The Israeli Knesset, is moving to decriminalize marijuana with a vote set for this week. If the law passes, it would replace jail time for most of those guilty of cannabis possession with fines.

The Israel Medical Cannabis Association (iCan) and Knesset medical cannabis lobby led by MK Sharren Haskel (Likud) last year led the partially successful push for cannabis decriminalization, leading to the unanimous Knesset vote to back legislation reducing punishment for recreational use of marijuana and dropping jail sentences for most users.

America is beginning to see cannabis as an alternative to prescription pills. Israel is years ahead and has had an active cannabis community for years. Nine percent of Israelis use marijuana, according to The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Another 25,000 have received a license from the government to use cannabis medicinally.

The Israeli Knesset, the country’s legislative body, is moving to decriminalize marijuana with a vote set for this week. If the new law passes, it would replace jail time for most of those guilty of cannabis possession with civil fines. The Labor, Welfare and Health Committee approved the bill Monday and has advanced it to the full Knesset for consideration. The final vote on the measure is expected as soon as Tuesday.

If approved, the new law would impose a fine of 1,000 shekels (about $275 US) for first-time offenders. The fine would increase to 2,000 shekels for a second infraction. A third offense would result in a “conditional arrangement” requiring a fine or community service in order to avoid criminal charges. Fourth and subsequent violations would be considered a criminal offense subject to incarceration.

The law would not apply to minors, those with a criminal record, and members of the armed forces. Underage offenders would be required to complete a drug rehabilitation program.

Member of the Knesset (MK) Meirav Ben-Ari, who also serves on the Labor, Health and Welfare Committee, told the media that she hopes the penalties levied will benefit those experiencing negative consequences of drug use.

The decriminalization bill was approved unanimously by the Knesset at its first reading earlier this year. The drive to decriminalize cannabis is led by Public Security and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan. He said that the goal of the bill is to “reduce the harms of drug usage regularly but avoid as much as possible the criminal stigmatization of average citizens.”

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