A bill to decriminalise cannabis use passed was unanimously in its first reading in Israel‘s parliament.
The proposal would mean those caught smoking marijuana would be fined rather than arrested and prosecuted.
First-time offenders would be fined 1,000 shekels (£209), second-time offenders fined double and those caught a third time would face a “probation” period.
Only on the fourth offence could individuals be subject to criminal proceedings.
Minors caught smoking cannabis would be prosecuted if they refuse to attend a rehabilitation programme.
Presenting the bill in the Knesset in Jerusalem, Israel’s public security minister Gilad Erdan said the country wanted to “reduce the harms of drug usage” and avoid stigmatising those who seldom use the drug as criminals, the Jerusalem Post reported.
“The law is far from perfect, but it’s a foot in the door on the way to full legalisation”, Tamar Zandberg, MK for the green Meretz party, said, according to the Times of Israel. “There is a lot of work ahead.”
The bill will need to pass two further readings before it comes law.
Almost 9 per cent of Israelis use marijuana, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
Around 25,000 of the country’s eight million people have a licence to use the drug for medicinal purposes.
Last year, hundreds of Israelis gathered for a sit-down protest outside the Knesset to call for the full legalisation of marijuana.
As part of the “420” tradition, held every 20 April since the 1970s, they light joints when the clock struck 4.20pm.