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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

World News for February 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Medical Cannabis in the Promised Land
Israel: While many forms of medical marijuana are packaged and ready to be put on the shelves in Israel, Health Minister Yaakov Litzman is preparing to present reform measures to the Knesset Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee later this week. Litzman told the Times of Israel, “We’re working to reorganize the field of medical cannabis in order to lighten the process for those who need it and, on the other hand, to make it harder for the material to trickle into the regular market. There is no reason to make things difficult for whoever really needs it, just because there’s someone who exploits it illegally.”

     The reform Litzman plans to introduce would train and license more doctors to prescribe the medication. Currently there are only 36 such doctors, causing patients to wait months before obtaining a prescription. The reform would also throw out the current restrictions on growing and cultivating the herb. Current restrictions call for a total of eight farms in the country, and while the reform would not limit the number of farms allowed, it would still give preference to importing the medication.

Spain Smashes Pleasure Boats
Spain: Smugglers coming from Morocco to Spain were extremely crafty with their trafficking, finding a way to make their cargo invisible from the ground and from the sky. A group of 17 people were arrested in multiple raids this month after Spanish police discovered they were hiding marijuana in false bottoms of their pleasure boats. According to the Digital Journal, members of the smuggling ring would pick up the packages in Moroccan waters and transport them to Cadiz where they would be moved to warehouses. Police seized five boats with a total of 4.5 tonnes (9,920lbs) of marijuana. Due to its location, Spain has become a main gateway for Europe’s drug trade.

Marijuana and Malaysia Don’t Mix
Johor Bahru: A 36-year old man and his wife appeared in the High Court of Johor Bahur this month with charges of possession of 1,239.7g (2.7lbs) of marijuana. The couple was originally charged with trafficking the drug but it was later amended to possession. This was a lucky break as a trafficking conviction comes with a mandatory death sentence in the country. While the wife was cleared of all charges, her husband, Japidin Jaffarang, was found guilty of possession and sentenced to 14 years in prison and 10 strokes of the rotan. The rotan is a form of punishment much like caning, where a cane is soaked overnight in water (to prevent splitting and slinters) and used to whip the guilty. As an example of where marijuana possession falls on the criminal spectrum in Malaysia, a man in 1997 was sentenced to 12 years in prison and 10 strokes of the rotan for rape.

NDLEA Intercepts Lorry
Nigeria: The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) informed the News Agency of Nigeria of a large seizure this month. The Agency captured a lorry (large commercial truck) in Katsina carrying what appeared to be cans of paint. The paint on the top and in front of the shipment was real, while the multiple cans under those were filled with marijuana, cough syrup, and other psychotropic drugs. Some of the smugglers were able to run off on foot when the truck was seized but two were caught and arrested. NDLEA state commander, Hajiya Maryam, expressed concern over increasing drug use by minors, especially the use of cough syrup, issuing a plea to parents to bring their children in for rehabilitation.

Swiss Commission’s Goal: ‘Trial Legalization’
Geneva: One year after Switzerland decriminalized possession of marijuana, the Swiss district is now considering legalizing the plant in an attempt to undermine the black market in cannabis. In 2013 UNICEF reported that the more liberal a country’s drug laws, the less likely the adolescents in that country were to try marijuana. This is the hope of the Swiss government as Swiss children and teenagers top the European list for experimenting with pot.

     The Advisory Commission on Addiction would like to see trial legalization in the coming months, but the largest party in the federal parliament, the Swiss People’s Party, has vowed to prevent the relaxing of any drug laws. As of 2013, anyone caught with under 10g of marijuana can pay an on the spot fine of $99 to avoid a criminal record. Progress in creating a legal marketplace could end the underground sale of marijuana, making it less obtainable for adolescents. Supporters of the movement would like to see the government mimic a model similar to the one in Spain where growing marijuana for personal use is tolerated and private smoking clubs keep buyers from having to go to the streets to purchase cannabis.

Aussie Government Funds MJ Trial
Australia: The Australian Senate has been introduced a bill that would create a regulator to oversee the growing and distribution of cannabis for people who medically need it. The bill is sponsored by Richard di Natale, and co-sponsored by Melissa Parke and Sharman Stone. The bill could be debated as early as February, and may pass swiftly, however if it fails the Labor and Coalition board will most likely work together to draft an alternative.

     The assistant health minister said there is support for the idea but the government would be waiting on the results of a trial planned in New South Wales. The trial, costing $9 million, uses modified cannabis to treat three categories of patients; terminally ill, children with epilepsy, and cancer patients suffering from nausea related to chemotherapy. Prime Minister Tony Abbott supports the state-based drug trials and believes state law should govern these laws more than federal law should. Stone and di Natale believe the trials are simply a stalling technique and point to trials in the US, Canada, and Israel as successful. They believe the evidence is crystal clear and “Australians continue to suffer” while the government attempts to reinvent the wheel.

French Drug Trial Leaves 1 Dead, 5 Hospitalized
France: An experimental drug trial could land some researchers in jail with manslaughter charges, pending the result of an official investigation into the trials. The experiment was testing the effects of a new painkiller, mistakenly reported by some new outlets at first to contain cannabinoids, actually acts on the endocannabinoid system, according to the Associated Press. It was intended to ease mood, anxiety, and pain issues as well as helping with problems associated with neurodegenerative illnesses.

     The phase 1 trial began in June with 108 healthy participants, none of which had any adverse reactions to the drug. The second batch of phase 1 began with 90 volunteers on Jan. 7th. Of those 90 healthy people, 6 ended up in the hospital, with one of the six passing away 10 days after the start of the experiment. Health authorities have released a statement about the remaining patients in the hospital, saying three may face possible brain damage. The hospital has contacted the other 84 participants of the trial, ten came in for medical exams, and another five will be tested closer to their own homes, but it is unclear if the remaining sixty-nine will be monitored or tested. It is uncommon for healthy volunteers to have such adverse reactions during a phase 1 trial, which is only intended to study safe usage and side effects, before moving onto phase 2, which actually tests the effectiveness of the intention of the drug.

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