The general elections of next April 9 in Israel may have an unforeseen and major issue that may affect who wins the election: marijuana. The legalization of marijuana has now become a hot topic in an electoral campaign that until now was dominated mainly by conflict, corruption and the economy.
Although these issues continue to dictate the nature of the race, in recent weeks the legalization of marijuana for recreational consumption has become quite an important issue for the voters.
Not only has it slipped into the public conversation but many candidates have seen the need to address this issue themselves up to the extent to add legalization into their electoral campaigns.
The one responsible for generating such a debate is Moshe Feiglin,the leader of the right-wing party Zehut. Legalization is a campaign promise that has helped him climb in the polls.
After an unspectacular start, Zehut began to climb positions and pundits attribute it to legalization of marijuana. According to recent polls, Zehut now has the necessary votes to enter the next Knesset, with at least four seats.
Zehut’s astonishing rise has led big-name candidates to address the issue, who are also trying to attract those voters who prioritize its legalization over other issues.
The most surprising statement, was made by Prime Minister and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who, while not clearly expressed his position on the matter, did not want to be left out either. Asked for his opinion, he said he was thinking about it and assured that allowing legal consumption “is a possibility”.
Zehut could help Likud to form a government, but has already warned that it will not be part of a coalition that does not support legalization. It get’s complicated as, another far-right party and potential ally of Netanyahu, the Jewish Force (Otzma Yehudit), has promised the opposite, that it will not participate in a pro-legalization coalition.
This could complicate the negotiations for the formation of a government in a country with a highly fragmented Parliament of 120 deputies where the majority party does not usually exceed 35.
In Israel, the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes was first approved in 1999, and this year the export of medical marijuana was authorized.
At the moment recreational use is penalized with fines of around 250 and 500 euros for the first two infractions and community work for a third, but without generating a criminal record.
Israel is one of the countries with a great index of marijuana consumption, according to studies, 50 percent of the population reported to have smoked at least once and more than 70 percent are in favor of its legalization.