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Thursday, May 5, 2016

World News for May 2016 - by Rachel Bunting

Canada to Start Legalization Process
Canada: When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took office last year, he made the promise to legalize marijuana in the country. Now the Liberal Canadian government has announced it will start putting the promise into action starting next spring. Health Minister Jane Philpott informed the United Nations that the government plans to introduce legislation in the spring of 2017. While she gave no details of the bill itself, she did state that it will “challenge the status quo” of drug policies in other countries and that it will be approached from a “scientific and evidence-based” view. Philpott believes the move to legalization would likely bring a decrease in drug-related crime and the abuse of more harmful substances. Although legalization will be coming, law enforcement will still be cracking down on dispensaries and possession of marijuana until the bill comes into law.

Driving Under the Influence
England: Anastasia James, a 37 year old mother from Braunstone, has been charged with ‘causing death by careless driving when unfit through drugs’ and sentenced to four years in prison after slamming into a tree, killing her 14 year old daughter and her son’s 18 year old girlfriend two years ago. James, her daughter, her son, and his girlfriend were on their way home from a birthday party when James lost control of her vehicle at 70mph and flew off the road into the tree. Her daughter and her son’s girlfriend were declared dead at the scene, while her son suffered a broken leg and James walked away with only minor injuries. At her trial forensic scientist, David Berry, informed the court that the traces of THC found in James’ blood would have been enough to impair her driving. James, however, has maintained her innocence, claiming she did not smoke anything the day of the accident and a defect in her car had been behind the crash. The judge at her sentencing had no pity on the woman stating, “‘For the sake of a few drags of cannabis, the lives of these young people were extinguished. The forensic evidence is absolutely clear - it was not a legal high as you still insist, and the cannabis impaired your ability to drive. You knew what your responsibility was to the young people in your car. I absolutely have to bear in mind the devastating effect this has had on Megan’s parents, as well as you. You still maintain your innocence to the probation service. As I said during the trial, there are no winners in this case, on either side.” James, who has a previous conviction for the possession of cannabis, is also prohibited from driving for two years after she is released.

Croatia Begins Medical Sales
Last October Croatia legalized marijuana for medical use to protect patients from the illegal sale of marijuana, which officials believe often has uncertain quality. Now the free sale of the medication will be allowed, but it will have to be paid for out of the patients’ own pocket. Experts in the country believe cannabis will only relieve symptoms, not cure or treat the ailment itself, this is the reasoning behind the health authorities declining to allow insurance to cover the cost of medication, which will cost patients between EUR 200-270 a month. The marijuana will not be grown in Croatia, but will be imported from Canada and sold in the form of capsules to registered medical patients who suffer from multiple sclerosis, cancer, or HIV/AIDS.

Don’t Decriminalize, Legalize
Professor Errol Morrison, chairman of the University Diabetes Outreach Programme (UDOP) and the director general of the National Commission on Science and Technology, spoke at a press conference with the principal of the University of the West Indies Professor Archibald McDonald calling on the Jamaica Labour Party Administration to legalize marijuana. Morrison acknowledges that the decriminalization of marijuana last February was a good move, but it is not enough. Morrison and McDonald are urging the administration to be bolder than the last and feel the restrictions surrounding the drug are actually economically related and not about protecting the people from the evils of drug use as has been claimed. McDonald claims the reason the government is being so tentative about legalization is due to fear of United States interference, stating, “Let me assure you that where we are now… the truth is the United States will not interfere with us, and this is why they are not interfering with their states. They realize that the word is out, they have the information on cannabis, [and] they realize they can no longer protect that information. There are too many countries in the world, not just Jamaica, who now are doing research on ganja and have that information. The Federal Government of the United States is not stupid and know that they can no longer continue this deception. So, if a country like Jamaica were to move forward, nothing will happen to us.” Both men believe that legalization could bring much needed revenue to the country and possibly make Jamaica the ‘mecca for health tourism’.

Re-Criminalization in Canada?
Kellie Leitch, a candidate for the Conservative Party leadership, stated recently that, if ever elected prime minister, she would re-criminalize marijuana. Huffington Post reports that her ‘experience as pediatric surgeon has shown her that the plan to legalize the drug will put minors at risk’ as studies have shown marijuana can have a large impact on a developing brain. “I don’t want to see any child put in harm’s way by having access to a dangerous drug,” she stated. While she feels that full legalization will make the substance more attainable for adolescents, she does agree that marijuana should be available to patients who need it for medicinal reasons.

Growers Released on Technicality
Three Vietnamese men were arrested in Fife on April 22nd on charges of producing cannabis and ‘perverting the course of justice’, by giving false birth dates while being questioned by officers. However, a few days after being arrested the men were set free due to the unavailability of an interpreter. Lawyers for the men claim they were unable to assist their clients in pleading to a lesser charge, which carried a maximum one year sentence, before the charges were changed to more serious offenses and carried a sentence up to 14 years. The Crown agreed with the petition and threw out the charges. A spokesman for the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service stated, “The case could not go ahead as police were unable to provide an interpreter in the time available. The outcome does not prevent future criminal proceedings.”

Asylum Seeker, Weed Distributor
A man living in Denmark’s largest asylum center, a public institution used for housing refugees whose asylum application is being processed, has been arrested for the one ton marijuana distribution operation he ran out of the center. Police believe he came into the country with falsified papers and that about 100kg of the stash made its way to the streets of Copenhagen, while the rest went to Sweden. The 26 year old is facing charges of selling 835kg through the asylum center, carrying a street value of about 15.5 million kroner ($2.3 million), which could end in deportation or prison time.

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