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Cannabis Laws Loosening for Israel’s Military

The Israel Defense Forces have relaxed its cannabis laws for soldiers who are off-duty.

Israeli soldiers accused of using cannabis while on leave will no longer receive disciplinary action, The Times of Israel reports.

Soldiers on leave caught using marijuana or hashish were up until recently systematically court-martialed and subject to prison sentences of up to two months. Under the changes, offenders are required to undergo regular drug testing to verify that they are no longer using.

“We are offering soldiers the chance to continue their service normally and not be imprisoned and hindered by a criminal record in civilian life,” former military advocate general Maj. Gen Danny Efroni told Army Radio.

Except for medical purposes, cannabis use is currently illegal in Israel. However, the Military Prosecutor’s office has said that the previous policy drained resources and wasn’t effective. The Times of Israel reports that 128 soldiers were prosecuted for drug use last year.

“The army wants to give a second chance to soldiers who want to complete a proper military service and to return to the right path,” the military said in a statement.

The Israel Defense Forces’ loosening of the rule, which went into effect on January 1, does not apply to soldiers who are on active duty or officers. Additionally, the current investigations into off-duty soldiers using cannabis will continue despite the new loosening of the rules.

“We haven’t cancelled the investigations,” Efroni said. “We are talking about light drug offenses and one-time or a handful of uses in civilian circumstances. But the investigation will be carried out and if we have all the material and evidence to file an indictment we will do it.”

Medical Marijuana Research

Cannabis use by military personnel could be therapeutically beneficial. Because of their exposure to traumatic events, soldiers are particularly susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental condition that causes intense stress, uncontrollable flashbacks, and nightmares. Research indicates that cannabis is effective at helping veterans manage PTSD’s symptoms. Studies concluded recently have found marijuana and CBD to both be beneficial for treating PTSD and other anxiety disorders.

Currently in the United States, active soldiers and veterans aren’t allowed to access medical cannabis. However, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) announced last May that it had approved a placebo-controlled clinical trial of veterans with PTSD. The study, currently being conducted by Dr. Sue Sisley at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, will test different marijuana potencies, strains, and doses to see which elicits the most effective response. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are currently 10 clinical trials underway in the U.S. examining cannabis and PTSD.

The largest wartime veterans organization in the US, the American Legion, has publicly come out in support of veterans using cannabis. They’ve urged both the DEA and President-elect Donald Trump’s administration to lift marijuana restrictions for veterans with PTSD, and have called for the rescheduling of cannabis so that more research could be done.

You can read the entire report from The Times of Israel, here.

Learn more about the research already done on cannabis and PTSD by visiting our education page.