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Global: Civil Society Groups Condemn Governments For Failure In Global Drug Policy

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More than 200 civil society groups from all over the world on Monday released a statement condemning governments for failing to acknowledge the devastating consequences of punitive and repressive drug policies as they prepare for a UN summit on the issue next month.

In April 2016, world leaders will gather in New York to decide on the future of global drug policy, at the first UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the topic in two decades. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for this meeting to be a “wide-ranging and open debate that considers all options.”

But as the preparations continue this week in Vienna at an annual meeting of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), it is becoming clear that the ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to rethink the failed ‘war on drugs’ is unlikely to deliver, according to Monday's statement.

“The global community had high hopes for this important opportunity for a considered re-think of how to control drugs, but by denying the realities on the ground and failing to admit a new approach is required, governments are at risk of squandering this rare moment,” warned Ann Fordham, executive director of the International Drug Policy Consortium. “There is still time to rescue the process before the final summit in New York next month, but governments must be honest about the challenges and allow new thinking and new ideas.”

Global: More Countries Decriminalizing Ahead Of UN Debate On Global Drug Policy

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Release, the United Kingdom-based center for expertise on drugs and drug laws, on Monday launched a new report highlighting the enormous benefits that decriminalizing the possession of drugs for personal use brings to individuals, society and governments.

The report, ‘A Quiet Revolution: Drug Decriminalisation Across the Globe,’ analyses over 25 jurisdictions around the world that have decriminalized drugs, finding a surge toward this drug policy model in the past 15 years. Among the positive outcomes identified as a result of decriminalization are:

• Reduced rates of HIV transmission and fewer drug-related deaths (Portugal);

• Improved education, housing and employment opportunities for people who use drugs (Australia);

• Savings to the state of close to $1 billion over 10 years (California).

Furthermore, the report shows that despite critics’ fears that decriminalization will lead to a surge in drug use this has simply not been borne out in the evidence, with drug laws revealed to have a negligible effect on drug use levels.

“Governments can no longer ignore the irrefutable evidence -- ending the needless criminalization of people who use drugs brings tremendously positive outcomes for society as a whole," said Niamh Eastwood, the executive director of Release. "It is high time resources stop being channelled into futile efforts to combat drug use and instead are diverted into harm reduction and public health programmes.”

Global: Leaders Call Upcoming UN Session 'Historic Opportunity' To End Failed War On Drugs

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A bold public statement was released on Friday by the Global Commission on Drug Policy stating that “an historic opportunity to achieve more humane and effective drug policy is at risk.” The Commission is referring to the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs -- a meeting of all UN member states to evaluate the current state of international drug control.

The UNGASS is taking place in New York from April 19-21 and is the first such meeting in 18 years.

"We are driven by a sense of urgency,” said Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil and chair of the Global Commission. “There is widespread acknowledgment that the current system is not working, but also recognition that change is both necessary and achievable.

"We are convinced that the 2016 UNGASS is an historic opportunity to discuss the shortcomings of the drug control regime and identify workable alternatives," Cardoso said.

The Global Commission onFriday called the proposed outcome document for UNGASS (currently being negotiated in Vienna) “long on rhetoric, but short on substance” with “no hard solutions.” The Commission also urges governments to put “people’s health, safety and human rights first.” According to the statement, this includes:

• Ending the criminalization and incarceration of drug users;
• Abolishing capital punishment for drug-related offences;

U.S.: Civil Rights, Health, Faith, Justice Groups Call On Obama To End Global Drug War

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More than 225 civil rights, health, faith-based and other organizations sent a letter to President Obama Thursday calling on him to use an upcoming United Nations high-level session on global drug policies to push for a fundamental change in course away from criminalization.

The groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS United, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and #cut50, say that the current US position for the session "takes a short-term approach, stopping short of the crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies, while failing to address new realities."

They want bolder stances from the administration in areas like human rights, public health and development, and for the US to promote initial steps the UN can take toward reforming international drug conventions to reflect moves in the US and elsewhere toward marijuana legalization.

"We believe a stronger US stance on these issues would leave a legacy in global drug policy that is better aligned to the direction you've steered domestic policy," the groups wrote.

The letter was submitted as the UN prepares for its highest level session on drug policy since 1998 – the "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem," or UNGASS, scheduled for April 19-21 at UN headquarters in New York. US diplomats and drug and crime officials have played a central role in negotiations over the UNGASS Outcome Document, an official product of the meeting that will impact policy.

Global: UN-Led Drug War Threatens Peace And Security In 1 In 3 Member States

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A new report from the Count the Costs initiative, ‘The War on Drugs - Undermining Peace and Security,’ finds that in 60 countries around the world national security is fundamentally compromised or threatened by the UN-led global Drug War.

Despite claiming to protect society from the potential harms of drugs, the approach pursued through the United Nations – which involves prohibiting drugs, and punishing users and dealers – has created a criminal market so vast that drug gangs now pose a significant threat to international security.

“This is a classic case of security blowback," said Danny Kushlick, the report’s co-author and head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "The UN’s own analysis shows that it is the drug control system that fuels organised crime, and that this in turn threatens the security of as many as one in three UN member states.

"Indeed, a report published tomorrow [Wednesday 2nd March 2016] by the UN International Narcotics Control Board concludes that drug trafficking is creating failed states,” Kushlick said.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the body in charge of the global drug control system – has described how the War On Drugs undermines international security: “Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions. Organized crime is a threat to security. Criminal organizations have the power to destabilize society and Governments.”

Australia: Government Passes Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Australia's Parliament on Wednesday passed a medical cannabis bill which will allow the legal cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Health Minister Sussan Ley announced on Wednesday afternoon that amendments to the Narcotic Drugs Act of 1967, which passed the House of Representatives on Tuesdday, had also successfully passed the Senate, reports Josh Butler at The Huffington Post Australia.

The new law will allow access to medicinal cannabis products for patients suffering from serious illnesses, by allowing the cultivation of the plant for medical and scientific purposes.

"This is an historic day for Australia and the many advocates who have fought long and hard to challenge the stigma around medical cannabis products so genuine patients are no longer treated as criminals," Ley said.

"This is the missing piece in a patient's treatment journey and will now see seamless access to locally-produced cannabis products from farm to pharmacy," Ley said. "Under this scheme, a patient with a valid prescription can possess and use a medicinal cannabis product manufactured from cannabis plants legally cultivated in Australia."

Australia: Legislation Will Legalize Medical Marijuana Cultivation

AustraliaCannabis[LeafScience]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Australian government on Tuesday introduced legislation to Parliament that would legalize cannabis cultivation for medicinal or scientific purposes.

The bill would amend the half-century-old Narcotic Drugs Act and create a licensing scheme, reports Rod McGuirk at the Associated Press. Marijuana is currently illegal in Australia, but two states are considering legalizing it for medicinal purposes.

"This government understands that there are some Australians suffering from severe conditions for which cannabis may have some applications and we want to enable access to the most effective medical treatments available," Health Minister Sussan Ley told Parliament.

The bill is guaranteed to become law; the principal opposition party has already pledged support. "In fact, I've had support across the chambers and around the country and I really believe this is bipartisan," Ley said, reports Alexandra Beech at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

A 2013 government survey of 24,000 Australians found that 69 percent supported allowing cannabis use for medicinal purposes.

Canada: Trudeau Says He Needs Permission From Other Countries To Legalize Weed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked a good game during the election campaign, promising voters he was not only going to legalize marijuana, but he was going to "get started on that right away," in a clear departure from the anti-cannabis policies of his Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper.

But now Trudeau's back pedaling, citing international treaties, reports Mike Blanchfield at The Canadian Press. Now, of course, these treaties were already in place -- and had been for decades -- during the campaign, but somehow ol' Justin never saw fit to mention them until now.

Trudeau is now faced with figuring out how Canada can legalize weed and still be in compliance with three international treaties which it has signed, all of which require the criminalization of marijuana possession and production.

The Liberals plan to remove marijuana consumption and possession from the Criminal Code, while creating new laws heavily punishing those who give cannabis to minors or operate motor vehicles while under its influence. Trudeau has promised to set up a task force to design a new system of marijuana sales and distribution.

His plan to legalize and regulate cannabis is proving thorny, as it requires working with all the provinces as well as walking an international tightrope, being in the position of essentially telling the United Nations and the world at large how it plans to conform to its treaty obligations.

Japan: First Lady Touts Revival Of Hemp Culture

JapanFirstLadyAkieAbeHempField[Facebook]

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Japan's First Lady Akie Abe raised eyebrows this month after telling a Japanese magazine that she's considered becoming a hemp farmer to help revive the traditional culture.

Abe, in an interview with Spa!, was quoted as saying she'd become interested in hemp cultivation and considered applying for a permit to grow the plant after studying its history, reports Jun Hungo at The Wall Street Journal.

"Hemp is a plant of which all of its parts can be used effectively," Abe said. "While it is not yet permitted in Japan, I think it can be put into great practical use for medical purposes as well."

Japan maintains a hard line with its marijuana laws. The Cannabis Control Law enacted in 1948 bans the cultivation, purchase, import and export of marijuana. But before that, hemp was widely grown in Japan and used to make fabric and for use in imperial ceremonies.

There are still legal hemp farms in Japan, but they are rare and require special permits.

Abe said she'd like to revive the Japanese tradition of cultivating hemp. "I've even considered myself to apply for a permit to grow hemp," she said.

The article included a photo of the First Lady visiting a hemp farm in western Japan in August and posing for a photo in the middle of the hemp field.

Photo: Akie Abe/Facebook

Chile: Mother Restricted Access To Baby For Smoking Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Chilean mother says a hospital is restricting her from seeing her newborn daughter because she admitted smoking marijuana a few days before she gave birth.

During labor, Sindy Melany Ortiz told hospital officials that she had used cannabis to relieve pain in one of her arms that had been broken, report Eva Vergara and Luis Andres Henao of the Associated Press.

Six hours after her daughter Luciana was born on November 19, a social worker and a psychologist told her that the hospital had "activated a security protocol" and that her baby was being transferred to the neonatology unit. She said that since then, she's only been allowed to see Luciana for 2.5 hours a day, and is not allowed to breast-feed her.

"The pain (in my arm) was too strong," Ortiz said. "We researched several methods to ease it and we took a decision as a family because we didn't think it would affect the baby. It wasn't recreational, it was strictly medicinal."

Hospital officials in the southern Chile city of Talcahuano claimed they were just following protocol when they told a local court they'd found traces of marijuana in the mother's system.

"We've taken actions for the greater good of the child," claimed Patricia Sanchez, acting director at the hospital. "There's nothing out of the norm, and as consequence the baby is hospitalized."

Global: Religious Leaders Urge UN To Stand By Call For Decriminalization of Drugs

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The Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, Inc. (SDPC) is urging the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to stand by their call for decriminalization of drug use and possession in the United States and around the world.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson -- but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew its briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

“Locking up people for non-violent drug use is inhumane, immoral and ineffective, said Dr. Iva Carruthers, general secretary of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. “At the center of SDPC’s thrust is our belief that there needs to be greater emphasis on policies that focus on Harm Reduction over criminalization.”

SDPC, an interdenominational network of African American congregations, clergy and lay leaders is actively engaged in organizing multifaith activities for the upcoming 2016 UN General Assembly Special Session on global drug policy.

In a recent meeting with a multifaith group of leaders in early October, SDPC outlined a working paper to be submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session in April, 2016. That paper argues for a shift in the ideology and practice in the United States concerning drug use and possession.

Mexico: Supreme Court To Decide On Right To Consume And Cultivate Marijuana

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Landmark Case Could Pave the Way for Marijuana Legalization

On Wednesday, Mexico’s Supreme Court will debate whether the prohibition of the consumption and cultivation of marijuana for personal use is unconstitutional. The Court will determine whether the prohibition of the consumption of marijuana – and its cultivation for non-commercial ends – violates the human right to the free development of one’s personality.

This landmark case could lead to the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes if followed up with legislation.

“This debate in Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: because it is being argued on human rights grounds, and because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs,” said Hannah Hetzer, senior policy manager of the Americas at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

The public debate on marijuana has surged in Mexico in recent months since the case of an 8-year old girl with epilepsy who became Mexico’s first medical marijuana patient made national and international headlines. The government granted the right to import and administer a cannabis-based treatment for the young patient.

Global: Leaked UN Paper Calls For Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

RichardBransonDrugPolicy[Virgin.com]

Drug Decriminalization Rapidly Emerging as Consensus Goal of Drug Policy, Public Safety and Health Stakeholders as 2016 UN Special Session on Drugs Approaches

Momentum Accelerating in the U.S. and Abroad Toward Drug Policy Reforms: Marijuana Legalization, Drug Decriminalization, and Ending Mass Incarceration

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson – but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, reports Mark Easton at the BBC.

“On the one hand it’s promising that such a powerful statement strongly affirming the need to decriminalize drug use and possession made it this far in the UN process – that in itself represents a dramatic evolution from previous decades when any talk of decriminalization was studiously suppressed,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It reflects both growing support for decriminalization in Europe and Latin America as well as the insistence of UN health, development and human rights agencies that drug control policies adhere to international conventions in those areas as well.”

Denmark: Hippie Wonderland Christiania Boasts World's Largest Hash Market

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

When Americans think of cannabis destinations in Europe, that usually means Amsterdam. Those a bit more in the know might even mention the nascent cannabis clubs of Spain. But many haven't heard of the biggest green-light district of all: Christiania, in the heart of Denmark's capital city, Copenhagen.

Christiania, established in 1971 by hippie squatters, is one of the largest communes in history, reports Julia D'Orazio of News.com.au. Its population includes people from all walks of life, including hippies, businessmen, and outsiders, who are quickly integrated into the community.

The commune is a stand-alone municipality within Copenhagen, and over its history, it has seen legal battles over ownership of land and constant debates over the way of life it represents. Creative and free-spirited people, along with anarchists and outsiders, poured into the area once it declared its independence on an old abandoned military base.

Christiania is known as a peaceful and tolerant sanctuary; it covers 34 hectares populated with warehouses, huts, makeshift houses, and creative artwork reflecting its bohemian character. Its streets are lined with unusual buildings made from recycled and repurposed materials and low-budget do-it-yourself projects.

Global: Governments That Kill For Drugs At Extreme Fringe Of International Community

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Death penalty for drugs increasing in Iran and Indonesia as numbers decline in significantly in China, says new Global Report, launched ahead of the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty: Drug Crimes

Vast majority of 550 executions occurring in China, Iran and Saudi Arabia against a backdrop of increased pressure from UN member states and multilateral institutions to dismantle capital drug laws

The number of people executed for drug-related offenses remains high, at an estimated 550 people per year, but only because a small number of countries who account for the majority of those deaths – China, Iran and Saudi Arabia – are aggressive executioners, according to a new report released on Thursday by Harm Reduction International (HRI).

Of the approximately 549 executions for drugs believed to have taken place in 2013, 546 were carried out in those three countries.

The report, Death Penalty for Drug Offences 2015, is the fourth edition published by HRI since 2007 and coincides with both the 13th World Day Against the Death Penalty taking place on October 10 and the 24th International Harm Reduction Conference being held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia October 18-21. The report publishes the latest round of execution and death row statistics for the 33 countries and territories that prescribe the death penalty for drugs in law.

Germany: Recreational Marijuana, Coffee Shops Rejected By Berlin

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Federal Institute of Pharmaceuticals on Monday rejected proposed plans that would have allowed "coffee shops" in Berlin similar to those in Amsterdam, where customers can buy various kinds of recreational marijuana products alongside coffee.

Proponents of the law said they are still hopeful for the future of cannabis legalization in Germany, reports Jess McXHugh at IB Times.

"For us, the rejection of the plans was no surprise, and as such, it's also not a setback," said Georg Wurth, spokesperson for a cannabis advocacy group in Germany, reports The Local. "Political pressure is rising from below," he said.

The Green Party has long favored cannabis legalization in Germany. In 2014, party leader Cem Özdemir had himself filmed doing the Ice Bucket Challenge with a tall marijuana plant in plain view on his balcony beside him.

The Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain borough of Berlin had submitted plans for four "specialist cannabis shops" back in June. The cannabis would have been produced in Berlin and Brandenburg, and sold only to residents of the borough 18 and older.

Pakistan: Military Conflict Threatens Marijuana Crop

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Pakistan's traditional marijuana crop, basis of its thriving hashish industry, is being threatened by Pakistan's decade-long war against terrorism and Islamist militancy.

Harvest would traditionally take place in October, and hashish production not long after that, reports Tim Craig at The Washington Post. But much of the crop in the Tirah Valley in Pakistan's tribal belt has been abandoned, and is in danger of becoming yet another casualty of the conflict.

After Taj Muhammad Afridi planted cannabis seeds in February, the Pakistani military began a series of operations in the Tirah Valley against Taliban fighters who were hiding out there. The operation forced Afridi and 250,000 other residents to leave their homes; many are still waiting to return.

"We know that our crops are still there," said Afridi, 65, who has for decades helped make stoners mellow around the world. "But I don't know what the future will be. Will the military allow this?"

Australia: Woman Calls Police To Complain About Lack Of Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An Australian woman called the local police station Friday night to vent her frustration over the lack of marijuana around town.

The Esperance Police Station wasn't expecting a complaint from an upset cannabis user, according to Senior Sergeant Richard Moore, who said the resident was irate and angry with the offier who took the call, reports Haley Baker at Western Australia Today.

In a "heated exchange" with the officer, she made it known just how difficult the Esperance Police force had made it to buy marijuana around town.

"She was disgusted with what Esperance Police have done and would like us to stop charging people for using or possessing cannabis," Sgt. Moore said. "She sees the kids in her street daily searching for cannabis and not being able to get it easily."

Moore said the woman said it also unfair to the low income families who use marijuana to relax.

According to police, the woman said they wouldn't understand her needs and the needs of others, as they had professional careers. Blue-collar families rely on cannabis as a way of getting through the day-to-day grind, the caller said.

Photo of Police Sgt. Richard Moore: Western Australia News

Chile On The Verge Of Decriminalizing Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Chile is on the verge of joining a growing list of Latin American countries decriminalizing marijuana. Proposed changes to Ley 20.000 (Law 20,000) which would grant Chileans the right to possess up to 10 grams of cannabis and grow up to six plants passed Chile's Chamber of Deputies last month on a 68-39 vote.

The bill must be adjusted by a health commission and then passed by the Chilean Senate before it officially becomes law, but strong support for marijuana legalization in Chile indicates a new norm in the Western Hemisphere and that the War On Drugs has failed, according to Olivia Marple of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

In a 2012 poll of 18- to 34-year-olds by Asuntos del Sur (Southern Affairs), 79 percent of young Chileans "voice strong approval" for legalization, with 52 percent disapproving of government campaigns attempting to reduce drug use and 54 percent did not support the government's current drug policies.

Fifty percent of Chileans at large favor legalization while 45 percent are against, according to a 2014 poll by Cadem, a Chilean market and public opinion investigation company. The approval figure skyrockets to 86 percent in favor of the legalization of medical marijuana.

Jamaica: Ministry of Industry Hires Consultant For Medical Marijuana and Industrial Hemp

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Jamaica's Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce on Friday announced that BOTEC Analysis has been hired as a consultant for the development of regulations to guide Jamaica's nascent medical marijuana and industrial hemp sectors. At the end of the consultancy, BOTEC Analysis will submit to Jamaica's Cannabis Licensing Authority (CLA) a final report with regulatory recommendations, which will include, but are not limited to, licensing, market sizing, taxation, and organizational structures.

Over two months, BOTEC Analysis will conduct on-the-ground research and a series of interviews with stakeholders in the Jamaican government as well as marijuana industry participants, local business leaders, scientists, police departments, medical associations, and consumers. Researchers will take into account the role of proprietary strains, intellectual property, patented processes, and traditional cultural and religious practices in the development and operation of the industries.

"BOTEC Analysis will also incorporate global best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions in the development, administration, and management of medical marijuana and hemp," the company, which also oversaw implementation of Washington state's problematic legalization law, announced.

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