Israeli cannabis legalization bill passes early test, but long road remains

Israel’s Legislature advanced two cannabis-related bills this week, marking an important milestone on what is expected to be a long road before the measures can become law.

The first bill focuses on decriminalization. The second bill would legalize cannabis for individuals 21 or older.

The bills are now in committee, where they are highly likely to see significant amendments before being returned to the Knesset for further debate.

If the draft bills ultimately become law – separately or a merged version – they would create a legal foundation for an adult-use cannabis industry.

“This is the closest we’ve ever been to legalizing cannabis,” Oren Lebovitch, editor of Israeli Cannabis Magazine, told Marijuana Business Daily in a phone interview.

He said the bill paving the way for adult-use commercialization faces a longer approval process that could stretch into 2021 and potentially longer.

The CEO of IM Cannabis, one of the first Israeli-based medical cannabis companies, said the early legislative victory marks an important milestone.

“I expect the first phase to be the complete decriminalization of cannabis consumption, in which users will not be subjected to a criminal record or administrative fines,” Oren Shuster said via email.

“This will be followed by broader all-encompassing legalization, but this is not something that will happen overnight.

“Full legalization is a much longer and more complex process with changes to public policy that impact various ministries and legislation.”

Though the bills are at an early stage, Shuster expects to see an increase in demand for medical cannabis as stigma becomes less of a deterrent.

“It is likely we will see more patients considering and accessing medical cannabis treatment, but this will be a long process that will take at least two years,” he said.

To read the draft laws in Hebrew, click here and here.