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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

World News for January 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Legalization in Israel Gains Support
Israel: Medical marijuana has been legal in Israel, for cancer patients as well as those with illnesses or diseases linked to chronic pain, since the early 90s, but recently many groups in the country have begun advocating for complete decriminalization of the drug, reported the Times of Israel.

     Speaking to the Knesset Committee on Controlled Substances, Israel’s preeminent expert on ethics and philosophy, Asa Kasher, offered support for easing limitations on medical marijuana qualifications and for legalizing recreational use. While he stated outright that physician’s should have the right to recommend medical marijuana to any patient they feel may benefit from it, he offered words of caution while supporting legalization. He told the committee that, “while there is freedom in a democracy, this freedom has some necessary limits, like the limits on the use of alcohol. Legalization can be promoted but only if the process includes relevant regulation.”  He best summed it up with, “we need to see whether existing criminalization promotes a reasonable, proportionate purpose. The fact that a car is a dangerous things doesn’t mean no one should drive.”

     Dr. Yuval Landschaft, a Health Ministry representative, agreed with Kasher concerning medical marijuana noting that in cases deemed necessary doctors will be allowed to prescribe the drug, but the Ministry is against supporting marijuana for social use. Currently, with over 25,000 patients registered, Israel has one of the highest rates of marijuana use per capita.

Court’s Decisions Setting Precedence
Mexico: After a Supreme Court ruled in favor of four marijuana users in November, the Mexican government granted those plaintiffs with the first permits allowing growing and possession of marijuana for personal use. The legal smokers are not permitted to smoke around children or anyone who hasn’t or cannot give consent. They also cannot sell or distribute the substance. While the rulings do not allow general legalization, their next five rulings on similar cases could set a precedence to change the laws regarding the drug, especially since the court ruled that growing and consuming pot is covered by the right to “free development of personality.” According to recent polls the majority of Mexicans, as well as the President, are opposed to legalization, but so far dozens of people have filed appeals to get the permit.

Changing Attitudes in Latin America
Colombia: The Colombian government has long followed US-approved policies to wipe out drug crops, including marijuana. That stance could slightly change now that President Juan Manuel Santos has signed a new law legalizing medicial marijuana. While signing the decree, Santos said this is “a major step that put Colombia at the … forefront of the fight against illnesses”, as the framework will only allow growing and selling cannabis for medical purposes. President Santos believes official framework is overdue in a country where citizens had been using marijuana in legal limbo for years. According to The Guardian, Colombians have been permitted to have small amounts of any narcotic for personal use due to court rulings allowing the “free development of one’s personality”.

CPS Offers Warning About Medical Marijuana and Children
Canada: The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) has released a statement acknowledging that marijuana has been increasingly used to treat children with severe illnesses but offers a warning to parents, saying there “is not enough evidence that the drug is either safe or effective.” Many parents in the country have started using CBD oil as well as many other forms of marijuana to help their children suffering from epilepsy, ADHD, chronic pain, and autism.

     While CPS notes that there appear to be benefits from using medical marijuana, especially in certain cases of epilepsy, they stress that those benefits need to be weighed against the risks, which haven’t been researched in a long-term sense. Though many parents choosing to use the medication consider it a miracle drug, which helps their suffering child when nothing else would, CPS would like to see more studies done on the safety and efficacy of kids using the medication. They point to growing bodies of data showing that marijuana use in adolescence could change the way the brain develops and could lead to the development of psychosis. Doctors in the country would like future research to study proper drug administration, dose levels, and potential side effects.

Sydney Stoner Sloth
Australia: According to Japan Times, the New South Wales state government has released an anti-marijuana campaign aimed at teens, who they feel are “most vulnerable to cannabis use”. The goal of the ad was to reach minors before the drug’s use becomes a wide-spread problem. While the ad did become wide-spread among Australians, young and old, it was for more comical reasons than the government may have intended. The ad features an obviously stoned sloth the size of a human acting “foolishly” with the slogan “You’re worse on weed”. It has quickly become the butt of many jokes with thousands of comments on Facebook and widely teased as “ridiculously funny”.

     The National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre released a statement saying any campaign “should be aware that teenagers are intelligent and have access to a lot of information, so campaign approaches should respect them and give them credit by avoiding hyperbole.” They do not feel the ad reflects these views and should have been handled differently. The New South Wales Greens group called the ad “juvenile” but the government stands by their ad insisting the campaign was designed to be “shareable” among teens, something that is happening with over 16,000 likes on Facebook.

Driving is a Privilege
Dublin: A man from Dublin has been caught driving while under the influence of cannabis one too many times and has been disqualified from driving. The 24 year old man arrived in court where his past convictions were relayed to the judge, these convictions, numbering 82 previous convictions, were mostly marijuana and driving related. The judge hearing the case imposed a €13,000 fine as well as banning the man from driving for the next 80 years with a one-year suspended sentence. This means the man will be qualified to drive again when he is 104 years old. Proving to others thinking to consume and drive that driving is a privilege and can be taken away when done irresponsibly.

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