Middle East

Israel moves toward decriminalizing marijuana use

Oct. 30, 2012: Moshe Rute, 80, smokes medical cannabis at the old age nursery home in kibbutz Naan next to the city of Rehovot, Israel. Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since the early nineties for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.

Oct. 30, 2012: Moshe Rute, 80, smokes medical cannabis at the old age nursery home in kibbutz Naan next to the city of Rehovot, Israel. Marijuana is illegal in Israel but medical use has been permitted since the early nineties for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, Multiple Sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder.  (AP)

Holy smokes! The Israeli government has taken a step toward decriminalizing marijuana use.

Israeli media say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Cabinet has approved a measure that would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana. If caught, smokers would pay a fine, instead of facing criminal charges.

Netanyahu said ahead of Sunday's meeting that a "new enforcement policy" should be drawn up "cautiously and in a controlled manner."

The decision does not mean that Jerusalem will now have Amsterdam-style coffee shops. The Haaretz daily said a committee would study ways to regulate the use of pot.

Opposition lawmaker Tamar Zandberg told Haaretz: "This is an important step, but not the end of the road. It sends a message that a million Israelis who consume marijuana aren't criminals."