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Israel: Law Passed to Fight Use of Substances Akin to Dangerous Drugs

(Aug. 20, 2013) On July 31, 2013, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed the Law on Combating the Phenomenon of the Use of Dangerous Substances, 5773-2013 (text of the Law [in Hebrew], Ministry of Justice website). The new Law defines a “dangerous substance” as

a substance designed for the use of a person by eating, drinking, chewing, injecting, instilling, smoking, or smelling [all activities hereinafter referred to as “consumption”], and [regarding which] there is a reasonable basis to assume that its use will likely cause violation of public order or harm to public safety, public security, or health, similar to the harm resulting from the use of dangerous drugs. … (Id. § 1.)

The Law creates a presumption that a substance designed for use by consumption is a dangerous substance if it is not properly labeled as such or if, according to its public advertisement, it will affect its user in a way similar to that resulting from the use of a dangerous drug. According to the Law, a substance that is manufactured or imported legally for human consumption will not be regarded as a dangerous substance unless it is distributed for a use other than that for which it was designed. (Id. § 2.)

The Law authorizes the police to enter any premises, excluding places of residence, that are reasonably suspected of being used for keeping a dangerous substance. The Law further permits the seizure (id. § 3) and destruction of any substance identified as a result of such an entry in accordance with conditions enumerated by the Law. (Id. § 4.)

The distribution of a dangerous substance may be prohibited under an urgent declaration issued by the General Director of the Ministry of Health and published in the official gazette. (Id. § 5.) The declaration will be issued if the General Director has concluded that there is an immediate need to add the substance to the list of dangerous drugs, the distribution of which is prohibited under the Dangerous Drugs Ordinance (New Version), 5733-1973 (3 LAWS OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL (New Version) 5 (1981)). Under the Ordinance, the authority to add a substance to the list of dangerous drugs rests with the Minister of Health in accordance with requirements established by the Ordinance. (Id. § 41).

According to the Law, the urgent declaration made by the General Director prohibiting the distribution of a dangerous substance will expire within 12 months from the date of issue, unless further extended by the General Director for three additional months for reasons to be registered in writing or for a longer period specified by the General Director with the approval of the Knesset Committee of Labor, Welfare and Health. (Law, § 6.)

The Law imposes a punishment of three years of imprisonment upon conviction for unlawful distribution of a dangerous substance (id.§ 7), and five years for distribution to or solicitation of a minor for use of such a substance. (Id.§ 8.)

The Law requires the Minister of Internal Security to provide the Knesset Committee of Labor, Welfare and Health with a report every six months on the implementation of powers to seize and destroy dangerous substances, on the volume of dangerous substances seized or destroyed, and on the indictments and penalties that resulted from convictions for perpetration of the related offenses under the Law. (Id. § 13.)

According to explanatory notes on the draft version of the Law the objective of the new Law was to fight the widespread use of “legal drugs” that cause “psychoactive effects” in juveniles, even before the substances are added to the list of drugs whose distribution is prohibited under the Ordinance. (Draft Bill on Combating the Phenomenon of the Use of Dangerous Substances, 5773-2013 [in Hebrew], GOVERNMENT BILLS, No. 783, p. 1020 (July 3, 2013), The Knesset website.) The notes further explain that the Law was intended to provide law enforcement officers with powers similar to those used in other countries, including the United Kingdom, in handling the use and distribution of dangerous substances by juveniles. (Id., General Part.)