Israel could legalize adult-use marijuana in nine months under a plan recommended by a government task force charged with evaluating the policy change.

If that happened – and Mexico had not yet implemented its legalization plans – then Israel would become the third country in the world, after Uruguay and Canada, to legalize recreational cannabis at national level.

“The harm of maintaining the current situation in which the purchase of cannabis is a criminal offense, and the policy of decriminalization, is greater than potential benefits of a policy that implements legalization including the regulation of the [cannabis] market,” the task force concluded in its report.

Ayi Nissenkorn, Israel’s Justice Minister, headed up the task force and said draft legislation would be formulated based on its recommendations. If that legislation is passed it could go into effect by the third quarter of 2021.

“It’s time to make progress and legalize cannabis in Israel,” said Nissenkorn. “This is a significant, holistic and responsible reform, which shows the State of Israel isn’t ignoring reality and is going in the footsteps of developed countries.”

The task force’s legal marijuana recommendations, characterized by Nissenkorn as a balance between “liberalism and responsibility,” includes allowing adults 21 and older to buy marijuana from licensed dispensaries for recreational purposes, while public consumption, edibles and marijuana advertising would be prohibited. Home cultivation without a license would also be prohibited although the panel advises looking at this issue in greater detail at a later date. The plan further calls on the state to intervene to “ensure the prices are reasonable” in order to undercut the sales of cannabis on the black market.

Israel has taken a number of steps to reform its marijuana laws in recent years. In 2019 it partially decriminalized marijuana possession, meaning individuals found with marijuana would only be subject to criminal penalties for a fourth offense. The task force argued in its report that decriminalization does not go far enough as it does not lower public health risks and only serves to strengthen the illicit market.

Earlier this year Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out in support of full cannabis legalization and the expungement of low-level marijuana convictions. He said he would look at Canada as a model for Israel’s legalization ambitions, which resulted in the formation of the task force recommending the policy change.

Israel legalized marijuana for medical purposes decades ago. This long-standing foundation and the country’s favorable climate has helped turn Israel into one of the world’s marijuana manufacturing and research powerhouses. To take advantage of its strong position in the global cannabis market, the legislature approved a law last year to allow the export of medical marijuana. Israel also recently overtook Germany to become the world’s leading importer of marijuana.

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