The jerusalem post
00:03 | 02/10/18

High standards for technology

A woman smokes during an event marking Israel's government's approval of a new policy to decriminalize personal marijuana use in Tel Aviv, Israel February 4, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER) A woman smokes during an event marking Israel's government's approval of a new policy to decriminalize personal marijuana use in Tel Aviv, Israel February 4, 2017 (photo credit: REUTERS/BAZ RATNER)
A new Israeli app allows people to buy and sell weed under encryption, leading to a boom in the sales of weed as well as raising legal concerns.
Liya J., a 29 years old graphic designer and social worker from Tel Aviv, sat on her kitchen table surrounded by her friends, who were having a conversation, she didn't even listen to. She was busy scrolling down her phone screen, looking at different pictures of colorful flowers of cannabis. After a few minutes she took a selfie, touching her nose with her finger and became again part of the frivolous conversation about the latest episode of Mind hunter on Netflix. Half an hour later, her phone signaled a message and she took her wallet and ran downstairs. A young man on an electric bicycle smiled at her and gave her a little plastic bag. In exchange she gave him some money out of her wallet, they said good bye and she ran upstairs back into her apartment where she showed her excited friends the weed she had just bought online.

“Seriously, this application changed my life,” she said with a cheeky laugh, but a serious face, as she rolled a joint for everyone around the table.

This new trend in Israel is called Telegrass, an app-based delivery service that makes it possible for anyone to buy weed at any time in any city inside the country, even in the West Bank. It was founded in March 2017 by Amos Dov Silver, a 33 years old activist from the northern Israeli city Safed, who fights for the legalization of cannabis. According to Silver, the application is currently used by more than 80,000 users and 2,200 dealers. Telegrass works as a channel inside Telegram, a Russian application, that is known for its encrypted messages, which means that users can program a chat so the messages will automatically be erased after being seen. The channel is divided by subgroups, depending on the location in Israel. In these subgroups, dealers are offering their products by showing pictures of the different kinds of weed they are selling, with a description of the effects and the prices per gram. All a customer has to do, is to choose the type he or she wants and to start an encrypted secret chat with the chosen dealer.

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In order to reassure the dealer that the customer is not connected to the police, he or she needs to send a print screen of their profile on Facebook, a picture of their ID card and a selfie as instructed by the dealer. Within approximately half an hour, the dealer shows up with the weed that was just ordered. “We also have different ways to protect our users as well as our clients” said Silver.

“The Wall of shame for example. It is another channel, where we can post and shame clients who tried to steal something from a dealer.” The same concept works with a different channel where dealers publish pictures of undercover police men. “It is called undercover against humanity,” he said. Silver also assured that this doesn't happen a lot anymore, since they opened this channel. At this point around 300 administrators are working for the application in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Eran A., a Telegrass dealer from its very beginning, who wished not to reveal his full name due fear of being exposed to the police, said that the app helped him, to expand his business.

“It is not only the exposure. I can show my products now to thousands of people. But the biggest change for me is the protection I get. If someone steals from you, you can't do anything, you can't go to the police. But now I have people warning me of bad costumers and the police. What more can I wish for.” Developers are constantly approving the safety of this innovation and they are sure that Telegrass will be as safe as PayPal or Uber in the near future.



Amos Silver himself lives in a New York apartment at the moment, which he will rent for the next two months, the longest subgroups, depending on the location in Israel. In these subgroups, dealers are offering their products by showing pictures of the different kinds of weed they are selling, with a description of the effects and the prices per gram. All a customer has to do, is to choose the type he or she wants and to start an encrypted secret chat with the chosen dealer.

In order to reassure the dealer that the customer is not connected to the police, he or she needs to send a print screen of their profile on Facebook, a picture of their ID card and a selfie as instructed by the dealer. Within approximately half an hour, the dealer shows up with the weed that was just ordered. “We also have different ways to protect our users as well as our clients” said Silver.

“The Wall of shame for example. It is another channel, where we can post and shame clients who tried to steal something from a dealer.” The same concept works with a different channel where dealers publish pictures of undercover police men. “It is called undercover against humanity,” he said. Silver also assured that this doesn't happen a lot anymore, since they opened this channel. At this point around 300 administrators are working for the application in order to ensure that everything runs smoothly. Eran A., a Telegrass dealer from its very beginning, who wished not to reveal his full name due fear of being exposed to the police, said that the app helped him, to expand his business.

“It is not only the exposure. I can show my products now to thousands of people. But the biggest change for me is the protection I get. If someone steals from you, you can't do anything, you can't go to the police. But now I have people warning me of bad costumers and the police. What more can I wish for.” Developers are constantly approving the safety of this innovation and they are sure that Telegrass will be as safe as PayPal or Uber in the near future.

Amos Silver himself lives in a New York apartment at the moment, which he will rent for the next two months, the longest city consecutively in the last two years, since he moved to the United States. The main reason for his switch of location was a couple of arrests and many more problems with the police, inside Israel, who came across his plan to fight for the legalization of weed. Due to fear of an arrest, he hasn’t been back to Israel since the launch of Telegrass.

“The police even claims, that they want to get a worldwide arrest warrant against me. I think they got especially angry, when they heard about the new channel undercover against humanity,” Silver said with a proud undertone in his voice.

Silver sees Telegrass as a necessary step to fight for the legalization of cannabis. But this is not his only agenda planned for the group on Telegram.

“Another important point is, to open the market for weed. People that need weed should have weed. People used to spend hours, sometimes even days, trying to get a gram. Now you don't need to waist your special time for that anymore.” He also wants to lower the prices for weed in Israel in the future, by pushing people to start growing their own Cannabis.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, approximately 27 percent of the Israeli population between 18-65 years old smoked cannabis in 2017. This is the highest ranking use of the drug per capital compared to any other country in the world. For app user Liya J. buying weed feels much more safe now, ever since she started using the application. But safety is not the only reason she started buying her cannabis online through the app.

“I see this as an opportunity to fight for the legalization of weed. More and more people are buying weed. Step by step we will raise awareness towards this subject,” she said. “It might take five, ten, 15 years, but I'm sure this is the start of something and I am proud to be part of it.”



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