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Israeli Army to Scale Down Penalties for Marijuana Use

Soldiers will be able to smoke up to five times while on leave.

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Israel continues to blaze the trail for progressive marijuana reform, as its army will drop its rigid punishments for marijuana and adopt a newer, more lenient policy towards soldiers that test positive for marijuana. Israelis soldiers that currently test positive for marijuana are subject to being court-martialed and face up to two months in jail.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are softening their stance on soldiers that are caught with marijuana or hashish and the new policy, which goes into effect on January 1st, 2017, will allow soldiers to smoke marijuana up to five times while on leave. However, the new rule applies only to soldiers in compulsory service, and not to officers or non-commissioned officers (NCOs).

 “We are offering soldiers the chance to continue their service normally and not be imprisoned and hindered by a criminal record in civilian life,” IDF Major General Danny Efroni told Army Radio.

According to the Military Prosecutor's office, the policy has drained resources and is not effective, as it brands marijuana users as criminals. Estimates suggest that  40 to 50 percent of military police intelligence resources are wasted on investigating drug crimes and last year 128 Israeli soldiers were prosecuted for using narcotics.

Marijuana would still be banned, but a loophole would give soldiers the chance to get their case closed or have the charges for consuming marijuana while on leave dropped altogether. Soldiers caught with marijuana would be subject to providing a urine sample once a month for a one-year probationary period instead of facing criminal charges.

“The army wants to give a second chance to soldiers who want to complete a proper military service and to return to the right path,” the military said in a statement. The IDF is also now planning on sending on-duty soldiers that provide a dirty urine sample to rehabilitation instead of pursuing criminal penalties.

Currently, marijuana is only medicinally legal in Israel, and Army commanders will still have the power to impose harsher penalties at their own discretion.

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