Norway’s government on Friday proposed a bill aimed at decriminalising the possession and use of small amounts of narcotics, saying users should be offered treatment rather than face jail.
“Decades of repression have taught us that punishment doesn’t work. On the contrary, punishment can make things worse,” Education Minister Guri Melby told a press conference.
“Drug addicts need help, not punishment,” she added.
Under the centre-right coalition government’s proposal, both possession and the use of small quantities of drugs, including heroin, cocaine and cannabis, would no longer be punishable under the criminal code, but users would still have to seek help.
“They are still forbidden, but no longer punishable,” Health Minister Bent Hoie said.
Proponents of the bill argue that criminal prosecution of drug users can be counterproductive as it deters those with abuse problems from seeking help, makes it more difficult for relatives to detect problems and stigmatises an already vulnerable demographic.
The proposal comes with set thresholds for what should be considered a small amount for different illicit substances: two grams for cocaine, heroin or amphetamines, 10 grams for cannabis and 500 grams (17.6 oz) for khat.
As the government only controls a minority in parliament, passing the legislation will require support from the opposition, with some arguing the measure could encourage drug use.
According to a survey published in early February by the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, around five percent of respondents in Norway say they have used cannabis in the last 12 months, and one percent have tried psychotropic drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines.
Despite having one of the highest living standards in Europe, Norway — and other Nordic countries — have seen higher numbers of drug-related deaths per capita than the rest of Europe.
In recent years, 260 people have died annually from a drug overdose in Norway, according to a report published last year by the Norwegian Directorate of Health.
The Nigeria custom officers in Kwara State have seized 48 sacks of Cannabis Sativa popularly known as Marijuana.
Also, 953 bags of imported rice weighing 50kg each were seized.
The Area Comptroller, Ahmed Bello said the seizure was made at Bukuru in Baruten Local Government Area of the state between August 2019 and January 2020.
He said the seized marijuana weighs 3,593kg and the total duty paid value of the items seized is N448million.
Bello also condemned the act of smuggling and the increased consumption of marijuana by youths. He revealed that the command would continue to dialogue, engage, sensitise and educate the public on the strategic role of the customs activities to the social and economic stability of the country.
Spanish police said Thursday they have broken up a Chinese gang that allegedly forced illegal migrants to work in “conditions of semi-slavery” to produce marijuana for export across Europe.
The gang is suspected of growing marijuana in warehouses rented in industrial areas, mainly in the eastern region of Valencia. It was shipped to other EU nations, especially Britain and the Netherlands, via private courier firms in small packages labelled as containing clothes, police said in a statement.
Thirty-six Chinese and Vietnamese men who had been forced by the gang to work round-the-clock in the warehouses in “degrading conditions of semi-slavery” were freed during the operation, which followed an eight-month investigation, the police statement added.
“Living conditions inside the warehouses were very precarious, unhealthy and with poor hygiene,” police said.
“Some of the victims said they were not allowed out on the streets and could not communicate with the outside; they only received food to be able to continue working like slaves.”
Police estimate the gang had exported around 4.2 tonnes of marijuana since the beginning of 2018.
Officers also freed 13 Chinese women who the gang is believed to have forced to work as prostitutes.
Police arrested a total of 81 people as part of the operation. The vast majority were Chinese nationals but there were also a few British and Vietnamese nationals among those detained, a police spokeswoman said.
The authorities dismantled 19 warehouses used by the gang and seized over 22,000 marijuana plants weighing some 3.4 tonnes, police said.
US Customs officers have seized nearly four tons of marijuana worth $2.3 million hidden in a consignment of jalapeno peppers.
A sniffer dog alerted officers to a trailer with a shipment of peppers in San Diego on the border with Mexico on Thursday, Customs and Border Protection said.
The CBP statement said “a 37-year-old male Mexican citizen entered the port of entry driving a tractor pulling a trailer with cargo manifested as jalapeno peppers.”
Officers at Otay Mesa cargo facility found 314 packages of marijuana weighing 7,560 pounds (3.4 tonnes) mixed among the jalapeno peppers.
“I am proud of the officers for seizing this significant marijuana load,” said Otay Mesa Port director Rosa Hernandez.
The acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Mark Morgan also shared image of the seized marijuana on his verified Twitter handle.
He hailed the officers for a job well done.
Very proud of our CBP officers in Otay Mesa! Last night they seized 7,560 pounds of marijuana in a shipment of jalapeno peppers and on Tuesday they seized another 10,642 pounds of marijuana in a shipment of plastic auto parts. Well done! pic.twitter.com/4EnoDGXWl3
The Mexican Supreme Court ordered the government to come up with rules surrounding the use of medical Mexican Supreme CourtWednesday after granting a child permission to use a drug derived from cannabis to treat epilepsy.
The Ministry of Health has 180 business days to establish regulations around the therapeutic use of cannabis and its derivatives, the country’s top court said in a statement.
Mexico’s Congress approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2017 after a two-year fight, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office late last year, has said he would consider legalizing certain drugs.
His government, however, revoked a decision that authorized the sale of 38 cannabis-derived products, such as dietary supplements, drinks, and cosmetics, to be sold in pharmacies.
The court said the agency should have issued the rules within 180 days after the original decree legalizing medical marijuana came into effect in June 2017, and since they hadn’t, the child had been forced to seek permission from authorities to use cannabis oil.
“With the absence of norms to regulate the use of therapeutic use of cannabis, it is impossible for the claimant to access treatment related to this substance,” the court said.
The Ministry of Health responded in a statement, saying it would “fully comply” with the ruling and added it would ensure the child’s treatment.
The Mexican government began a fight against drugs in 2006 that unleashed a wave of violence that has left more than a quarter of a million people killed and 40,000 people missing, according to official data.
Massachusetts is joining the growing list of US states where Americans can walk into a shop and legally buy recreational marijuana, with two stores due to open next Tuesday.
The Cannabis Control Commission issued notices Friday for two outlets to start selling to adults legally without a prescription in three days. The stores will operate in Leicester and Northampton, both west of Boston.
“There probably will be a big crowd,” said an employee at the Northampton dispensary, which already sells medical marijuana to those with a prescription, and who answered the telephone to AFP.
“I’d recommend you wait till after Thanksgiving,” he added of the upcoming US family holiday celebrated next Thursday.
According to the law passed by Massachusetts, marijuana cannot be consumed while driving nor in public places. Adults aged 21 or over get up to one ounce (28.5 grams) of cannabis or five grams of marijuana concentrate.
The US federal capital Washington and 10 states — Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington — have legalized marijuana for recreational use.
Most other states allow for limited use of medical marijuana.
It remains outlawed at the federal level. The two stores in Massachusetts will be the first on the US East Coast able to sell marijuana for recreational use.
“Licensees underwent thorough background checks, passed multiple inspections and had their products tested, all to ensure public health and safety,” said Steven Hoffman, chairman of the Cannabis Control Commission in Massachusetts.
“As patrons look forward to visiting Massachusetts stores, we hope they will do their part by first familiarizing themselves with the law and understanding what is required of responsible consumers,” he added.
Last month, Canada became the world’s first major economy to fully legalize cannabis, making good on a 2015 campaign promise by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Canada on Wednesday became the world’s first major economy to fully legalise cannabis, sparking celebrations on the streets as the country embarked on the controversial drug policy experiment.
Throughout the country, huge lines outside pot shops snaked around city blocks.
Scores of customers braved the cold for hours outside Tweed, a pot boutique in St John’s, Newfoundland that opened at midnight, to buy their first grams of legal cannabis.
Ian Power said prior to its grand opening, he was happy to “make history” by being the first to legally buy pot in Canada.
“I’m elated. I’m so excited, I can’t stop smiling. I’m not cold. It’s freezing cold out, but I’m not cold,” he said.
In Cape Breton, platinum record-selling fiddler Ashley MacIsaac was among the first buyers, while in Toronto revellers attended a “Wake and Bake” party with music, a glass pipe blower and campfire treats.
“It’s fun, good for the soul, and now legal so we don’t have to stress about that anymore,” Sebastien Bouzats from Montreal told AFP. “We don’t have to hide it anymore.”
Legalisation has sent stocks in pot companies soaring on the Toronto and New York stock exchanges but has also been sharply questioned by some health professionals and opposition politicians.
– Second after Uruguay –
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has defended legalisation — the fulfillment of a 2015 campaign promise — as intended to protect young people and to shut down drug dealers.
The entry into force of the Cannabis Act makes Canada only the second nation after Uruguay to legalise the drug.
How well it goes could have an impact on Canada’s next election in 2019, and on whether other countries follow in its footsteps.
“When people start to see the consequences (of legalisation) they will blame Trudeau’s failures for it,” opposition Tory leader Andrew Scheer commented.
In the United States, recreational cannabis has been legalised in eight states, while countries such as the Netherlands and Spain have decriminalized pot possession.
In total, Statistics Canada says 5.4 million Canadians will buy cannabis from legal dispensaries in 2018 — about 15 per cent of the population. Around 4.9 million already smoke.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale announced a plan to pardon past convictions for simple possession, giving people “greater access to job opportunities, education and housing.”
– A new industry –
Under the new regulations, Canadians at least 18 or 19 years old (soon to be 21 in Quebec) will be allowed to buy up to 30 grams of cannabis, and grow up to four plants at home.
A patchwork of private and public cannabis retail stores and online sales have been set up across the 13 provinces and territories, ramping up to 300 storefronts by year’s end, the government predicted.
Sales of derivatives like edibles will be legalised next year.
To meet demand, hundreds of growers have been licensed, some taking over horticulture and floriculture greenhouses.
The new industry has attracted billions in funding, as well as interest from major alcohol and soft drink makers such as Constellation Brands and Coca-Cola, respectively, in developing cannabis-infused drinks.
Cannabis sales are forecast to boost economic growth by up to Can$1.1 billion and provide a Can$400 million tax windfall for the government, according to official data.
It’s still unclear if legalisation will undercut the black market. Prices for illicit pot have plunged to an average of Can$6.79 per gram, and most legal sellers are charging more.
Bill Blair, a former Toronto police chief who is Trudeau’s point man for pot legalisation, remains optimistic.
He acknowledged that criminal enterprises that have long controlled the market for pot and have reaped billions in profits a year “are not going to go gently into the night.”
“But the fact that some individuals want to cling to a prohibition model that has led to the highest rates of cannabis use of any country in the world is a little shocking to me,” he told AFP.
Goodale noted that Can$2-3 billion was spent annually to police cannabis and consumption still rose.
According to a recent Abacus Data poll published on Monday, 70 per cent of Canadians accept or support legalisation.
Public health officials contend that smoking cannabis is as harmful as tobacco, but welcome what they call an opportunity that legalisation affords for open dialogue.
Some doctors, however, remain wary. Diane Kelsall, editor in chief of the Canadian Medical Association Journal, called legalisation “a national, uncontrolled experiment in which the profits of cannabis producers and tax revenues are squarely pitched against the health of Canadians.”
South Africa’s top court ruled Tuesday that private, personal cannabis use was legal in a landmark case that had pitted law enforcement agencies against marijuana advocates and the judiciary.
Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, delivering the Johannesburg-based Constitutional Court’s unanimous verdict, declared the law banning marijuana use in private by adults “is unconstitutional and therefore invalid”.
“It will not be a criminal offence for an adult person to use or be in possession of cannabis in private for his or her personal consumption,” he said, reading the ruling to cheers from the public gallery.
The court also ordered parliament to draft new laws within 24 months to reflect the order.
Outside pro-cannabis campaigners lit pipes and rolled joints to celebrate the news, filling the air with the distinctive aroma of marijuana.
“I’m happy I won’t be getting any more criminal records for possession,” Ruaan Wilson, 29, told AFP before pausing for a puff.
“Now we can get police to focus on real drugs and thugs,” he added, wearing shorts and dark sunglasses.
A court in Western Cape had ruled in March 2017 that a ban on cannabis use by adults at home was unconstitutional, a move that effectively decriminalised it in the province, which includes Cape Town.
But the ministers of justice, police, health and trade challenged that finding, arguing that there was “objective proof of the harmful effects of cannabis.”
Tuesday’s ruling will not decriminalise the use of the drug in public nor the offences of supplying or dealing — but cultivation for personal, private use will no longer be illegal for adults.
‘We are free now’
Previously, possessing, growing or using marijuana for personal use — even in small quantities — exposed users to fines of up to hundreds of dollars (euros) as well as jail time, although this latter punishment was rare. Penalties for selling the drug were far higher.
Three cannabis users who had faced prosecution for using the drug argued in the Constitutional Court that the prohibition “intrudes unjustifiably into their private spheres”.
Activists clutching banners reading “Weed are free now” and Rastafari flags gathered outside the court in central Johannesburg.
Other boards read “Free the weed”, and “Legalise weed, end economic depression #weedislife”.
Some activists also called for cannabis to be decriminalised for use in public.
“It’s not enough, we also have privacy in person, as we walk in a public space, therefore we should be allowed to carry cannabis in public,” said Jeremy Acton, leader of the Dagga Party in South Africa which advocates for the rights of cannabis users.
Several of the roughly 100 activists sang struggle-era anti-apartheid songs.
Previous court hearings on the emotive issue have drawn protests by those opposed to legalising cannabis, as well as by those in favour of decriminalisation.
Use of cannabis and medicinal marijuana has gained popularity in some parts of the world to ease suffering from cancer, glaucoma, HIV and AIDS, and other serious conditions.
‘Able to develop the plant’
But opponents fear crime connected to drug abuse and users graduating to harder drugs. They also cite medical research which suggests a link between heavy use of marijuana and psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia.
The country’s Medical Research Council has already launched trials to help guarantee quality, consistency and standards, according to local media.
“We have used cannabis to treat anxiety, colic in children and as an antiseptic in secret for many years,” said Phephsile Maseko of the Traditional Healers Organisation. “Now we will be able to develop the plant even further.”
South African opposition lawmaker Mario Oriani-Ambrosini submitted a draft law in 2014 calling for the legalisation of marijuana but he died soon after, and his initiative was shelved.
Globally, the legal status of cannabis varies widely. In Portugal, for example, possession and use is largely decriminalised, while users in Saudi Arabia face the death penalty.
The breakthrough for South African cannabis users came just a day after US soft drinks giant Coca-Cola confirmed it was studying the use of a key ingredient in marijuana to make “wellness beverages”.
A store in Alaska, a state in the United States, has begun retail marijuana sales, with buyers queueing up to buy legal marijuana on its first day.
The store’s grand opening took place on Saturday, one which the operators referred to as the “high noon.”
The store, ‘Herbal Outfitters, in Valdez, finally opened nearly two years after voters approved allowing people from 21 years and above to re-creationally use ‘pot’.
The company’s offerings will mark the first time it’s legal to buy ‘pot’ under the voter initiative approved in November 2014.
Furthermore, the passage of this law made it legal under state law to possess up to an ounce of marijuana outside of a home.
The store launch comes less than a week after the opening of the state’s first testing lab, ‘Cann Test’, in Anchorage.
The laboratory which would be used to test cannabis products such as flowers, edibles and concentrates, opened on Monday after clearing regulatory hurdles days before.
General Manager of the Herbal Outfitters, Derek Morris, said the store would initially carry only dried cannabis flowers, adding that manufacturers of edibles and concentrates are still in various stages of the permitting process.
In Fairbanks, another city within Alaska, two marijuana retail stores are planning to open in weeks to come, after final inspections are completed, with a third one being launched in about a month.
In 2012, Colorado became the first state to legalise the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use.
In 2013, a measure to impose sales and excise taxes of 25% on the newly legalized recreational marijuana and earmark the first $40 million in revenue for public schools was approved.
This move according to the then government, showed a willingness on the part of Colorado voters to tax marijuana for the public benefit
This however, is in sharp contrast to what applies in many other states across the continent where the use of Marijuana or any other form of ‘hard drugs’, is highly prohibited and considered a crime which draws severe sanctions from the government.
In Nigeria, there is high prohibition for the use of illicit drugs, enforced by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA).
The agency had in different operations, destroyed large expanse of cannabis farms in states such as Oyo, Osun and Ogun, among others.
Facts About Cannabis-
Research has suggested that: Young people who smoke cannabis run the risk of a significant and irreversible reduction in their IQ.
A UK expert said the research might explain why people who use the drug persistently, seem to under-achieve.
Stopping or reducing cannabis use, failed to fully restore the lost IQ.
Persistent cannabis use for over 20 years is associated with neuro-psychological decline.
This is according to the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Constant consumption builds up tolerance, in which users desire to consume stronger drugs to achieve the same level of highness, causing greater risk of IQ drop.
Among the short term dangers are:
Loss of coordination and distortions in the sense of time, vision and hearing.
Sleepiness, reddening of the eyes, increased heart rate as well as appetite and relaxed muscles which may result in reduced productivity levels.
The Kaduna State Command of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) have arrested a man, Ejiro Kehinde, in possession of 780 bags of Marijuana.
The bags of the illicit substances weighed eight tons and carried the names of some political parties on them.
Parading the suspect and the seized items in Zaria, the state NDLEA Commander, Mr Samuel Azigi, said that his men have been on the trail of the suspect, following an intelligent report of his involvement in the illicit business.
According to Samuel Azigi, the suspects were caught on February 7, 2015 when his men raided a building suspected to be his house at Kakau village, along Abuja -Kaduna Road, where they discovered the bags of marijuana in all the rooms and also in an empty soak away in the compound.
The Commander disclosed that the seizure was the largest from the northern region since the establishment of the agency, putting the highest seizure within the region to 3 tons. He expressed worry that the illicit drugs were meant to be distributed to political thugs within the week of the rescheduled presidential election.
While calling on politicians to avoid using youths as political thugs during campaigns, the NDLEA Commander also appealed to parents to always monitor the activities of their children.
He also appealed to the State Government to assist the agency with more logistics, particularly patrol vehicles, in order to cover the state more effectively.
The suspect, Ejiro Kehinde, from Edo State, who has lived in Kaduna since 2011, confessed that he was pushed into the illicit business out of frustration. Ejiro also said that the 780 bags of marijuana are worth over N19 million while the illegal business has remained the only means of survival for his family.
He told reporters how he purchases the substances from Edo State for onward delivery to his numerous customers scattered all over the country.
A Colorado measure to impose sales and excise taxes of 25 percent on newly legalized recreational marijuana and earmark the first $40 million in revenue for public schools was approved by voters on Tuesday, Governor John Hickenlooper said.
The move showed a willingness on the part of Colorado voters to tax marijuana for the public benefit even as they roundly defeated a broader tax measure that would have increased state income taxes to raise $1 billion for schools.
Colorado and Washington last year became the first U.S. states to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes. But Colorado, whose constitution requires a statewide vote to approve tax increases, left it to voters to decide how to tax the newly legal drug.
“We are grateful voters approved funding that will allow for a strong regulatory environment, just like liquor is regulated,” Hickenlooper said as returns showed 65 percent of voters in favor of the tax and 35 percent against with about a quarter of votes counted.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure kids don’t smoke pot and that we don’t have people driving who are high. This ballot measure gives Colorado the ability to regulate marijuana properly,” the Democratic governor said in a statement.
Under the marijuana tax proposal, a combined 15 percent excise and 10 percent sales tax would be imposed on recreational pot sales, with the first $40 million raised to fund school construction projects.
In Denver, a local ballot measure that would tack an additional 3.5 percent city sales tax on pot shops also appeared headed for passage, by a margin of 69 to 31 percent with roughly a third of votes counted.
Even as many proponents of legalizing recreational marijuana supported taxing the drug, some within the pot legalization community opposed the tax.
Rachel Gillette, president of Colorado’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said before the vote that her organization was not against taxing cannabis sales, but that the state was going too far.
“This is not keeping with the promise to tax marijuana like alcohol,” Gillette said. “It’s more like regulating the sale of plutonium than alcohol. It looks like a law-enforcement money grab.”
BROADER TAS MEASURE FAILS
Backers of a statewide proposal that would have increased the state income tax to raise nearly $1 billion annually for public schools conceded defeat on Tuesday, as returns showed it losing 66 percent to 34 percent with about 25 percent of votes counted.
“Tonight, we know that goal isn’t happening as soon as we’d like. But it will happen,” said state Senator Mike Johnston, a Democrat from Denver.
The school funding constitutional amendment would have scrapped the state’s current 4.63 percent flat income tax rate tied to federal adjusted gross income tax, and replaced it with a two-tiered income tax increase.
Under the proposal, taxpayers who made less than $75,000 would have paid a 5 percent rate and taxpayers who made over $75,000 would have faced a 5.9 percent rate.
Proponents of the measure say Colorado has for years underfunded public education, and sought voter approval to put school funding on a surer financial footing.
Opponents argued that Colorado requires local school districts to allocate tax revenues, so there is no guarantee on how the money will be spent at the local level, which could be used on teacher salaries or to backfill the state’s underfunded public employees retirement fund.
Backers of the tax raised more than $10 million for their campaign, bombarding television and radio airwaves with ads, touting the need for money to fund full-day kindergarten, and to restore music, art and physical education programs.
Among the donors to the pro-tax measure were Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who, combined, donated $2 million to the campaign.