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Albania: Police Storm 'Lawless' Marijuana Village

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Albanian government is sending hundreds more police to what they call a "lawless" southern village where suspected marijuana growers fired rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and machine guns in response to a police drug raid.

Police said on Tuesday they are adding reinforcements around Lazarat, upping their numbers from 500 to 800, after sporadic shooting continued overnight, wounding one special forces officer, reports Llazar Semini of the Associated Press.

Six men were arrested on suspicion of participating in the shootout and of attacking a local television crew, according to Albanian authorities.

Hundreds of police stormed the town on Monday, 140 miles south of the Albanian capital city, Tirana, after about 30 suspected marijuana growers opened fire with heavy weaponry during the raid.

Police in the small Balkan nation said they destroyed 11,000 marijuana plants, and found cannabis stored in barrels and sacks.

Gangs based in Lazarat are said to produce about 900 metric tons of cannabis annually, worth about 4.5 billion euros ($6.1 billion American) -- roughly half of Albania's GDP. The Albanian government has in the past few weeks launched a nationwide War On Pot to uproot the cannabis plantations.

Colombia: Santos, Advocate for Drug Policy Reform, Re-Elected As President

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President Santos Has Been at the Helm of Promoting Hemispheric Debate on Alternatives to War on Drugs

Colombia on Sunday re-elected President Juan Manuel Santos, who is widely praised for having launched peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), aimed at ending five decades of armed conflict. Since assuming office in 2010, Santos has also become one of the most vocal critics of the War On Drugs, and has repeatedly called for a new approach to drug policy.

In 2011, shortly after becoming President, Santos made the boldest remarks on drug policy of any sitting head of state by saying, "A new approach should try and take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking… If that means legalizing, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it.”

In April 2012, President Santos used his platform as host of the Summit of the Americas to invite other regional heads of state to reflect on the war on drugs and to contemplate “the different scenarios and possible alternatives to confront this challenge with more efficiency,” reminding them that “In spite of all the efforts, the illicit drug business is still buoyant, drug addiction in all countries is a serious public health issue, and drug trafficking is still the main provider of funding for violence and terrorism."

Jamaica Poised To Decriminalize Marijuana Possession, Approve Medical and Religious Use

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Jamaican Minister of Justice Mark Golding on Friday released a statement announcing government support for a proposal to decriminalize the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and the decriminalization of marijuana use for religious, scientific and medical purposes.

"The objective is to provide a more enlightened approach to dealing with possession of small quantities and smoking, while still meeting the ends of justice,” Minister Golding said. “The proposed changes represent an approach which will ensure to the benefit of the persons concerned and the society as a whole, and reduce the burdens on the court system.”

The Jamaican Cabinet approved these amendments on June 2; Parliament is expected to approve the proposal in September.

The measure approved by the Cabinet includes the following stipulations:

• Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana becomes a non-arrestable, ticketable infraction, which does not give rise to a criminal record; minors in possession and those with appearance of dependency will be referred to treatment programs;
• Smoking of marijuana will be allowed in private places and by Rastafarians in places designated for their religious worship; and
• Decriminalization of possession of marijuana for religious, therapeutic and scientific research purposes.

Minister Golding also announced a separate marijuana-related bill to be presented to Parliament, which would expunge existing criminal records for the smoking or possession of small quantities of marijuana.

South Africa: Court To Decide On Call To Halt All Marijuana Prosecutions

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A court in South Africa is set to decide on a request to suspend all marijuana prosecutions in the country.

Dagga Party leader Jeremy Acton has asked Judge Nolwazi Boqwana for a court order which would temporarily halt the prosecution of people in South Africa over marijuana (or "dagga," as it is called there), pending the legal outcome of a challenge against the law that criminalized it, reports Leila Samodien at IOL News.

Acton, who is facing charges of dagga possession in the Montagu Magistrate's Court, said stays of prosecution have already been granted in several cannabis-related cases.

According to Acton, cannabis opinion polls in South Africa have shown that 55 percent of citizens favor full legalization, 28 percent want it for medical use only, and 17 percent are totally against legalizing marijuana for any purpose. "That's 83 percent of the population standing for some form of legalization," Acton told Hemp News.

Acton said he was not asking that no one be arrested, as police have a duty to apply the law as it stands. However, he said he wanted their prosecutions to be postponed and in the event that cannabis prohibition was made "a permanent thing," the prosecutions could be reinstated.

Spain: Basque City Votes To License and Regulate Private Marijuana Clubs

Donostia(SanSebastian)SpainPaulStanford

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Spanish city of San Sebastian, also called Donostia in the Basque region of Spain, has voted to license and regulate -- and thus legalize -- private marijuana clubs.

The city plans to pioneer the opening and operation of legal cannabis clubs for both therapeutic and recreational purposes, reports Beatriz C. Alonso Velazquez at Noticias de Gipuzkoa.

The legislation, first approved in March by the local governing board, on April 30 received the first plenary ratification without any dissenting vote. After a period of arguments, it will pass the House after which the law will come into force.

Donostia city officials estimated that 2,000 people are currently members of the 21 cannabis clubs that already operate discreetly in the city.

City council members are currently drafting a manual of practices and regulations for the clubs, saying the rules are meant to protect users.

"You can not ignore reality," said city council member Meredith Aguilera, adding that having a record of marijuana clubs which exist in the city will be helpful.

With these regulations, the government is attempting to fix a contradiction in the law -- while the personal consumption of cannabis products is allowed, their sale isn't.

Indonesia: Rallies Planned In 7 Cities For Global Marijuana March, Saturday, May 3

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The Indonesian cannabis reform group Lingkar Ganja Nusantara (LGN) will hold rallies in conjunction with the Global Marijuana March in seven cities across Indonesia this Saturday, May 3.

Rallies will be held in Banda Aceh, Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Makassar, Palu and Balikpapan, according to a press release from LGN.

This peaceful rally, held annually on the first Saturday of every May, is coming into its fifth year in Indonesia. This year marks a unique step for Indonesia's cannabis movement as six other cities, in addition to Jakarta, are launching their very own local events in conjunction with the Global Marijuana March.

The GMM rallies are held not only in Indonesia, but simultaneously all over the world. This year, more than 143 cities in 33 nations worldwide will have their own marches; North America, Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Oceania will all unite in support of cannabis legalization.

Colombia: Melamede Named Advisor For Cannabis Pharmaceuticals Company

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New Colombia Resources, Inc., a U.S.-based company with assets in Colombia, plans to gain approval to legally research and market cannabis-based pharmaceutical products in Colombia and other Latin American countries. As part of that effort, the company has announced the appointment of Dr. Robert J. Melamede, Ph.D., president of Cannabis Science, Inc., as a scientific advisor.

Dr. Melamede, retired chairman of the biology department at the University of Colorado and Colorado Springs, is a world renowned cannabis researcher who has spent years investigating the human endocannabinoid system.

"I am thrilled to finally start this project in Colombia given its history and rising economic standing on the world stage," Melamede said. "Many patients in Latin America will benefit from the research done in Colombia."

New Colombia Resources plans to form a joint venture to include U.S. and Colombian investors, universities, and pharmaceutical partners. The company is also exploring a future collaborative effort with Cannabis Science, Inc.

The company, in a prepared statement, said it will work closely with government agencies to get permission to conduct research on cannabis based formulations, and plans to hire a law firm to handle government approvals, lobbying, and public relations.

The joint venture will conduct studies in different regions of Colombia with high incidences of the specific illnesses for which treatment is being researched, without regard to socioeconomic status, according to New Colombia Resources.

Uruguay: Cannabis Growers Coming Out Into The Open

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Uruguay President Jose Mujica's plan to create and regulate the world's first modern national marijuana market now is the law of the land in this small South American nation, and those who have, until now, been black market cannabis growers are starting to come out into the open.

Symbols of marijuana are seen everywhere in Uruguay, reports The Associated Press. Pot-leaf t-shirts are sold on the streets, the music of Bob Marley and the Wailers plays on the radio, and cultivation shops are doing a brisk business.

But those who are buying lights, soil and irrigation equipment to grow weed could get in legal trouble if they don't wait to start growing until after the government launches its registration and licensing system, Uruguay's drug czar said on Thursday.

"From a strictly formal point of view, you still can't [grow]," said Julio Calzada, secretary general of the national drug junta. "Until the regulations are in place, there's no way to legally have marijuana plants in your house."

Once registered and licensed, though, any citizen of Uruguay will be allowed to either grow plants at home, joint a cannabis-growing club, or buy marijuana from pharmacies, according to Calzada. Pay particular attention to that "once registered" part, because, according to Calzada, "If a person isn't registered, he'll have legal problems, and the plants will be seized."

Uruguay: Marijuana Legalization Law Signed By President Jose Mujica

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Jose Mujica has signed into law Uruguay's plan to create a legal, regulated market for marijuana, according to a spokesman.

Mujica signed the law Monday night, the last formal step before it takes effect, presidential secretary Diego Canepa told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Government officials now have until April 9 to fill in the details. Regulations will cover every aspect of the cannabis market, including cultivation and selling through a network of pharmacies. They hope to have the entire system operational by June.

Growing marijuana at home became legal as soon as President Mujica signed the bill. Each family can grow up to six cannabis plants, for an annual harvest of 480 grams.

(Photo of Uruguay President Jose Mujica: LAC Press)

Israel: Marijuana Legalization Rally Draws More Than 1,000 In Tel Aviv

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

More than 1,000 people rallied in Rabin Square in Tel Aviv, Israel calling for the legalization of cannabis and the easing of restrictions on medical marijuana.

The Saturday night rally featured right-wing politician Moshe Feiglin of the Likud Party, who sang the song "Ani Ve'ata" by Arik Eichman, which has the lyrics "You and I will change the world," reports JTA.

Feiglin, along with Tamar Zandberg of the liberal Meretz Party, are introducing a bill in the Knesset that would legalize marijuana in Israel and ease access to it for medicinal use.

Feiglin spoke in the Knesset last week about his wife's battle with Parkinson's disease.

Many seriously ill Israelis have difficulty getting access to medical marijuana.

(Photo: Ovfer Amram)

Uruguay: South American Nation On Tuesday Will Become First In Modern World To Legalize Marijuana

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Uruguayan Senate to Vote on President Mujica’s Bill to Tax and Regulate Marijuana

The Uruguayan Senate on Tuesday will vote on a bill that would make their country the first in the world -- since the worldwide Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics in 1961 -- to legally regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults. The bill was approved in the House of Representatives in July with 50 out of 96 votes. Once approved in Senate, Uruguay will have 120 days to write the regulations before implementing the law.

The marijuana legalization proposal was put forward by President José Mujica in June 2012 as part of a comprehensive package aimed at fighting crime and public insecurity. After a year and a half of studying the issue, engaging in political debate, redrafting the bill, and the emergence of a public campaign in favor of the proposal, Uruguay’s parliament is set to approve the measure this year.

“It’s about time that we see a country bravely break with the failed prohibitionist model and try an innovative, more compassionate, and smarter approach,” said Hannah Hetzer, who is based out of Montevideo, Uruguay, as the Policy Manager of the Americas for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "By approving this measure, Uruguay will represent a concrete advance in line with growing opposition to the drug war in Latin America and throughout the world."

Belgium: Police Find 7 Tons of Marijuana In Load of Coconuts

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Belgian law enforcement authorities have seized a record amount of marijuana in two cases, one involving 7 tons of cannabis hidden in a shipment of coconuts from Africa.

"This is a record seizure by customs working with the police," the Belgian government said concerning the two hauls, reports Fox News.

The first seizure, involving the coconuts, happened last week in the town of Ypres, in western Belgium, reports Agence France-Presse. Ypres is near the border with France.

That shipment, inside a cargo container, was worth about $19 million, according to police.

Later, the cops found a second shipment of marijuana, also hidden in a cargo container. This one was found at the huge port of Antwerp in Belgium, AFP reports.

(Photo: Galivant's Travels)

Liberia: African Nation Burns $4 Million Worth of Marijuana, And Not The Fun Way

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Liberia's Drug Enforcement Agency, accompanied by United Nations officials, on Friday burned nearly 300 kilograms of marijuana in the nation's capital city of Monrovia. Officials claimed the destroyed cannabis was worth $4 million.

The West African nation, founded by freed slaves from the United States back in the 19th Century, is mounting a nationwide crackdown on "drug traffickers," reports Jennifer Lazuta at Voice of America. Authorities said the weed had been smuggled into Liberia from Sierra Leone by a member of Presidente Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's motorcade staff.

An official vehicle was used by Perry Dolo, a presidential staffer, to transport the cannabis, according to government officials. He and three other men were arrested shortly after crossing the border.

The public burning was to show there there will "no tolerance for drugs," according to Liberia's Information Minister, Lewis Brown.

"You can be in the center of a convoy, but if you break the law, there will be no hiding place for you," Brown boasted. "That convoy will not hide you. We will arrest you, we will properly investigate you, and, as has been done, we will prosecute you in keeping with our laws. This crackdown will continue. It's a nationwide crackdown."

Sounds as if Liberia has learned absolutely nothing by watching the failed 75-year Drug War in the United States. Neither, apparently, has the U.N.

Czech Republic: Medical Marijuana Still Unavailable 6 Months After Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Czech Republic legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes six months ago, but illogically kept strict limits on growing, selling and importing it. But an estimated 20,000 patients eligible for cannabis treatment still have no way to get it legally.

Although the Czech Parliament voted overwhelmingly to legalize medicinal cannabis, with the law becoming effective April 1, patients and medical experts say interference by the Health Ministry, which had fiercely opposed medical legalization, has kept patients from gaining safe access, reports the Associated Press.

For many Czechs, the only solution is to break the law by growing their own medical marijuana for themselves or family members. Zdenek Majzlik, 67, is one of those people; his daughter has multiple sclerosis.

"She's my child and it is my duty to take care of her," Majzlik said. "I do what I have to do and I will continue doing so. I have no other option." So far, police have mostly ignored growers such as Majzlik, who, under the law, could face prison.

"There's a very consistent effort from the Ministry of Health not to make the law really enforced," said Dr. Tomas Zabransky, a United Nations and European Union advisor on drug issues. Although the Ministry officially denies blocking access to medicinal cannabis, its policies have raised huge barriers for patients to legally access marijuana.

Global: Kofi Annan and Fernando Henrique Cardoso Call For End To War On Drugs

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Former UN Secretary General and Former Brazilian President Say Public Health, Not Criminal Justice, Approach Needed

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso on Tuesday called for an end to the War On Drugs in an Op-Ed on CNN. Citing the Drug War’s funding of organized crime, the cruelty of treating addiction with incarceration and the ultimate ineffectiveness of current policy, the two called on leaders around the world to adopt an approach involving regulation that puts “people’s health and safety first” rather than one involving criminalization.

The article comes in the wake of countries the world over including Uruguay, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, Portugal, the Netherlands and even some West African countries successfully implementing drug policy reforms in recent years.

“For years we believed that if you enacted harsh criminal penalties, drug use and its attendant consequences would go down,” said retired narcotics detective Russ Jones, who enforced drug laws everywhere from Latin America to China and the former Soviet Union and now speaks for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the War On Drugs.

Vietnam: Canadian Marijuana Finds Export Market

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Young Vietnamese cannabis users like imported marijuana better than the local product; their taste for Canadian and American cannabis goes along with their penchant for and Adidas and iPhones. Vietnamese youth have long shown preferences for imported goods of all kinds, and weed is no exception.

Potent North American marijuana is "easy to buy" in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, reports Chris Brummitt of The Associated Press, but it sells for up to 10 times the price of Vietnamese cannabis.

Marijuana is a part of Vietnamese culture, and has long been cultivated locally, as just about any Vietnam veteran could tell you. Despite the tendency of some revisionists to blame the local popularity of cannabis on the departed American troops, it grows wild in much of the country.

The trade in North American pot can be explained by the role Vietnamese gangs play in cultivating it in Canada and the U.S., according to some experts, which makes sourcing it and smuggling it back to Vietnam easier than it would be otherwise.

Vietnamese criminal gangs got into the marijuana cultivation business in North America back in the 1980s; they found a niche and expanded, and now account for a sizable share of the business in Europe as well, according to the AP.

Mexico City Continues Move Towards Legalizing Marijuana

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After years of brutality and violence from drug cartels largely funded by marijuana, political leaders in one of the world’s largest cities may take power and profits away from those cartels by legalizing and regulating marijuana. Members of the Mexico City city assembly plan to submit bills establishing clubs that would sell marijuana and allow the possession of small amounts of the plant at the end of this month.

The new mayor, Miguel Mancera, has stated his support for marijuana policy reform in the past and is widely expected to support the new bills.

“More than 70,000 people have been killed in the drug war in Mexico in the past seven years,” said retired police major Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.

“Were Mexico City to legalize and regulate marijuana, taking it out of the hands of violent cartels and into those of legitimate businesses, it would be a tremendous boon to public safety in the city and a sign to the rest of the world that legalizing marijuana is a smart, workable solution to the evils of the drug war," Franklin said.

If the proposals are successful, the city will join the ranks of Colorado and Washington state, which both voted to legalize marijuana last November, and Uruguay, whose lower house has already approved a legalization bill expected to pass the senate this month.

North Korea: Marijuana Is Legal And Available At The Food Market

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There may not be much freedom in the totalitarian Communist dictatorship of North Korea, but they have one freedom that most in the United States don't -- the freedom to openly buy and smoke marijuana.

Cannabis, or "ip tambae" ("leaf tobacco"), is reportedly grown openly on the roadsides and smoked on the streets of Pyongyang, reports Brian Ashcraft at Kotaku. But local North Korean tourist guides normally won't let Western tourists see that side of Korean culture.

Freelance writer Darmon Richter recently wrote on The Bohemian Blog about his experiences buying and smoking weed in North Korea earlier this year. Cannabis is used by the working class there both for its medicinal effects and to unwind and relax.

Richter was able, with the help of a North Korean intelligence officer, to get into a food market at which locals shop, but where visitors aren't allowed. "We were just walking past the tobacco sellers when we spotted another stall ahead, piled high with mounds of green rather than brown plant matter," Richter writes. "It turned out to be exactly what we first suspected: a veritable mountain of marijuana."

After buying the cannabis, Richter bought rolling paper at a tobacco seller and and started "rolling up and lighting comically oversized joints" in the middle of the market.

Global: Alternatives to Drug War to be Major Focus at United Nations General Assembly This Week

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Heads of State from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico Expected to Call for Global Drug Policy Reform

President Mujica of Uruguay Makes First-Ever UN Address; Will Meet With President Pérez Molina of Guatemala to Discuss Marijuana Reform and Alternatives to Prohibition

Drug policy reform will be a major focus at this week's UN General Assembly, with at least four heads of state expected to call for major global drug policy reform.

One year ago, the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico made headlines at the UN General Assembly by calling for alternatives to the War On Drugs. Since then, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states – and the first political jurisdictions in the world – to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults.

Uruguay is likely to join them soon –- the country’s House passed a marijuana legalization bill in July and its Senate is expected to follow suit in October. On September 24, Uruguayan President José Mujica addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time.

“More and more governments appear to recognize the need for a new direction in global drug policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Importantly, we now have presidents in Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay who are willing to push the envelope in challenging the failed prohibitionist regime.”

Brazil: Man Crushed By Half-Ton Of Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A man carrying 500 kilos of marijuana in his car was killed when his illegal cargo slammed into him during an automobile accident.

The victim was traveling from the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul to Sao Paulo on Saturday when he drove through a Federal Highway Patrol roadblock, reports Carloz at Newsvine.

The police pursued him, and a chase ensued over a three-mile stretch of road. It ended when the man fatally crashed his vehicle into a tree after losing control of it, reports Globo.com.

The impact resulted in the man being crushed against the steering wheel by the 500 kilos of cannabis bricks he was smuggling. Police had to pry his lifeless body from the wreckage.

Law enforcement authorities still have identified the man, who was carrying no ID.

The victim's vehicle was transported, along with the 500 kilos of weed, to the police station in Bataguassu, reports Ultima Hora.

(Photo: Tiago Apolinario/Da Hora Bataguassu)

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