You can now smoke weed in Israel without worrying about going to jail — that is, unless you really like smoking weed in public.
After a vote in Israeli parliament Sunday, smoking marijuana is no longer a criminal offense in Israel unless you reoffend four times. First-time offenders now earn a $270 fine if caught smoking in public. Selling and growing marijuana will remain criminal offenses, according to Reuters.
The Israeli state, reports Reuters. will now put emphasis on education about the effects of the drug rather than on enforcing the laws criminalizing its use and distribution, according to Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked.
“The government’s approval is an important step on the way to implement the new policy, which will emphasize public information and treatment instead of criminal enforcement,” said Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who Haaretz reports led the reform.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a cautious approval in his statement to the cabinet: “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.”
Israel has been progressive on marijuana for some time. It’s been one of the best countries to conduct research on pot — thanks to government efforts, it’s become a leader in medical marijuana research. And its policies on pot stand out from the more conservative laws in most of its neighbors in the Middle East, where, in some countries, drug trafficking is still punishable by death. While the laws may lag behind in places like Iran, pot use is rising there, without interference from the authorities.
Several European states have recently decriminalized or legalized pot, including Spain, Holland, and, most recently, Germany, which voted on legalization in January.
Here in the United States, 29 states have already legalized marijuana for medical use. Seven states and the District of Columbia have passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana use. But the move toward more lax pot laws may change under Trump. Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing in February that the federal government will push for enforcement of federal laws — which still list pot as an illegal substance — where they come into conflict with state laws.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a longtime anti-pot crusader, said in February at the National Association of Attorney Generals’ Winter Meeting that he fears we could be teetering on the brink of becoming a country in which you can buy pot in every grocery store. Sessions also said he thinks that “real violence” can be attributed to the “current levels of THC in marijuana.”
There are currently 137,000 Americans are behind bars at any given moment on charges of drug possession, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union. That means someone in the United States is arrested for drug possession every 25 seconds.