The nation of Israel made headlines yesterday when the government publicly announced that the country will decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana. What a nice way to start the week, right?
Though the bill still has to be approved by Israel's Parliament, all the signs are pointing to a bright and weed-friendly future. Instead of arresting those caught with marijuana, the Israeli police will now impose fines at around $270. With many American states and some European countries also loosening up restrictions and criminal penalties for marijuana use, Israel decided to jump on board and reap the benefits of decriminalizing the widely used drug.
Even though this bill is a giant step forward for the country, the new decriminalization isn't exactly a surprise. Israel has been know, since the 1960s, as a hub for medical marijuana research and psychological testing. Israel Prize winner Raphael Mechoulam was actually the first person to discover and isolated the THC molecule. Medical marijuana has been legal in the country since 1992 and about 25,000 of the country's 8.5 million citizens already have medical marijuana cards. Now that the drug is completely decriminalized, that number is only expected to go up.
The government, unlike in many other decriminalized states, is leading the charge in finding effective distribution, research, and consumption models for cannabis. The Volcani Center, the Ministry of Agriculture's research organization, is building a national institution for medical marijuana research to be completed mid-2017. The Ministry of Economy has infused millions of shekels into marijuana companies in the country while setting standards for cultivation, storage, and use of medical marijuana. It's almost as if the Israeli government wants their medical institutions to succeed. It honestly looks like they will.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wants to make it clear, though, that marijuana will not be legal. “On the one hand, we are opening ourselves up to the future. On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two.” Even though using the substance is decriminalized, growing and selling marijuana will continue to be strictly illegal outside of government regulated medical clinics.
As Israel begins its takeover of the global medical marijuana industry, the rest of the world will just have to stand and watch as their neighbor racks up the cash. Hopefully, Israel's latest move towards decriminalization will inspire other countries to do the same.