• Laura Herschlag

Does Israel's New Government Support Nonmedical Cannabis?

Despite the premonitions of a last minute hitch, Israel's new government was sworn in as planned, bringing with it a cadre of idealists and activists. The new government is likely the most diverse this country has ever seen, consisting of conservatives and liberals, representatives of every stream of Judaism, secular individuals, devout Muslims, and everything in between. Among the coalition platform promises that are getting attention, the what-to-do-about-cannabis issue is front and center.

Israel may have one of the most advanced medical cannabis programs in the world but it is far behind in the CBD market. A few days ago (June 15), a popular radio program, "It Will be OK", addressed the topic. A listener who called in related that he had been suffering for years from chronic shoulder pain that was relieved when he took CBD oil on an overseas trip. A former policeman, he set out to determine the legality of CBD in Israel only to discover that, although widely available to Israelis on the internet, CBD is in fact not yet legal.

Two experts were brought in to provide scientific and regulatory substance to the conversation. The first was the esteemed and renown Professor Dedi Meiri who set the record straight on the current law and also provided an overview of the medical benefits of cannabis. The professor was followed by MK Sharren Heskel of the New Hope party who sponsored a bill to legalize CBD in 2019. Heskel reviewed the three topics regarding cannabis that are in the coalition's platform: decriminalization, medical cannabis, and legalization of non-THC cannabinoids within the government's first 100 days.

Within the new government there is wide support for the above goals. Those in favor include:

  • Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) – Minister of Health

  • Omer Barlev (Labor) – Minister of Public Security

  • Gideon Sa’ar (New Hope) – Minister of Justice

  • Ram Shefa (Labor) – Chair, Special Committee for Dealing With Drugs and Alcohol

  • Abir Kara (Yemina) – Alternate Member, Finance Committee

On the opposite side of the scale are:

  • Naftali Bennett (Yemina) – Prime Minister

  • Ayelet Shaked (Yemina) – Minister of the Interior

  • Idit Silman (Yemina) – Alternate Member, Finance Committee; Alternate Member, Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee

As Minister of the Interior, Shaked has veto power on any laws that are passed by the Knesset. However, the delicate balance of power on which the coalition is based will make it difficult for Yemina to veto laws that are widely supported by the rest of the coalition partners. As week #1 of Israel's new government comes to a close, with the Gaza border once again heating up, let's hope that the government is able to stay focused on its 100 day objectives.

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