Cannabis decriminalization bill fails to get Knesset majority

The coalition suffered a major defeat on Wednesday, when a draft bill to decriminalize the recreational use of up to 50 grams of cannabis for personal use and up to 15 seeds, while also reclassifying CBD as a food additive, failed to get a majority in the Knesset after the Ra’am Party decided to vote against the bill.

The bill’s failure to pass means that the coalition would have to wait another six months until it could attempt to bring it to the Knesset plenum for a vote again.

The bill, which was put forth by New Hope MK Sharren Haskel, lost with 52 votes in favor and 55 against, with the rest of the coalition voting in favor of the bill, and the entire opposition voting against, alongside Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am (United Arab List) Party.

The votes against the bill included the Likud Party, which had previously backed the bill, and whose MK Yoav Kisch even attempted to put forth for a vote a draft bill identical to Haskel’s earlier on Wednesday morning.

The Likud – after voting unanimously to block the bill that it had unanimously passed a little over one year ago – blamed the bill’s failure to pass on Ra’am, saying that the party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, was the “de facto prime minister.”

In a statement, Likud faction chairman Yariv Levin celebrated the law’s failure to pass, calling it a “great achievement for the opposition,” and saying that it will “do everything” to take down the new coalition, which he referred to as a “government of hate.”

Following the vote, Haskel blamed her former Likud Party colleagues for turning their backs on their duties to their electorate, saying that “just as when, in the previous Knesset, Yesh Atid decided to help and pass the bill from the opposition, it was appropriate for the Likud to mobilize for something they promised voters before the election.”

She continued, saying: “To the Likud members who are now certainly happy for this misfortune – because for you  there is no greater joy than the joy of watching others’ misfortune – take a look at the eyes of your electorate, and explain to them why you helped continue to inflict injustice on more than a million citizens in Israel, and tens of thousands more medical cannabis patients, children sitting at home today with life-threatening seizures and no medicine because of you.

“In recent weeks,” Haskel said, “I have negotiated with you, you have been offered far-reaching proposals for cooperation on legislative issues and even roles chairing Knesset committees, but you have preferred personal political considerations over the public good and over a law that you yourselves believe is necessary.

“You achieved a small political victory, but you caused a great injustice,” Haskel concluded, adding that she plans to continue the fight for personal freedoms – especially those related to cannabis – by both parliamentary and non-parliamentary means.”

Sources in the coalition criticized Haskel for bringing the bill to a vote when she did not have a majority and making the coalition look bad. There will be an attempt to pass another cannabis bill that would legalize it completely.

PRIOR TO the defeat, the coalition managed to get a decisive win on Wednesday, when the Knesset voted 64 to 50 against a bill calling for the government to express its sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria.

The coalition of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opposed the bill, which was sponsored by Likud MKs Miki Zohar and Shlomo Karhi. Karhi said the vote proved that Bennett’s government is “left-wing and bad.”

Abbas mocked Zohar, saying: “You also oppose the bill. You were in office for 12 years and did nothing about this.”

Also on Wednesday, three MKs submitted their candidacies to serve on the judicial selection committee which is set to select six supreme court judges over the next four years.

Labor MK Efrat Rayten will be the sole coalition candidate, while MKs Keren Barak (Likud), Orly Levy (Likud), Simcha Rotman (Religious Zionist Party), Orit Struck (Religiois Zionist Party) and Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionist Party) submitted their candidacies on behalf of the opposition.

There are two MKs on the committee, one from the coalition and one from the opposition. A vote will be held in the Knesset next week to select them.

There are also two ministers on the committee, who will be Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar and Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked.

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