After dropping periodic hints during its months-long electoral saga, the Israeli government has finally committed to legalizing recreational weed.
According to a report from The Times of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party said in a joint statement they would advance legislation “to resolve the issue of decriminalization and legalization,” apparently referring to recreational cannabis use.
Legalization will come “via a responsible model that will be suited to the State of Israel and the Israeli population,” The Times reported.
In the statement, it was noted that both political parties had decided to push for medical cannabis reforms as well, by improving access to treatment and streamlining the application process for producers.
No specific timeline for the moves was given, but an Israeli news station reported Tuesday evening that the process would likely take around four months to complete.
The Channel 12 report said the outline for the reform had been negotiated between officials from both parties, use would be restricted to people aged 21 and up, driving under the influence would be forbidden and there would be severe restrictions on advertising.
On Feb. 23, Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Twitter he examined the issue and had decided to promote the deletion of criminal records for thousands of Israelis, which he said are causing citizens to suffer unnecessarily and burdening the court system.
Netanyahu said he had chosen a minister to chair a committee of professionals and pro-legalization activist Oren Leibowitz, who would examine the import of Canada’s model to regulate Israel’s own legal market.
בחנתי הנושא והחלטתי על קידום מחיקת רישום פלילי לעשרות אלפי ישראלים על שימוש אישי והחזקה בקנאביס, דבר שגורם סבל מיותר לרבים ועומס בבתי המשפט. השר אוחנה החל בעבודה בנושא והוא יעמוד בראש ועדה עם גורמי מקצוע ואורן ליבוביץ׳ יו״ר ״עלה ירוק״, שתבחן את ייבוא המודל ה-🇨🇦להסדרת שוק חוקי ב🇮🇱
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) February 23, 2020
The announcement to move to federally legalize cannabis came in the wake of reports that the country’s police minister backed easing cannabis enforcement last week, opting for a harm-reduction approach instead.
In what now looks like an odd form of foreshadowing, journalist Ben Hartman remarked how the Israeli police’s photos from a recent weed bust were pretty enough to be promotional.
— Ben Hartman (@Benhartman) June 9, 2020
On May 17, a new joint Israeli government was sworn into power, after a year-and-a-half political stalemate and three botched elections.
Medical cannabis was legalized in Israel in 1999, and the country has made a number of reforms since 2017 to decriminalize recreational use. Israel has long been at the forefront of research into the plant, and approved a licensing process for companies to export medical cannabis in May of this year.
The demand for medical weed in Israel is high, with companies like Tilray, Inc. (Nasdaq: TLRY) recently importing massive shipments into the country.
Top image of Israeli’s parliament building, The Knesset, by Dr. Avishai Teicher via Wikimedia Commons