A new bill decriminalizing cannabis use in Israel has been approved

decriminalizing cannabis use in Israel
A general view shows the plenum as Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening of the winter session of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, in Jerusalem, Oct. 31, 2016. (File image via Reuters)

A reduction in the penalties for illegal marijuana use has been approved by the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare and Health Committee.

The bill stipulates that offenders will be fined for the first and second offense but will be charged on the third offense with a three-strikes rule, the Jewish Press reported.

The three-strikes rule gives a five-year window, meaning if people were caught possessing cannabis more than five years after their first offense, it will count as a first offense again.

Some lawmakers are opposed to the five-year window provisioned, adding that the amount to be fined is too steep.

Committee chairman, Elie Elaouf, was expressed concern over the lack of discretion proposed to courts when it comes to marijuana-related convictions.

“I fear that due to the fine amount and the lack of feasibility of exercising discretion, the judges will decide not to convict the defendant at all.”

There will be some exclusions to the bill as it will not apply to minors, soldiers, prisoners or individuals convicted of another criminal charge.

Neray Ben Ami, a Knesset Member, said approving the new bill is the first positive step in changing public perception on cannabis.

“An important first step that the Knesset is implementing in a transparent and positive manner.”

Although the bill makes it harder to prosecute people, many have still been able to find flaws, stating that there will be issues between police and civilians.

Oren Leibovitz, head of the Green Leaf Party in Israel, said this law will not be beneficial.

“This is a bad law; whose sole purpose is to make the punishment more severe and to make the police enforcement easier.”

However, Homeland Security Minister Gilad Erdan has applauded the new bill as the new law will prevent unnecessary incarceration.

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