Israel to expunge 40,000 cannabis convictions, implement Canadian-style legalization

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Israel wants to be a little more like Canada.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu tweeted on Sunday that he will be expunging the criminal records of vast amounts of Israelis who had been caught with cannabis and modelling its budding industry after Canada’s, according to The Jerusalem Post.

“I examined the matter and decided to advance the erasure of criminal records of tens of thousands of Israelis for personal use and possession (of cannabis), something that causes unnecessary suffering to many and is a burden on the courts,” he wrote on the social media site.

“(Justice) Minister (Amir) Ohana began work on the issue and will lead a committee which will include (medical and legal) professionals… to examine introducing the Canadian model to regulate a legal (cannabis) market in Israel.”

Israel has already partially decriminalized marijuana and leverages fines and treatment on offenders instead of turning to criminal prosecution. It also regulates and allows use of the drug for medical purposes.

The country’s Green Party said it was pleased to hear the government would be taking legalization efforts even further. “I think this is something that should have been done a long time ago, and I appreciate the prime minister, who paid attention, met with me, heard me and made the right decision,” party leader Oren Leibovich told The Jerusalem Post.

“Personally, for me, it is about closing a circle,” said Leibovich, who will act in an advisory capacity to the committee. His party, which advocates for the full legalization of the drug, has never won a seat in Parliament.

“I embarked on this struggle exactly 10 years ago and I believe that this week we made a significant step on the path to a legal cannabis market in Israel. I just hope that a government will come into being and we will not have to go through another election, for the fourth time in a row, so that the promise will also be implemented.”

Israel will hold its third general election in the past year next week after the previous two ended in a deadlock. Regardless of what the future holds, Leibovich said the forthcoming expungement efforts are a victory unto itself.

“A criminal record is something that destroys people’s lives for no wrongdoing,” he said. “Over 40,000 citizens can now apply to the justice department and it will be approved. After the election, a committee will be formed to examine how to apply the legalization of cannabis in Israel, similar to Canada’s model.”

Recreational and medical marijuana are both legal in Canada and adults are free to carry up to 30 grams of the drug and grow up to four plants (per household) for personal use.

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