On the first of April, the use of recreational cannabis in Israel is not a crime. And that’s not a joke. As our government goes increasingly “green,” they have decided to look a little differently at marijuana. Effective at midnight on March 31, nobody goes to jail or gets booked for possession of or smoking weed.
Tokers, however, are not quite out of the woods. Anyone caught with pot in public will get fined, kind of like jaywalking. Pay 1,000 NIS ($275 for our American brothers) and just keep walking. Get caught a second time and get hit with another fine, but still you won’t get a criminal record. Third time? Still gonna cost you, plus you’ll have to go through a drug awareness program in order to avoid a criminal case. Fourth time? Still not a crime, but the cops could arrest you if they think you’re out of control, which sounds about right.
With all of that said, this does not mean that cannabis is legal in Israel. It just won’t get you a night in the slammer and a police record. It’s like the no-noise-after-hours law, not a crime, just a fine and don’t bother the neighbors. The police department says that they will only be looking for people using the stuff in public places. Police will no longer enforce any restrictions on marijuana as long as it’s used in the privacy of your home. Up to 15 grams (half an ounce) of marijuana is the limit for personal use. Possessing more than that is still considered intent to distribute and a criminal offense.
If you do get caught in public, money from the fines you pay will go towards education and treatment of drug abuse. Income from fines will also go towards providing police with equipment to test motorists for driving under the influence of pot, which is definitely a crime (and very dangerous) and will get you a criminal record and maybe a night behind bars to sober up.
Kids under the age of 18 caught with pot will not be fined (parents pay anyway). But if they want to avoid a criminal case, minors will have to go to meetings and complete a course on drug awareness. A youth who is caught more than twice gets booked with a crime, and that’s no joke.
The new approach to marijuana will be on trial for three years, and after a review, could become a permanent change to the way police treat the use of recreational cannabis in Israel.
Israel’s university students and young people have been protesting for years to get pot legalized. Moshe Feiglin, chairman of the new Zehut faction, has generated a lot of enthusiasm among the young voters with his party’s platform insisting that recreational marijuana be legalized in the Jewish state. “No one will establish a government in Israel without legalization,” Feiglin contends. And with recent polls estimating that his party will win the minimum of 4 seats necessary to get into the Knesset after the April 9th elections, our young people may be enjoying even greater leniency towards the use of cannabis. And that’s no joke, either.