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Israeli government to vote Sunday on de-criminalizing personal marijuana use

An Israeli agricultural engineer inspects marijuana plants at the BOL (Breath Of Life) Pharma greenhouse in the country's second-largest medical cannabis plantation, near Kfar Pines in northern Israel
Jack Guez (AFP)
Persons caught with up to 15 grams of cannabis would receive a fine, rather than face criminal charges

The Israeli government is expected to vote Sunday to decriminalize marijuana use, in a move that would make Israel, already at the forefront of medical marijuana research, the first country in the Middle East or Africa to decriminalize the substance.

A proposal by the Ministries of Public Security and Justice would see persons caught possessing up to 15 grams of cannabis receive a fine, with criminal charges being brought only as a "last resort."

"The goal of the plan is to prevent significant harm to regular people who have no criminal past," Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said introducing the proposal last month.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked welcomed the initiative, saying: "This is a milestone so thousands of ordinary people will no longer be considered criminals."

Currently, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in Israel and the use and distribution of medical marijuana is highly regulated, but the government is much less rigid when it comes to cannabis research.

Israeli cannabis growers collaborate with scientific institutions to perform clinical trials and develop cannabis strains to treat a range of diseases.

Last year, Israeli doctors prescribed cannabis to about 25,000 patients suffering from cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress and degenerative diseases.

American firms have invested around $50 million in licensing Israeli medical marijuana patents, cannabis agro-tech start-ups, and other companies developing cannabis technologies, as scientists struggle to navigate the government red-tape surrounding marijuana research in the US.

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