Israeli Far Right-Winger Moshe Feiglin Swings Left on Marijuana

Anti-Arab Lawmaker Fights for Pot Legalization

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By Ben Sales

Published November 20, 2013.
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(JTA) — On the bustling bourgeois avenue of Ibn Gvirol, beneath a portico and next to a high-end hair salon, it smells like college.

Aside from a small green sign, the clinic is unidentifiable, its one window blocked with a sheet and covered with chains. A single metal door is guarded by a man with a large knit yarmulke, ritual fringes and a holster hanging below his belt.

Behind the door is the main distribution center of Tikun Olam, Israel’s principal supplier of medical cannabis. Some 11,000 Israelis take the drug legally to treat ailments ranging from cancer to post-traumatic stress disorder. But activists say the approval process for marijuana prescriptions is cumbersome, requiring patients to appear before a committee on cannabis use to determine their eligibility.

“We believe that you need to expand access to it,” said Maayan Weisberg, Tikun Olam’s public relations director. “The government is taking a long time. Not everyone who needs it gets it.”

Leading the charge to change is an unlikely figure: Moshe Feiglin, a Knesset lawmaker from the Likud party.

Feiglin is best known for his aggressive advocacy on behalf of West Bank settlement and occasionally incendiary pronouncements that kept him off Likud’s Knesset slate for years and got him banned from entering the United Kingdom. His views were long deemed too extreme even for the right-wing base of Likud.

This year, following a strong showing in the Likud primaries, he won a seat in parliament for the first time.

But instead of kicking off his term with a call for increased settlement building or legal action to expand Jewish access to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Feiglin entered the Knesset with a proposal to broaden access to medical marijuana by allowing any family physician to prescribe it. Eventually he hopes to push for full legalization.

“I support freedom, especially when we’re talking about something less dangerous than cigarettes or alcohol,” Feiglin told JTA. “People can be healed, and [current laws] are denying that.”

Feiglin is among the more extreme members of the current Knesset. He has questioned why Israel’s non-Jewish citizens have any say in Israeli politics and called for stripping Israeli Arabs of certain rights. He is staunchly opposed to a Palestinian state.


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