UK: British Home Secretary Announces New Marijuana Possession Penalties

UK  -   When marijuana is rescheduled from a Class C to a more serious Class B drug in Britain on January 26, repeat marijuana possession offenders will face more severe sanctions, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has announced. Marijuana had been down-scheduled to Class C in 2004, but the Labor government ignored the advice of its drug policy panel, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, and moved to reschedule it earlier this year.

The move came against a background of sensational British tabloid press reports on marijuana-induced madness and more down-to-earth concerns about links between teen marijuana use and a slightly increased incidence of schizophrenia, especially with "skunk," the apparent British name for any high-quality marijuana. Although teen marijuana use has decreased since 2004, the British are in the throes of a full-blown reefer madness. Reports of "cannabisfactories" being raided and hooligans blaming pot for their crimes are staples in the press.

According to Home Secretary Smith, first-time pot possessors will continue to receive warnings, as is the practice with marijuana under Class B, but second-time offenders will be hit with a $138 fine and third-time offenders will be arrested. It's for your own good, she said. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) had supported the reclassification and welcomed the new penalties. "There is evidence of increasing harms to community safety associated with criminal behavior around the cultivation, distribution and the use of cannabis," said Tim Hollis, the ACPO Lead on Drugs. "While enforcement alone will not provide the total solution to a crime that is a global problem, this will act as a deterrent, along with better education about the impact of drugs.” But while the new penalties sound tough enough, there is a loophole, the London Times reported.

Clandestine cannabis growers in the Netherlands net $2.7 billion US$ a year - worth almost half the country's horticultural sector!


The Netherlands: Clandestine cannabis growers in the Netherlands net $2.7 billion US a year - worth almost half the country's horticultural sector - according to a Dutch newspaper report on Saturday. By comparison, NRC Handelsblad reports the horticultural sector generates about $7.4 billion US annually.

"There is major demand from England, Belgium, Germany, France, the Scandinavian countries and, at the moment, the Baltic countries," said Max Daniel, the senior police officer who heads the Dutch agency that combats grow-ops. Police investigations suggest about 500 tonnes of Dutch cannabis are exported each year. "We know at least 80% of production is for export.  In the Netherlands there are 400,000 users of the drug and of hashish.  If it was only them, the problem would be entirely manageable," Daniel said.

USA: Supreme Court denies review of medical pot law!

San Francisco  -   The state Supreme Court turned back a challenge to California's medical marijuana law Thursday from two counties that said they were being forced to condone federal drug-law violations by state-approved pot users. San Diego and San Bernardino county officials had sued to overturn Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that legalized medical marijuana, and a more recent law that required them to issue identification cards to users who had a doctor's recommendation.

The justices unanimously denied review of an appellate decision in July that concluded California was free to decide whether to punish drug users under its own laws, despite the federal ban on marijuana. The decision is "a momentous victory for countless seriously ill patients," said Adam Wolf, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who defended the state law in the appeals court.  He said the counties should stop wasting money "in a doomed effort to undermine the will of California voters." 

USA / Massachusetts: On Wednesday, the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts and the state NORML affiliate, MassCann, announced that voters in four Massachusetts legislative districts will be voting on public policy questions urging legislators to support medical marijuana.

 Voters in 15 towns will be able to decide the following ballot question: "Shall the State Representative from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor's written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?"

Honduran President Joins Drug Legalization Chorus.

Latin America  -  During a conference in Tegucigalpa bringing together UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) officials and drug ministers from 32 Latin American and Caribbean nations, the conference host, Honduran President Manuel Zelaya called for legalizing drug use. In so doing, he joins a growing list of Latin American leaders singing the same tune.

Legalizing drug use, or more accurately, decriminalization, would de-fang international drug trafficking organizations and free Honduras of the financial burden of attempting to impose drug prohibition, Zelaya said. "The trade of arms, drugs and people... are scourges on the international economy, and we are unable to provide effective responses" because of the global drug prohibition regime, Zelaya said Monday at the opening of the 18th meeting of regional leaders against drug trafficking. Drug users should be considered patients, not criminals, Zelaya said. Drug users could be treated by health care professionals instead of arrested or harassed by police. And the state could stop throwing money down a rat hole, too, he added. "Rather than continue to kill and capture traffickers, we could invest in resources for education and training," the Honduran leader said.

 With his remarks Monday, Zelaya is joining what could become an emerging Latin American consensus. Just days ago, Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country is plagued with prohibition-related violence, called for the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs. The government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is actively pushing decriminalization there. In Brazil, the courts are leading the way to decriminalization. Meanwhile, Bolivia and Venezuela are openly feuding with the US, in part over drug policy issues. In August, officials of the left-leaning Mexican PRD, the largest opposition party, asked party legislators to consider calling for drug legalization as part of a 'grand national accord' to deal with violence and insecurity in the country.

The Greenish Warbler


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October 21st 2008

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