Benjamin Netanyahu Is Considering Legalizing Weed to Court Voters

(Bloomberg) -- Benjamin Netanyahu is reaching out for the stoner vote.

The Israeli prime minister said he’s looking into legalizing cannabis in an interview Monday on his Likud party’s Facebook newscast. He’s weighing embracing pot as polls show the new Zehut party that supports marijuana legalization gaining steam.

Medical cannabis stocks surged.

Young voters have voiced support for Zehut, particularly after Green Leaf, a perennial pro-legalization contender that never made it into parliament, sat out April 9 elections. Zehut appears to be grazing the electoral threshold, but if it doesn’t get in, the lost votes could cost the prime minister’s right-wing bloc parliamentary seats.

Netanyahu is in a tight race with the Blue & White bloc led by former military chief Benny Gantz as criminal charges threaten the prime minister. Israel’s attorney general announced last month that he intends to charge Netanyahu with bribery, fraud and breach of trust, pending a hearing where he can plead his case.

Israel’s local cannabis industry has been blooming, with the government approving medical cannabis exports this January. Officials have estimated exports could bring in as much as 1 billion shekels ($276 million) a year in tax revenue.

Stocks in InterCure Ltd., an Israeli pharmaceutical holding company whose largest asset is a producer of medical cannabis, were up 4.6 percent in trading in Tel Aviv on Tuesday afternoon. A smaller cannabis producer, Tefen, climbed 16 percent.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.