Decriminalization of marijuana – coming soon?

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (Jewish Home) is seeking alternatives to legislature that would completely decriminalize the personal use of soft drugs, Walla! News reports Wednesday, following a debate over a similar bill proposed by Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg. 

Representatives of the Ministry of Justice confirmed that Shaked turned to the Ministry's internal legal advisory office to examine an alternative to de-criminalization of the drugs. 

The amount of drugs allowed for personal use, according to the proposed law, is 15 grams, and applies to hashish and marijuana; the law would commute the fines for personal use, which top hundreds of shekels. In this case, the penalty for the offense would be reduced significantly, although usage itself is banned. 

The rationale behind the new mechanism is a model of non-incrimination which will continue to express an attitude of condemnation for the use of soft drugs and to frame it as vulgar behavior – without giving soft drug users the stigma of a criminal record.  

This differs from the model of legalization which means eliminating the ban that existed in respect of a particular act and making it legal.

Israel prohibits the use and possession of substances classified as "dangerous drugs" under the 1973 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance. Possession and use, even for personal use of drugs on this list – including cannabis –  constitutes a criminal offense that carries with it a prison sentence.

Currently, the Attorney General does not prosecute "a normative person", who is defined to have no criminal records beyond drug use, for a first-time offense and when he or she is caught with under 15g of marijuana for personal use.

However, this does not preclude the filing of an indictment or an investigation and the case could still lead to a criminal record. 

Shaked's bill, if passed, would erase the stigma of a criminal record – but it is unclear whether such a record would be waived for first-time offenses or for multiple offenses. 

At the end of 2012, she stated in response to a question on Facebook ahead of the February 2013 elections that she opposes legalization, but never answered about non-incrimination. 

Zandberg and Likud MK Sharren Haskel recently proposed their own versions of such a law, but this is the first time a sitting Justice Minister has advocated any form of legalization or non-incrimination clause. 

While promising, Shaked's bill is expected to face opposition from the Health Ministry and the Defense Ministry. 

Source: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/213118

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