Hope for Israel and Marijuana Legislation

Israel may be one of the leading countries in the legalization of medicinal marijuana gaining respect from scientist Bill Nye, who says his own country, America, has a lot to learn from them. But even though the country is making great strides in cannabis, it still has a way to go before it can be considered a totally progressive country where medical marijuana can be openly traded and exported.

Marijuana law in Israel

Recreational marijuana still remains illegal in Israel, as it is in so many countries around the globe. But unlike those countries, cannabis may become decriminalized, which means that there is a good chance that those caught with it would not face jail times.

israel-marijuana-legislationIt was Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation that is pushing forward legislation to decriminalize. Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is trying to get new legislation passed. Under it, those found with personal use would face a maximum fine of 1,000 shekels, or $282 for a first offense. Upon second offense that find would be doubled and if a person was caught a third time, they would be placed on a mandatory probation period. Only if the same person is caught four times with cannabis for personal use would they face jail time.

However, marijuana is not to be consumed in public. Doing even this could cause someone to be charged with a crime and face more serious consequences, as would selling or trafficking the plant.

The proposal hasn’t been made officially law just yet, but Erdan is very hopeful for what it would mean for legalization efforts in the country. And most Israeli political parties have been in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical purposes for several years.

Marijuana Legislation Process

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One of the reasons that Bill Nye stated that Israel was way ahead of the curve when it comes to marijuana legalization is due to the fact that Israel has opened the doors on research and development of cannabis.

This is much different than the United States, which has kept marijuana as a Schedule I drug. That classification means that the drug is considered so dangerous, that it can’t even be researched to see if there are any benefits that could be derived from it; which of course, there are. Israel lifted these restrictions several years ago, and the local industry has started to boom because of it.

But that doesn’t mean that Israel is moving in the direction everyone wants, or that there’s no room for improvement. In early February Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspended reforms that would allow marijuana growers to export their medicinal marijuana. His concern was that if those reforms were removed, marijuana could get onto the black market.

But those in the Israeli industry aren’t planning on simply waiting for the government to relax its reforms. Medical marijuana advocates plan on going to court just as officials in the government are debating the export policy in the country.

The decision will be an important one, as dozens of marijuana producers, manufacturers, and investors have created massive facilities and spent millions of dollars in the hopes of exporting the marijuana out of the country. And some of those in the industry still intend to go ahead with their plans even though the reforms have not been passed yet.

The concern is not only that those in the country won’t be able to export their product, but also that those in the industry won’t be able to support themselves if the reforms are delayed any longer. Many think that it’s really an issue of when the reforms get passed, not if, and even marijuana industry officials are certain that they will eventually win their case. But until that time, it could be difficult for many people.

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It’s frustrating, says one lawyer for producers in the industry, that they can obtain all of their licenses with the exception of their exporting license. With only medical marijuana being decriminalized in the country, and with exports offering such a prosperous opportunity for so many, producers are so close, but just not there as of yet.

Others say that the delay is necessary because just like any other country, Israel has to be certain that when medical marijuana is legal to be exported, it’s only going to country where legislation is already in effect.

For the time being however, there’s no doubt that Israel’s laws surrounding medical marijuana are helping those within the country. A recent episode of Netflix’s “Bill Nye Saves the World” showed how the largest marijuana farm in the country, Tikun Olam, is licensed by the Israeli government. It’s this exact collaboration between the government and the private sector that is what America can learn from, says Bill Nye. And it’s this kind of progressive action that is helping patients in Israel with serious diseases such as cancer, Crohn’s disease, PTSD, and Parkinson’s disease.

And patients in America could be helped too, if only the U.S. government would change the classification of the drug so that it could help American patients as well.

As Bill Nye said in the episode, “It’s literally easier to study meth” than it is to study medical marijuana in the United States, and that’s just not right. Israel knows it, which is why today it’s becoming known as one of the leading countries in the marijuana industry.

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