It probably won’t create peace in the Middle East but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
The Israeli army has announced it plans to loosen the rules on soldiers caught using cannabis while off duty and doing away with automatic court-martials.
The country’s current rules also allow for Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers caught with cannabis to be given jail sentences of up to two months. They are also branded with a criminal record, hurting their chances of employment after returning to civilian life.
The new policy, set to take effect on January 1, will still allow for a soldier to be charged for smoking cannabis even while off duty, but will provide an easy loophole to get the case closed or charges dropped, Haaretz reported, claiming that soldiers will be allowed to be caught smoking cannabis up to five times.
The accused soldier would be forced to provide urine samples once a month while on a one-year probation period and exhibit remorse.
All non-Arab Israeli citizens over the age of 18 are required to do military service, with an average length of for men of two years and eight months and for women two years. The new rule will only apply to soldiers in compulsory service, not to officers or non-commissioned officers and only when they are off duty. A ban on smoking cannabis or using other drugs while on base will remain in force, and those found to be selling will also continue to be prosecuted.
The Military Prosecutor’s office says the current strict policy has not proven to be effective, noting that resources would be better spent on rehabilitating soldiers rather than putting them in a military prison. Nearly half of military police resources were reportedly being spent on investigating drug-related concerns, and a total of 128 soldiers were prosecuted last year.
The use of cannabis is illegal in Israel except for medical purposes.