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Panel Calls for Relaxation, Not Legalization, of Drug Laws

The legalization of marijuana and hashish was debated on television by a special Knesset panel this week.

The group of experts, appointed by the Knesset Committee on the War Against Drugs, said Parliament should relax laws surrounding the drugs, made from the cannabis plant.

But the panel did not recommend making the plant legal, saying it was a political decision. Given prevailing attitudes in Israel, they said, passage of such a law seemed unlikely.

While appearing on the round-table television show, “Popolitica,” the experts also called for making a distinction between marijuana and hashish and harder drugs. The experts maintained that marijuana does not have the same detrimental effect on people as harder drugs. The addictive effects of marijuana are less than those for alcohol or nicotine, they said.

“I am against legitimizing drugs and removing the cannabis plant from the list of illegal drugs,” said the head of the panel, Rafi Meshulam.

“I don’t think that every problem has to be dealt with tanks and artillary. The cannabis plant does not cause serious damage to people.

Among other conclusions by the panel: Stiffer penalties should be handed down to dealers selling cocaine, heroin and amphetamines, an effort to prevent use of stronger drugs. Young people found to be smoking marijuana should undergo counseling. A committee should be set up by the Health Ministry, which would have the authority to approve use of the drug for medical purposes.

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