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Israeli Committee Clears Path To Marijuana Decriminalization

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A key committee in Israel gave the green light to votes on a bill that would partially decriminalize marijuana on Monday.

The bill would impose fines, rather than criminal penalties, on individuals who possess or consume cannabis. First-time offenders would be fined 1,000 shekels ($275), second-time offenders would face a 2,000 shekel ($550) fine and third-time offenders would be given an option of admitting fault and paying a higher fine or completing community service—or they could ask to be sentenced. Any additional violations would be considered criminal offenses.

There is a caveat to the three-strikes rule, however. There’s a five-year window after each offense—so if you’re caught possessing cannabis more than five years after your first offense, for example, it will count as a first offense again.

The bill will not apply to minors, soldiers, prisoners or individuals convicted of other criminal charges, Arutz Sheva 7 reported.

The Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee unanimously approved votes on second and third readings of the bill on Monday. It will now head back for a full Knesset vote later this week. (The bill passed unanimously during its first reading in March).

According to a government press release, concerns laid out by lawmakers and law enforcement officials were rejected by the committee. Some lawmakers argued that the fines were too steep and the five-year window between offenses ought to be shortened. Others, including committee chair Elie Elalouf (Kulanu), voiced concerns about the lack of judicial discretion provided to courts when it comes to marijuana-related convictions.

“I fear that due to the fine amount and the lack of feasibility of exercising discretion, the judges will decide not to convict the defendant at all,” Elalouf said.

The head of Israel’s “Green Leaf” party, Oren Leibovitz, said that Israel was “on the way to complete legalization.” That message evoked a warning from Yoel Hadar, the legal advisor to the Ministry of the Public Security, who said that if the decriminalization bill was exploited and “transformed into a tool for legalization,” the government might not extend the law.

The way the bill is currently written, marijuana decriminalization would be treated as a three-year pilot program, after which the government will determine whether or not to continue the policy.

The current status of marijuana in Israel

Israel is known globally as a leader in cannabis research. It was one of the first countries to permit medical marijuana, with at least 30,000 registered patients currently enrolled in its program. While recreational marijuana use remains illegal, some like Leibovitz view the decriminalization bill as a step toward full legalization.

The country had a plan to export its medical cannabis—a plan that would have generated over $1 billion per year, according to one estimate—but it was derailed earlier this year. There have been several reports stating that opposition from the Trump administration was the deciding factor for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“Netanyahu told the heads of the ministries he ordered the freeze after receiving a call about the issue of exporting marijuana from Trump, who is against its legalization,” The Times of Israel reported in February.

Here’s When Canada’s Legal Marijuana Sales Will Begin

Photo courtesy of Tiia Monto.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

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Trump Says Marijuana Makes People “Lose IQ Points” In Secret Recording

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President Trump could be heard saying that using marijuana makes people “lose IQ points” in a secretly recorded conversation released on Saturday.

“In Colorado they have more accidents,” the president said in the clip captured by Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump attorney Rudolph Giuliani, who is at the center of the Ukraine scandal that led to the president’s impeachment. “It does cause an IQ problem.”

Please visit Forbes to read the rest of this piece.

(Marijuana Moment’s editor provides some content to Forbes via a temporary exclusive publishing license arrangement.)

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Austin Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Will Continue Despite City Council Vote

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Chief Brian Manley said he would continue to enforce marijuana laws the day after the city council unanimously approved stopping arrests and tickets for low-level cases.

By , The Texas Tribune

The day after the Austin City Council approved a resolution to stop arresting or ticketing people for most low-level marijuana possession offenses, the police chief made clear he had no plans to do so.

“[Marijuana] is still illegal, and we will still enforce marijuana law if we come across people smoking in the community,” Chief Brian Manley said during a news conference Friday afternoon.

Though cracking down on those in possession of small amounts of marijuana has never been a priority for the department, he said, police will continue to either issue tickets under the city’s “cite-and-release” policy or arrest people if officers “come across it.”

The difference, according to City Council member and resolution sponsor Greg Casar, is that the council’s move now guarantees those actions will come with no penalty. Tickets will be meaningless pieces of paper and any arrests will result in a quick release with no charges accepted from prosecutors, he told The Texas Tribune after the news conference.

“What has changed since yesterday is that enforcement, almost in virtually all cases, is now handing someone a piece of paper with no penalty or no court date,” Casar said.

The move by the City Council came as a direct result from Texas’ new hemp law which complicated marijuana prosecution across the state. Last summer, when lawmakers legalized hemp, they also changed the definition of marijuana from cannabis to cannabis that contains more than 0.3% THC, the psychoactive ingredient in the plant.

Many prosecutors, including those in Austin’s Travis County, now won’t accept pot cases based on look and smell alone, requiring lab testing to determine THC levels before accepting a case. Such testing is not yet available in public crime labs, though some counties and cities have spent money to obtain test results from private labs.

The council’s resolution prohibited using city funds or personnel to conduct such testing in non-felony marijuana cases. It also directed the elimination, to the furthest extent possible, of arrests or citations for cannabis possession. As Manley also noted, the resolution clarifies it can’t technically decriminalize marijuana, since that is state law.

The resolution gave the city manager until May 1 to report back to the council on how police were trained in this new resolution, and Casar said he hopes Manley reviews his policies before then.

Manley said in the news conference that he would continue to review the resolution, as well as police policies.

But, he assured, “a City Council does not have the authority to tell a police department not to enforce a state law.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Austin City Council Approves Measure To End Most Marijuana Arrests

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Andrew Yang Wants To Legalize Psychedelic Mushrooms For Military Veterans

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Andrew Yang says he wants to legalize psilocybin mushrooms for military veterans to help them combat mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

During a town hall event at an Iowa college on Thursday, the 2020 Democratic presidential candidate was asked whether he would take initiative and allow veterans to access medical marijuana if elected. Yang replied he “will be so excited to be that commander-in-chief” that he would not only end federal cannabis prohibition but would go one step further by legalizing the psychedelic fungus for veterans as well.

“We need to get marijuana off of the Controlled Substances Act and legalize it at the federal level, make it freely available,” he said. “I say this because I’ve talked to hundreds of veterans and other Americans who benefit from marijuana as a pain relief treatment, and it’s much less deadly than the opiates that many, many people are using for the same conditions.”

“I’ve talked to veterans who’ve also benefited from psilocybin mushrooms,” he added. “They said it was the only thing that actually has helped combat their PTSD. I’m for legalizing psilocybin mushrooms for veterans as well. Pretty much if it’s going to help a veteran, we should make it easier, not harder, for them to get access to it.”

Yang’s drug policy reform platform is unique in that respect. While the majority of Democratic candidates support marijuana legalization, he’s pushed unique proposals such as decriminalizing possession of opioids and making psilocybin mushrooms “more freely available” for therapeutic purposes. The candidate also wants to invest federal funds in safe injection facilities where individuals can use prohibited drugs in a medically supervised environment and receive help getting into treatment.

He hasn’t gone so far as embracing the decriminalization of all drugs, as former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg has, however.

That said, Yang did signal that he’s open to legalizing and regulating “certain drugs” beyond cannabis, which he argued would disrupt international drug cartels. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) recently said she backs “legalizing and regulating” currently illegal controlled substances to protect public safety and combat the illicit market.

At the Iowa town hall, Yang went on to say that he’s particularly interested in legalizing marijuana, and he again pledged to “pardon everyone who’s in jail for a non-violent marijuana-related offense because they shouldn’t be in jail for something that’s frankly legal in other parts of the country.”

“And I would pardon them all on April 20, 2021, high-five them on the way out of jail and be like, ‘things got a lot better in the last year,'” he said, referencing the unofficial cannabis holiday 4/20.

Tom Steyer Calls For Marijuana Legalization And Opioid Decriminalization

Photo element courtesy of Gage Skidmore.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Andrew_Yang_(48571382196).jpg

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