The black market for cannabis in Israel is worth $707 million annually, according to the study released Tuesday by the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. If the sale of marijuana were legalized and taxed at rates similar to cigarettes, it would add about $268 million in tax revenues and another approximately $198 million in savings to law enforcement directly related to illegal marijuana use, the study found.
At least 275,000 Israeli adults used marijuana in the past year, the study found; the tax revenue estimate was based on that number.
Some 75 percent of those questioned in a public opinion survey analyzed in the study said they believe marijuana has legitimate medical uses. Israeli support for medical marijuana was similar to the level of backing recorded in the United States in a survey earlier this year, according to the institute.
Twenty-six percent of Israelis supported the legalization of marijuana, the survey found, with 64 percent opposed. In the United States, 52 percent of survey respondents supported legalization.
The Jerusalem-based firm Kevoon conducted the survey of 500 respondents reflecting a representative sample of Israeli Jews. The survey had a sampling error of 4.5 percent.
“Recognizing the enormous financial gains that would come from legalization demands that the government take a serious look at the proposal to legalize cannabis use under specific guidelines,” said Yarden Gazit, a co-author of the survey. “There is no disputing that if the public is able to get past the wholly negative misperceptions associated with marijuana usage and appreciate the potential benefits with limited social or health care costs, this is an idea that needs open-minded and serious re-examination at this time.”