The Jerusalem Post
New drug committee head seeks redemption for cannabis legalization failure
In December, Blue and White MK Ram Shefa was hiding in his car in the Knesset parking lot to trick his coalition partners in the Likud into thinking they had enough votes before storming into the plenum at the last moment to vote against the government. His maneuver helped lead the country to its fourth election in less than two years.
Shefa’s decision to help dissolve the government, however, meant that he would not be able to put its planned vote for cannabis decriminalization and legalization up for a first reading, freezing the process and requiring both agendas to be put to a vote again only under the subsequent government.
Shefa then left Blue and White, choosing instead to “return home” to his favored Labor Party and placing sixth in the party’s primaries under the leadership of Merav Michaeli.
His gamble paid off, big time. Not only was he reelected as an MK, but he also entered the most pro-legalization coalition in the country’s history, with all relevant ministerial portfolios – namely health, public security, agriculture, education and finance – in the hands of advocates for cannabis legalization.
Shefa himself landed a role that could be pivotal to the process: the head of the Knesset’s Special Committee for Dealing with
Drugs and Alcohol.
Shefa expressed optimism regarding cannabis legalization and decriminalization in an interview with The Jerusalem Post, a conduit through which he says he can redeem himself within the eyes of those who may feel betrayed by his choice to disperse the government before allowing legalization to pass a first reading.
When asked what he thought
about as he hid in his car, waiting to disperse his own coalition, he said, “I thought to myself ‘the public sent me to change the ways of the Netanyahu government. Even if it meant my fellow party members would be upset, the public sent me to put an end to this kind of government, so that, hopefully, something could change.”
I was very tormented during those days, I now speak of this proudly, but back then, I had no idea what would happen,” he said. “We could’ve dissolved one government only to see it replaced by another, more rightwing, Netanyahu-led government that could’ve reigned for years for all we knew.”
“We took a risk and here we are today. I think I can feel very good about the fact that what I and my colleagues did that day led to a change in this government,” he added.
One of those colleagues, Sharren Haskel – whose late-term pregnancy provided her with a much more credible excuse for abstaining from the Knesset dispersal vote – has since also left her former party for greener pastures, landing a new role as the head of the Knesset’s Education Committee under Gideon Sa’ar New Hope Party.
Haskel – who worked together with Shefa after her cannabis decriminalization draft bill passed on the same day as Shefa’s draft cannabis legalization bill last summer – has long been an advocate of cannabis decriminalization.
Shefa says he was happy to see his partnership with Haskel on the subject continue, saying it was one bright spot worth salvaging from the last government, and a possible model for cooperation between the different ideological camps that make up the new coalition.