An estimated 1,000 Israelis attended a rally in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Saturday night to support the legalization of marijuana. As the crowd chanted phrases like "The people demand legal marijuana," the speakers at the rally sought to frame pot smoking as part of Israel’s national culture, as a unifying factor among the country’s disparate groups and even as a security issue. Medical marijuana, which is hard for patients to receive permission to access, was central to the rally. (See also: Cabinet approves Health Ministry rules on medical marijuana)
Israel's Health Ministry has expressed opposition to granting general practitioners the right to prescribe medical marijuana. Instead, the ministry will certify 10 doctors during the first half of 2014, allowing them to prescribe medicinal marijuana to the growing number of patients who currently use it. These 10, newly certified doctors will join the 20 doctors currently permitted by the Health Ministry to prescribe the drug.
A study by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies showed that if marijuana were legalized and taxed at a similar rate to cigarettes, it would yield about NIS 950 million (268 million USD) in taxes, while it could save the state the NIS 700 million (198 million USD) on enforcement every year. In a public opinion survey on marijuana legalization whose results are analyzed in the paper, only 26% of Israelis support legalization, while 64% opposes it. A large majority (75%) believe marijuana has legitimate medical uses.
While Israel moved away from the far right in last month’s elections, the new coalition is unlikely to alter the occupation. Change may come from divestment campaigns, the new UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, and in the Israeli and Palestinian campaigns of nonviolent resistance.
Hagel’s nomination engendered bitter, angry opposition from the moment it was floated as a trial balloon. And the fact that Obama went ahead with the nomination is a good indication that on at least some critical foreign policy issues, Obama is not prepared to allow either the pro-Israeli lobbies or the hard-core neoconservatives, in and outside of Washington, to determine whom he could and could not choose as Secretary of Defense.
Today the Plurinational State of Bolivia can celebrate a rightful victory, as the country can become formally a party again to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, but without being bound by its unjust and unrealistic requirement that “coca leaf chewing must be abolished.” This represents the successful conclusion of an arduous process in which Bolivia has sought to reconcile its international treaty obligations with its 2009 Constitution, which obliges upholding the coca leaf as part of Bolivia’s cultural patrimony.