Israel has officially decriminalized recreational cannabis use! From now on, individuals found using cannabis in a public place will be subject to a simple fine of 1000 shekels ($270). Police can no longer instigate criminal proceedings for first, second or even third-time offenses – an individual must re-offend no less than FOUR times to have criminal proceedings started against them.
Just to clarify – the $270 fine is just for first-time offenders. If you are caught a second time, the fine doubles. A third time, and you get put on probation for a short time. Compared to the laws of many other countries, this is definitely a step in the right direction – but many are still questioning why simple cannabis use deserves to be punished at all.
I spent several days in Tel Aviv last year, meeting some of the most innovative and productive individuals in the global cannabis industry today. One thing that was very quickly made apparent is that almost everyone in Tel Aviv smokes cannabis!
On a evening out visiting local bars and clubs, we observed dozens of people openly smoking and passing joints around the tables, with absolutely no signs of disapproval from the waitress in attendance. I was very surprised to find this, as I have lived in several extremely pro-cannabis cities (including Amsterdam and Barcelona) and experienced FAR more disapproval for smoking weed.
Acceptance of cannabis use really does seem to be the norm in Israel, and arrests for public smoking were reportedly very rare even before the passing of the new decriminalization law. So while this law is a definite positive step, it may not make all that much difference to the average Israeli.
Israel has been making gigantic strides forward in cannabis legislation, research and development in recent years. In fact, the country pioneered cannabis research, as the legendary Dr Raphael Mechoulam hails from Israel, and has been researching cannabis there since the 1960s. So this recent announcement marks yet another milestone on the road to full legitimacy and acceptance – and should pave the way for research and industry to become ever smoother and free of obstacles.
We spoke to Saul Kaye, co-founder of iCAN, a prominent startup accelerator focusing on cannabis ventures, to hear his opinion on the new law. Kaye told us:
“This will help to encourage entrepreneurs and investors in a space that was stigmatized and ridiculed. This is going to be a big industry creating thousands of jobs in Israel.”