesia had executed eight individuals who were convicted of drug trafficking. Seven of them were foreigners hailing from Brazil, Nigeria, and Australia.
Alongside Indonesia, the other Asian countries that uphold the same authoritarian laws against drugs are Vietnam, China, Singapore, Iran, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia. In the Middle East, Iran was reported to have conducted less than 100 executions for convicted drug smugglers in 2008 alone, and 241 in 2015.
Since Western countries were the first to implement more lenient marijuana laws, such a move has always been deemed as a way of forward thinking. After all, more and more studies have proven that cannabis use is leaning more towards the harmless side, and actually bears medical benefits.
Rightfully, Israel has also followed suit with these new developments, and could very well soften their stance further in the years to come.