Photo: Tal Cohen
Bongs sold at kiosk
Photo: Tal Cohen
Jeremy Feldman
Israeli smoking cannabis drug
Jeremy Feldman

Public Defense: Yes to light drugs

Justice Ministry's Public Defense speaks out against laws prohibiting use of bongs for drug consumption. DA, in groundbreaking move, recommends law enforcement stop chasing after cannabis users, focus on large scale dealers

Users of light drugs have discovered support in the most surprising of places: The Public Defense in the Ministry of Justice. For the first time they are calling on law enforcement to tolerate marijuana and hashish users and concentrate their efforts on drug importers and dealers instead.


This recommendation was submitted by deputy of the public defense attorney Dr. Hagit Larnau to the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee in preparation for an upcoming debate over a bill referred to as the 'Bong Law'.


A bong is a popular smoking device amongst marijuana and hashish users and is constructed of a simple bottle filled with a little water and a tube attached to it.


Several months ago the government suggested that the Knesset amend the drug law and prohibit the distributing and possession of the smoking device. The Constitution, Law and Justice Committee is now preparing the government bill for the second and third readings in the Knesset. According to the bill those caught with a bong for personal use will face three years prison time. Those distributing bongs will face a harsher punishment: up to five years imprisonment. The bill is designed to make it more difficult for the many kiosks offering bongs in a variety of shapes and colors to sell them, however the smoking device can easily be made at home.


The bill caused a good deal of controversy within the Ministry of Justice, primarily between the Legislative Department which drafted the bill and the Public Defense Department which opposes it.


In her recommendation to the Constitution, Law and Justice Committee the Public Defense details the 'enforcement paradox': Harsh steps taken against light drug users which often cause greater social damage than benefit. A shortage in light drugs, explains the DA, brings to an increase in drug prices which in turn often leads users to resort to stealing for their drug money.


'Little harm to users'

"The 'enforcement paradox' is that much greater when the issue in question is the use of drugs which cause relatively little harm to users and the nature of which is infrequent and, for the most part, ends with the beginning of serious employment and a person's domestication," writes Dr. Larnau. "The social effect and not the drug use itself," she continues, "which ends up harming individuals. It harms their ability to evolve professionally and economically and become normally integrated in society."


The Public Defense also heavily criticizes Israeli law enforcement: "Instead of ensuring and developing the necessary services needed for education, treatment and welfare, law enforcement chooses to concentrate on expanding criminal law despite the damages this causes," they write, "the result of this policy is dozens of criminal indictments on possession of several grams of cannabis drugs, without any practical wisdom to support it."


The Public Defense claims that in the legal situation created by legislation, it is illegal for a person to be in possession of a bong, but can simply use other devices like a pipe or hookah for drug consumption.


Larnau states that the bill contradicts the policies accepted throughout most of Europe, which do not actively go after light drug users. According to Larnau European countries operate according to policies "Which concentrate efforts on mass importing/exporting and distribution, while taking a tolerant approach of explanation and treatment/rehabilitation towards users and drug cultivators for private use."


פרסום ראשון: 10.23.06, 13:53
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