Amos Silver — The Story of an Activist, Hero, and Political Prisoner

Ashley Priest
Image by Brent Barnett from Pixabay

Amos Dov Silver is a name that is synonymous with the cannabis culture and community in Israel. Amos is a cannabis activist that has been at the forefront of many protests and demonstrations, as well as the front page of a few papers regarding cannabis.

Activism

Amos has been arrested on several occasions for cannabis charges. In 2012 he was placed under house arrest for cannabis use and possession. In 2014 and 2015 he also spent several months incarcerated for trafficking cannabis. In 2014 he brought together more than a thousand activists and protesters at the Whol Rose Park for what was known as “The Big Bong Night.” It was this day that Amos was arrested, detained, interrogated, and then eventually incarcerated. Silver is praised among cannabis activist in Israel due to his very outspoken and upfront nature.

Amos has never been ashamed of or silent about his cannabis consumption or helping facilitate it for others. During one interview he repetitively took drags from a bong and showed off a cannabis plant he was cultivating while under house arrest. Even during his time as a service combat soldier in Nachshon battalion of the Kfir brigade, he was very open about his love for the plant. In 2012 when he was interrogated, he openly admitted to having a small amount of hashish.

Telegrass — Bringing Cannabis to the Masses in Israel and Changing the Game

2017 Amos founded what is known as Telegrass. Telegrass started as a Facebook page and has since grown to serve more than an estimated 200,000 cannabis consumers throughout Israel. It only took two years from its inception for Telegrass to drastically affect cannabis prices in the country. It is estimated that before Telegrass, cannabis cost between $28 and $33 per gram or NIS 100–120. 2 years after Amos founded Telegrass it was estimated that you could receive 10 grams of cannabis for less than $166 or NIS 600. During the same time frame, crime rates also drastically decreased throughout Israel.

Making a Martyr of a Canna Hero

So, what do you do to the man who made this all possible? You entrap him, arrest him, mistreat him, and harass his family. Meanwhile, you boast to the media your support for cannabis decriminalization just in time for elections. This sounds like something straight out of the U.S. governments’ handbook on how to treat cannabis activists.

That is what happened to Amos on March 12th. In total, 42 people were arrested throughout the U.S., Germany, and Ukraine for their involvement with Telegrass. The raids were organized after an undercover agent exposed various members of the Telegrass network. This informer also spoke with Amos’ wife Gali, and just minutes later her home in New York was visited by more than 40 officers well she was showering, and her young child was sleeping in his bedroom. The Israel police stated that “in addition to selling drugs such as marijuana, hashish, cocaine, and ecstasy those arrested are suspected of running an organized crime ring, money laundering, and tax offenses.”

According to Gali and other sources, the Telegrass platform has always been about cannabis. The messaging app for a short period also hosted channels that allowed members to communicate regarding several different psychedelics including LSD and MDMA which as Gali stated are “well-researched and scientifically proven to be beneficial for things like PTSD.” Upon being raided Gali was humiliated as she was forced to stand in the nude in the company of several officers as they trashed her belongings in search of substances such as heroin and cocaine as well as cash which they did not find.

During the raid, police did confiscate roughly 200 grams of cannabis. Possession of this amount in the state of New York is a felony offense and comes with the potential punishment of up to 4 years in prison and a 5,000 fine. Additionally, they took both of her passports as well as her son’s tablet. After this embarrassing incident, she was held and interrogated for several hours at the local police station. During this time 42 members of the Telegrass network were also being detained in Israel, Ukraine, and States throughout the U.S.

The Hypocrisy of it All

While police forces and governments worldwide came together to bring down a non-violent well organized distribution network for cannabis consumers, the prime minister of Israel announced that he would consider decriminalizing or even quite possibly legalizing cannabis. According to a report by Haaretz, the Finance Minister also announced that he would be acting to eliminate the criminal records of individuals charged with cannabis crimes in the past. Cannabis also has the support of many other political figures throughout the Israeli Government. So why mistreat and make a martyr of the man that led a movement to do just that while providing a very discreet, well-organized market connecting consumers to suppliers?

In 2017 Amos spoke with The Emerald Magazine based out of Humboldt County California and stated that he could not go back to Israel as he was a known criminal, a political prisoner, as well as a hero. Amos who had an existing cannabis-related criminal record in the country also had citizenship, and a clean slate in the U.S., and that is where he was residing when everything occurred last month.

Someone’s Pissed That an Activist Did What the Government Failed To

It sounds like Amos pissed someone off if you ask me. Particularly the Israeli Government and they are utilizing his peaceful efforts to bring attention to themselves just in time for elections. Amos was arrested on March 12th through entrapment. Israel Cannabis Magazine reports that an “undercover agent posing as a fan of Silver’s invited him to a wedding ostensibly being held in Kiev.” Here is what unfolded after that.

Silver arrived in Ukraine. The Israel Police then raided his hotel room, and Amos was arrested. Shortly after that, he released a video on his YouTube channel from the back of the police car. He stated the following;

“Guys, they arrested me, I’m now with the Ukrainians. The Israeli police raided my room in the middle of the night. I’m now inside the police car, and the officers just went out to smoke a cigarette and didn’t notice that I still have my cellphone. I feel fine. They are probably going to extradite me to Israel.”

It is understood that the Israeli Government wishes for the Ukraine Government to extradite Amos to Israel for interrogation. Amos is a dual citizen of both Israel and the U.S. According to friends and family, a U.S. Ambassador has met with Amos since his detainment at Lukyanivska Prison in Kiev.

When inquiring with the US Embassy in Kiev, I received the following statement from Ray Castillo, Press Attache’.

“We have no higher priority than the safety and security of U.S. citizens abroad. We can confirm the detention of Mr. Amos Silver in Ukraine.”

“We have visited Mr. Silver two times since March 18, 2019. Our last visit to Mr. Silver was on April 4, 2019. The Department remains in regular communication with his family. We are providing Mr. Silver with all appropriate consular assistance and we will continue to do so.”

“Consular assistance may include: attempting to ensure that the detained/arrested U.S. citizens receive a fair and transparent legal process with access to legal counsel; visiting detained/arrested U.S. nationals in prison to ensure that they are receiving humane treatment, including medical treatment if needed; and with the individual’s permission, facilitating communications with their families or others as they wish.”

“In a foreign country, U.S. citizens are subject to that country’s laws, even if they differ from those in the United States. Consular officers provide a list of local lawyers, but cannot provide legal advice or effect the release of arrested U.S. citizens. We cannot represent U.S. citizens in foreign courts.”

So why not extradite Amos to the U.S. where he was residing before being misled and trapped into flying to Ukraine and into the hands of the Israeli Government? He is a U.S. citizen and interrogations can occur here in the U.S. just as easily as they can in Israel. In the U.S. he has the right to a fair trial as well as humane treatment during incarceration, something not guaranteed in his current location.

Israel Has a Demanding and Desirable Cannabis Market

Israel has a very significant number of cannabis consumers. In fact, they have one of the highest ratios of cannabis consumer per population in the world. The Knesset approved steps to lessen penalties surrounding possession of small amounts of cannabis last year. The regulations imply fines instead of incarceration for having minimal amounts of cannabis in your home. Those regulations went into effect just two weeks after Amos’ arrest.

So as Amos sits in jail in Ukraine for bringing progress to the merging cannabis market in Israel while living in his home in the U.S., the Israeli Government is touting their “support” for cannabis, and the nation is hosting CannaTech, which is an internationally renowned cannabis conference.

So, Will This be the End of Telegrass and a Web Powered Cannabis Market in Israel?

Chances are, NO. Amos also seems to agree. According to his statement to the Israeli police, he stated

“Telegrass will continue to exist, even without me. Nobody on earth, including in Ukraine, is going to destroy the idea. I am strong. I will fight to the end against the dictatorial, criminal, and non-democratic regime that the Israeli Government leads while ignoring a fundamental principle. I am grateful for the privilege of waging the struggle for the idea of legalization. I call upon all my friends and all my supporters, covert and open, to wage this fight, which is utterly just, together with me.”

Editor of the Israeli Cannabis Magazine also agree. He stated the following in an interview with The Times of Israel;

“It is reasonable to assume that the online sale of cannabis will continue to be exactly the same. Telegrass is only one group among many — it is just the most famous. Things will probably be more complicated, and it will be harder to get good prices, at least for a few days, but the situation will balance itself out. Some of the dealers who were active in Telegrass have already moved on to other groups such as Weed4U, The Underground, and similar platforms.”

So, what exactly is being accomplished by harassing, arresting, and potentially mistreating an individual that brought order, safety, and better prices to an underground market for a medically beneficial and safe natural substance? ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

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