Observing the world of cannabis

The Netherlands: Tourists no longer welcome in coffee shops

The Dutch government wants to maintain its tolerant policy towards cannabis and keep coffee shops open, but they should no longer be tourist attractions. 

Dutch ministers wrote in a letter that was leaked to the press on Tuesday. Only registered members will be able to buy soft drugs from coffee shops. The ministers of justice, home affairs and health wrote that reducing the number of coffee shops and keeping foreigners out should make it easier to reduce crime and other nuisances the coffee shops are now causing. 

A government memorandum on altering the coffee shop policy and other drug-related issues is expected this fall, but the letter already shows where the ministers now stand. They want to implement a members-only system to keep tourists out. Herds of tourist who buy their drugs in border towns near Belgium and Germany have become a pest in several places and neighbouring countries have expressed their dissatisfaction with the  Dutch system.  

The Netherlands has been tolerant about the use and sale of weed and hash for three decades. Cultivation and wholesale of the drug are prohibited however. This discrepancy has become known as the 'gedoogbeleid' (tolerance policy). An advisory committee said in July that the policy has gotten out of control in the past 15 years and needs to go back to small, private shops for local users. It advised against legalising soft drugs altogether. 

The ministers want municipalities to implement a members-only system, where members can by up to three grammes of hash or weed each with their (Dutch) bank card. This should make it less appealing for tourists to travel to the Netherlands to buy cannabis. The ministers will also allow experiments where coffeeshops can have larger quantities of drugs stocked. Currently, a coffeeshop can have 500 grammes in store and an alternative supply system via drugs runners is a source of nuisance. 

The three coalition parties in the government have long disagreed about the overhaul of the drug policy. Christian democrat CDA had called for an end to the tolerance policy and the orthodox Christian ChristenUnie agreed, but the Labour party PvdA believes banning coffeeshops will not solve the problems of crime, nuisance and health and wants to legalise the whole chain of supply.

Latin America: Colombian Supreme Court Rules Drug Possession Not a Crime. Upholding a 1994 ruling from the country's Constitutional Court, Colombia's Supreme Court has ruled that possession of illegal drugs for personal use is not a crime.

The ruling came in the case of Ancizar Jaramillo Quintero, who had been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for the possession of 1.3 grams of cocaine. The court threw out his conviction in July and ordered his immediate release. In its opinion in the case (available here in Spanish), the court held that drug addiction is a disease, not a vice, and should be treated accordingly. Drug use "generates in a person problems of addiction and slavery that turn one into a sick, compulsive individual deserving of therapeutic medical treatment instead of a punishment," the judges said.

The court also invoked a principal that could be likened to "no harm, no foul." "In the exercise of his personal and private rights, the accused did not harm others," so his conduct "cannot be the object of any punishment," the opinion stated.

Although the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled that possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use was not a prosecutable offense, the government of President Alvaro Uribe is trying to undo that decision with a constitutional amendment. It has already been approved by the lower house and is now before the Colombian Senate. If the Senate approves the measure, it will mean that the Colombian government is out of step not only with its own judiciary, but increasingly, with the rest of Latin America.

Mexico decriminalized drug possession last month, and a few days later, the Argentine Supreme Court issued a decision decriminalizing marijuana possession on the spot and calling into question the criminalization of possession of any drug for personal use. Brazil, Ecuador, and Uruguay are headed down similar paths.

USA: California - According to a press release of the San Diego County District Attorney's Office police raided 14 "illegal marijuana dispensaries" and six associated residences and 23 people have been arrested. 

The press release calls the dispensaries  "nothing more than for-profit storefront drug dealing operations run by drug dealers hiding behind the state's medical marijuana law." The Marijuana Policy Project stated that the press release "attempts to justify the actions using an extremely narrow interpretation of state law."

Science: Detection of cannabis use -According to researchers from New York it may not always work to differentiate the use of isolated THC (dronabinol) and cannabis by looking for delta-9-tetrahydrocannabivarin (THCV).  

The detection of THCV in urine has been suggested to allow for discrimination between isolated THC use as medicine and illegal cannabis use. In a study with 117 cannabis users all produced a positive urine test for THC-COOH, a metabolite of THC, but 50 per cent had an undetectable level of THCV-COOH, a metabolite of THCV in urine.

Science: Pain after injury -According to research at the University of Munich, Germany, patients with complex regional pain syndrome after traumatic injury have significantly higher blood concentrations of the endocannabinoid anandamide than healthy subjects.

They concluded that the peripheral endocannabinoid system is activated in complex regional pain syndrome.

Science: Cannabis dependence -Scientists at the University of South Carolina in Charleston, USA, investigated the efficacy of buspirone (maximum 60 mg daily) in a placebo controlled 12-week trial with fifty cannabis dependent people.

Participants receiving busprione reported not using cannabis in 45.2 per cent of days and participants receiving placebo reported not using it in 51.4 per cent of days.

Brought to you by The Greenish Warbler

September 15th 2009

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