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Is Marijuana Legal in Israel?

Israel flag with a hand holding a marijuana infront of it

Officially, it is illegal to possess or use cannabis in Israel.

Currently, the only exception is cannabis for specified medical use and pain-related illnesses, which the country has permitted since the 1990s. Only authorized professionals, such as pharmacists or doctors, can prescribe medical marijuana to patients.

Israel’s non-medical cannabis laws are strict about selling, supplying, or trafficking drugs. At the same time, marijuana is partially decriminalized for personal use in possession of 15 grams or less, with a fine in place for first offenses.

Full marijuana legalization in Israel has been on the table in recent years, although plans failed to pass due to changes in government.

Medical Marijuana Laws in Israel

Israel has one of the world’s largest medical marijuana markets. The Israeli government formally legalized medicinal cannabis in 1999.

However, it wasn’t until 2007 that the Israeli Ministry of Health introduced an official medicinal cannabis policy in which patients receive medicine for free from licensed non-profit facilities.

Israel also issued the world’s first license to breed and grow medical marijuana to Tikun Olam, now a leading cannabis supplier in Israel and the U.S.

Today, more than 120,000 people in Israel access medicinal cannabis legally via a government-issued permit for specific medical usage and pain-related illnesses, such as:

Currently, patients in Israel must follow specific steps to obtain a medical cannabis permit:

  1. A patient requests the permit from a specialist (not a family doctor) who completes the application on behalf of the patient.
  2. A senior doctor at the Ministry of Health’s Medical Cannabis Unit reviews the application and approves or declines the request.
  3. Approved patients work directly with the medicinal cannabis supplier to acquire treatments, including THC and CBD products.

However, in August 2022, the government issued new regulations allowing physicians to prescribe cannabis directly and distribute it through pharmacies. If passed, the new law would make it much easier for medical patients to access cannabis.

What to Know About About Medical Cannabis in Israel

The medical cannabis industry in Israel is prevalent among its citizens, reaching an all-time high of 123,000 in April.

Israel is also a global leader in medical cannabis research and innovation. For example, the late Professor Raphael Mechoulam of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was the first to identify and isolate THC in 1964, sparking an entire medicinal industry from his team’s work.

Prof. Mechoulam and his team at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem were also instrumental in discovering anandamide, 2-AG, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and furthering our understanding of the structure of various cannabinoids.

Israel’s terrain is suitable terrain for marijuana cultivation. Still, this middle eastern nation imports more medical cannabis products than any country worldwide.

Israel Cannabis Acceptance

Marijuana is the most widely accepted drug in the country, with Israelis inhaling the most weed per capita in the world. A survey in 2017 found that 27% of Israelis between the ages of 18 and 65 consumed cannabis in the past year.

Cannabis use has been socially permissible in Israel for decades despite its illegal status. People openly roll joints and smoke at patio tables in cities like Tel Aviv, and police often ignore the infractions.

However, the authorities usually take a stricter approach in less metropolitan places like Galilee and southern Israel.

Legalization and Decriminalization Efforts

Israel has permitted limited cannabis use for medicinal purposes since the 1990s. Still, the Public Security Ministry didn’t effectively decriminalize cannabis use until 2017. Since then, politicians have made several attempts to change marijuana’s legal status.

  • April 2019: A temporary order revised penalties for possessing a “small amount” of cannabis for personal use (under 15 grams) from criminal punishments to fines.
  • June 2020: The government introduced a bill stating people can possess up to 50 grams of cannabis without appearing on their criminal records.
  • Early 2021: The bill didn’t pass, so hundreds of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv to protest for cannabis legalization and reforms in the medicinal market.
  • August 2022: Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar released a draft of new regulations to decriminalize recreational marijuana, replacing the temporary order from 2019.

Although decriminalized, the Israeli parliament has yet to legalize recreational cannabis use.

Israel Cannabis Penalties

Except for medical use, Israel prohibits consuming or selling any parts of the cannabis plant, excluding the oil extracted from its seeds. Offenders can face fines and prison time, depending on the amount and circumstance:

  • Possession penalties: Around $275 fine for a first-time offense, doubled for a second offense. A third offense could result in a criminal investigation or losing a driving or gun license.
  • Selling, trafficking, importing, or exporting penalties: Up to 20 years in prison or a fine of approximately $1.5 million. Aggravating circumstances (for example, supplying to a minor) can increase prison time to 25 years.

Can You Grow Cannabis in Israel?

According to the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance, cultivating cannabis in Israel is a serious offense.

Section 6 states that “a person shall not grow a dangerous drug, manufacture it, produce it, distribute it, prepare it, or create it from a different substance, except under license.” So selling or growing marijuana plants can result in a prison sentence of up to 20 years in Israel.

However, in 2017, the police prosecution department issued an order stating that it would treat growing cannabis in small amounts in a private residence as a minor violation and not a serious offense.

The Bottom Line

Israel was one of the first countries to research marijuana’s health benefits and establish a medical marijuana market. Although recreational marijuana is technically illegal, cannabis use is common throughout Israel, and the government passed regulations in recent years to decriminalize it for personal use.