About 10,000 Israelis came to Rabin Square on a Saturday night to show their support for the new de-criminalization program, but the protest leaders made it clear: "We are not stopping until full legalization"
After the historic decision made last month by the Israeli Internal Security Minister, Gilad Erdan, announcing the De-Criminalization of cannabis consumption after years of incrimination, and changing the penalty of personal use to only a fine (for the first three times), thousands of people gathered on Saturday night in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv in what was the biggest cannabis protest to have ever taken place in the country.
“My home is the National Freedom Party,” declared Knesset (Israeli Parliament House) member Sharen Haskel, one of the reform initiatives, while she is waving a joint in her hand, “and this, this is what I want to change for my people – liberty and freedom from police persecution!” throwing the joint to the crowd.
Not a perfect doctrine
“We knew that by looking at the truth straight in the eye and speaking straight forward – we could win,” stated Parliament member Tamar Zandberg, Chairman of the Committee on Drug Policy in the “Knesset and the first politician in Israel who admitted the consumption of cannabis. “We knew that a million Israelis are not criminals, and there is no reason to classify them that way”.
MP Zandberg wasn’t excited from the doctrine proposed by Gilad Erdan that set a monetary fine instead of incrimination. “We’ll see how the doctrine works and follow it – it’s not perfect in my eyes, but it is definitely an important step,” she said.
It seemed as if everyone at the demonstration agreed that the long-awaited process of terminating the process of incrimination is an important victory in the battle, but the war still goes on. Many demonstrators have expressed concerns about the ‘expected fines doctrine’.
“What do you mean decriminalization? We need to go beyond, without penalties and without anything,” said one of the protesters. Another demonstrator said that “this country is only interested in money. even if cannabis will be legalized we are screwed.”
However there were quite a few optimists that argued that the Erdan’s doctrine will not become a steady money income for the police: “The situation will not get worse,” stated the lead singer of the rock band The Giraffes, Gilad Kahane. “I think ultimately this statement which basically has the essence of this decision is that those who smoke weed are not criminals – and that’s what matters.”
Whether people supported Erdan’s doctrine or not, Rabin Square on that Saturday night had become a kind of Amsterdam, with intoxicating aromas spreading from all over and sweet smoke that definitely would have reached to the nostrils of the dozens of police officers who arrived to secure the event, and consciously chose not to make arrests.
After a series of inspiring speeches from Kenesset members and opinion leaders it was the artists’ turn to take the stage – “Hadag Nachash” (“The Snake Fish”), “The Giraffes”, DJ Darwish and other artists that transformed Rabin square into one giant victory rave.
Going all the way
While there is no doubt that the successful event was perceived as a very important milestone in the legalization struggle in Israel, perhaps more importantly it gave an essential boost to all of the activists, artists, and public figures to continue the fight until the ultimate victory: “Today we decriminalize – tomorrow we legalize,” said Kahane. “Everything will work better with legalization, De-criminalization is only half way.”.
Oren Lebovich, Chairman of the “Green Leaf” party which has been promoting legalization in Israel since the early nineties commented: “This is an historical celebration but it is not final, because our agenda calls for a full regulation of the market. We do not believe that the consumption of cannabis is an offense at all – not a criminal nor administrative. Just Like alcohol, cigarettes or Ritalin. We are going to continue the fight until we reach that day”.
Originally Published in Weed World Magazine Issue 128