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Registered: 07/26/04
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Thousands gather in Tel Aviv to mark 'World Marijuana Day'
    #4147611 - 05/07/05 06:18 PM (11 years, 5 months ago)

Thousands gather in Tel Aviv to mark 'World Marijuana Day'
May 7, 2005 haaretz.com

Thousands gathered at Hayarkon Park on Saturday for the "World Marijuana Day Picnic" to express support for the legalization of the narcotic.

Police arrested 15 participants for alleged drug use despite the fact that the event appeared more to resemble Tel Avivans' taking advantage of a summer-like day to tan in the sun.

World Marijuana Day was first celebrated in New York in 1969 as a protest against the ban on the use of cannabis. The day was marked for the eighth consecutive year in Tel Aviv. In Jerusalem, a picnic was also held to honor the occasion at Sakar Gardens in Jerusalem.

However, since the Jerusalem event was staged without a permit from the municipality, it was quickly shut down. Police arrested three of the event's organizers.

Addressing the event in Tel Aviv for the second straight year, Yahad MK Roman Bronfman criticized the state's current anti-drug policy.

"[We must] change the law and move from a conservative policy to a policy that is accepted in some of the more advanced countries, 'a minimal damage policy'," Bronfman said.

Bronfman cited the need to provide the public with credible information about the damages caused by so-called light drugs as opposed to more serious narcotics.

Bronfman said the police must cease its pursuit of light-drug users, who present an easy target for law enforcement. Police should focus on the root of the problem, namely the drug trafficking, an industry which generates billions of dollars annually, Bronfman said.

The chairman of the Knesset's Anti-Drug Abuse committee, MK Yehiel Hazan (Likud), threatened to file complaint against Bronfman with the Knesset Ethics Committee due to his participation in the event, Army Radio reported.

Event organizers say the widespread perception that police do not harass marijuana users who smoke for recreational purposes is an incorrect one, adding that 13,000 cases are opened a year by police against drug users.

Bronfman says he supports a proposed bill before the Knesset which eases restrictions on marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

With regards to recreational use of the drug, Bronfman emphasized that is not in favor of legalization of marijuana as exists in Holland. Rather, the MK favors "decriminalization."

Bronfman proposed that no criminal charges be brought before anyone over the age of 18 caught using cannibus. The drug would still be classified as forbidden yet authorities would issue a warning, for example.

Bronfman said the current situation is ridiculous.

"Close to one million people smoke marijuana in Israel," Bronfman said. "According to the law, they are all criminals."

"This a day of protest," said Lior Lublesky, who characterized himself as "a permanent participant who for the first time this year is in the hard core of organizers."

"It's a different protest, one that means coming here and showing that the people who support legalization are calm, not aggressive, not criminal, and that the only connection we have to the law is the ban on marijuana," Lublesky said.

Last year, police arrived a few hours after the start of the picnic, confiscated the microphone and speakers, and caught 12 people smoking marijuana. It then notified the press that it had shut down the event even though crowds had remained six hours afterwards.

"All the undercover policemen from last year are also here this year," Lublesky said as he surveyed the scene.

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