Israel plans to decriminalise personal marijuana use, Gilad Erdan, the nation’s Public Security Minister, said on Thursday, adopting an approach similar to some US states and European countries.
Mr Erdan said that if the Government approves his new policy, those caught smoking marijuana would be fined rather than arrested and prosecuted. Criminal procedures would be launched only against those caught repeatedly.
“Police will be able to redirect resources … away from normative personal users and focus instead on dangerous drugs,” he told a news conference in Tel Aviv.
Marijuana use is fairly common in Israel. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has said that almost 9 per cent of Israelis use cannabis.
According to data presented to Parliament by the Internal Security Ministry in December, enforcement against personal marijuana users has dropped by 30 per cent since 2010.
Figures presented to the Justice Ministry showed only 188 people were arrested in 2015 for smoking marijuana, a 56 per cent drop since 2010.
If the new policy is approved by the Government, it will take effect within three months, Mr Erdan said.
In the US, 28 states have legalised marijuana for medical use and since 2012, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington DC have also approved marijuana for recreational use.
Israel is one of the world leaders in medical marijuana research, and about 10,000 people have a licence to use the drug for medicinal purposes.