JERUSALEM — Israel, which has been at the forefront of research into medical marijuana and the drug’s commercialization, took a major step on Sunday toward officially decriminalizing its recreational use.
At a time when many American states and European countries are loosening marijuana laws, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan that would impose fines rather than criminal penalties on those caught using the drug in public.
Growing and selling marijuana, which is widely used here recreationally and medicinally, would remain illegal.
“On the one hand, we are opening ourselves up to the future,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the cabinet. “On the other hand, we understand the dangers and will try to balance the two.”
The decision still requires the approval of Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset.
Until the decision on Sunday, people charged with marijuana use could face heavy fines and even incarceration, though the official policy in recent years effectively amounted to decriminalization. There were fewer than 200 arrests in 2015. [Read more at the New York Times]