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Cannabis Legalization

War on Marijuana: Is it Justified?

Jordan Webber

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War on Drugs and Marijuana

Medical marijuana may be legal in many places across the globe, but the fact remains that wars on marijuana – and drugs, in general – are still being waged in other parts of the world. History.com defines ‘war on drugs’ as an initiative led by governments seeking to eliminate the illicit use, distribution and trade of drugs by implementing increased penalties. Cannabis is considered as an illegal substance by many governments.

Those who have watched Netflix’s Narcos telling the life of Pablo Escobar and Colombia’s war on drugs know how bloody this campaign can be. With such a complicated topic to which millions of deaths have been attributed, you may be prompted to ask: is the war drugs justified?

In attempting to answer the question, it is important to take time to research and read up on various stories and reports related to this topic. Read on to know more about this policy implemented in many parts of the world.

 

A Background on the War on Marijuana

Here’s a brief background to give you an idea about the different drug war campaigns across the world:

  • In the United States

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was enacted in the United States, imposing a tax on the sale of cannabis. However, President Nixon repealed this act and placed marijuana in the list of Schedule I drugs along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. Schedule I substances are those with high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical treatment use in the U.S. and without accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

While 33 states along with Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, it is still illegal on the federal level. In fact, marijuana remains to be a Schedule I drug until today. Some would say that the U.S. war on marijuana continues, especially as SWAT raids against marijuana dealers (big- and small-time) have resulted in deaths of suspects and officers alike. There are cases in which suspects were unintentionally and intentionally killed in custody.

Generally, the U.S. drug war has led the country to spend $47+ billion annually, with 659,700 individuals arrested in 2017 for violating marijuana laws and 599,282 individuals charged with the violation due to possession.

  • The Mexican Drug War

The drug war in Mexico was declared by President Felipe Calderon towards the end of 2006. It is reported to have resulted in the death of more than 200,000 individuals due to drug-related violence. This initiative was launched not only to stop the use and distribution of dangerous substances such as heroin and cocaine but also to intercept marijuana trafficking.

Ironically, this plant was deemed as the country’s largest agricultural export back in 2010, which means that the revenue brought by cannabis was funding the country’s war. From 2012 to 2018, President Felipe Calderon continued this campaign leading to the capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and other significant figures in illegal drug trafficking.

  • The Philippines’ War on Drugs

Since 2016, the Philippine has been the subject of talks due to the relatively recent implementation of the drug war by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016. Reports on the death count vary as the Drug Policy Alliance says there is more than 12,000 dead due to the initiative, while Al Jazeera says that around 27,000 lives were lost.

Just like in the U.S. and Mexico, the Philippines’ war fights cannabis as part of this campaign. Recent criticisms against the implementation stemmed from the country’s authorities wanting to ban the song ‘Amatz’ by rapper Shanti Dope as it supposedly promotes MJ use.

Authorities also earned criticisms for burning millions worth of the plant in an open-air area to destroy it and for making jokes about using the herb in light of the death toll.

  • Other Parts of the World

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena expressed his commendation of the Philippine campaign, while Al Jazeera reported in Bangladesh’s ‘Philippine-style war on drugs’ launched on May 2018.

Meanwhile, Asia countries such as Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore practices violent penalties for individuals ‘accused’ of using drugs. These punishments include caning, whipping and flogging suspect, including adults and children.

China also has its version of the initiative launched in the 1990s involving placing drug users who were seen as national or public threats in detention facilities to be re-educated using ‘forced labor.’

Why Was Cannabis Legalized?

When this many governments are fighting marijuana as part of their drug wars, you might not help but think: why was this plant legalized in some parts of the world? Here are some factors that you should consider in finding an answer to this question:

The Failure of Drug Wars

An article published by Vox says that the legalization of the plant is a response to the failure of the drug wars. According to Vox, the war on marijuana has resulted in black markets for the plant. This shows that even with increased penalties and efforts to eliminate cannabis use, the wars fail to stop the consumption of the plant.

Places Where Medical Marijuana is Legal

Aside from failing to stop people from using the herb, these types of campaign fail to recognize the scientifically proven medical use of the plant. It is important to remember that the plant was utilized by ancient civilizations for medicinal purposes, as well as for recreational and industrial endeavors. Meanwhile, there are countries which have legalized the application of the plant not only in medicine but also for recreation.

  • Uruguay

This South American country is the first one to legalize the plant. Uruguayans have been able to access this herb for medical and recreational use since 2013.

  • Canada

In October 2018, Canada legalized not only MMJ but also the recreational use of this plant nationwide.

  • Thailand

Towards the end of 2018, Thailand became the first country in Asia to make medical cannabis fully legal.

  • Some States in the U.S.

In the last election conducted in November 2018, the U.S. now has 33 states that allow the use of medical marijuana. Of this number, 10 states and District of Columbia allows the recreational use of the plant. Meanwhile, only 3 states (Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota) complete prohibits cannabis and its cannabinoids. The rest of the states allow the use of cannabidiol (CBD) with regulated amounts of THC. The recently passed Farm Bill also legalized hemp (Cannabis sativa L.) as an industrial crop.

  • Other countries

According to various sources, the following countries with favorable marijuana laws are:

  • Argentina – Fully decriminalized with legal CBD and partial MMJ legalization
  • Australia – Partial decriminalization and fully legal MMJ
  • Chile – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Colombia – Fully decriminalized and legal MMJ
  • Croatia – Fully legal MMJ
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic – Fully legal MMJ
  • Germany – Fully decriminalized and legal MMJ
  • Greece
  • India – Legal in some states, but illegal on the federal level
  • Israel – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Italy – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Jamaica – Fully decriminalized and partially legal MMJ
  • Lesotho
  • Luxembourg
  • Macedonia – Fully legal MMJ
  • Malta
  • Mexico – Decriminalized and fully legal MMJ
  • Norway
  • Poland – Partially legal MMJ
  • Puerto Rico – Fully legal MMJ
  • Romania
  • San Marino
  • Switzerland
  • Turkey – Fully legalized MMJ
  • Zimbabwe

Meanwhile, personal use of the herb is legal in Peru, Spain, the Netherlands and South Africa.

The Medical Applications of Marijuana

The number of countries with favorable cannabis laws show that the plant has a lot to offer in medicine and medical treatments. It has been used for pain management, treatment for mood and mental disorders, preventive treatments and even as a treatment for opioid addiction.

Common chronic and debilitating diseases that are qualified for MMJ

  • Cancer
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Brain degeneration diseases
  • Hepatitis C
  • PTSD

MMJ is also prescribed to patients who experience chronic or debilitating symptoms and effects of treatments. This includes:

  • Cachexia or wasting syndrome
  • Muscle spasms
  • Severe and chronic pain
  • Severe nausea
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe or persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis

The Future of Medical Marijuana

In the U.S., there are 9 state leaders who expressed the desire to legalize recreational cannabis. These states are Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has also introduced the S. 420 bill, which aims to legalize the plant on the federal level.

Meanwhile, the Philippines’ House of Representatives passed the House Bill 6517, which gives access to medical marijuana in January 2019.

Conclusion

The question stands: Is the war on marijuana justified? Doubts remain even as medical marijuana is legalized in many parts of the world. Some individuals believe that what reports call ‘state-sanctioned violence’ is called for in order to eliminate the use of illicit drugs including marijuana. However, the deaths of suspects and innocents are not justified and some analysts say that these drug war-related violence can be avoided through legalization. Moreover, the socio-economic implications of these initiatives should also never be pushed aside.

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Cannabis Legalization

Barbados Attorney General to Introduce Medicinal Cannabis Bill to the Parliament

Daniel King

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Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Bill

Barbados Attorney General Dale Marshall announced Sunday he will be introducing a medicinal cannabis bill to the parliament, which he expects to be debated later this month. This marks Barbados’ entrance into the list of countries who are to consider a medical marijuana program.

“It is going to be laid in Parliament on Tuesday and the plan is to debate it on Friday the 30th of August,” Marshall revealed during the Barbados Association of Journalists and Media Workers Annual General Meeting held at the Argentina Embassy in Bridgetown.

To date, recreational marijuana is illegal in Barbados. Under its current law, people who are to be caught possessing cannabis for recreational use can be fined up to 250,000 Barbadian Dollars or face five-year imprisonment. Citizens who are guilty of marijuana trafficking are also likely to face life imprisonment.

During the conference, Marshall, who is also the deputy leader of Barbados, clarified that the government has no intention of permitting recreational marijuana use in the country. “The single treaty on narcotics, which is the 1969 United Nations Convention, exempts what would normally be illegal drugs, so long as the purpose is either medical or scientific,” he stressed during the press conference.

At the end of last year, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced that the government will be making further effort to join other countries in allowing the use of medical marijuana.

“There is no doubt that we will put a framework in place for medical cannabis within the next week or so. We have already taken the decision we just need a bit more refinement and training for the medical practitioners who will have the right to issue it,” she said during that time.

The recent announcement on the introduction of a medicinal cannabis bill to the parliament signals the country’s entrance in joining other Caribbean countries in making progressive cannabis reform.

“We have committed to medicinal cannabis because, as a fella said- ‘you gotta go where the science takes you’, but there is always going to be some push back,” said Attorney General Marshall.

In 2015, Jamaica decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in the country. Two years later, Antigua and Barbuda announced plans to legalize marijuana for religious and medical uses. St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also begun issuing marijuana cultivation licenses to local and international businesses earlier this year.

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Cannabis Legalization

France Cannabis Legalization Debate Fails to Count Race

Jordan Webber

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France Cannabis Legalization

The French Agence Nationale de Sécurité du Médicament et des Produits de Santé (ANSM) recently allowed related authorities to conduct hearings in relation to medical marijuana legalization. According to Quartz, medical practitioners and cannabis advocates have been calling for this since 2013.

Cannabis has been illegal in France since 1970. The country’s decision to jumpstart dialogues aiming to shed light on the feasibility of medical marijuana takes a similar route as the United States.

In the US, this move resulted in the legalization and regulation of medical cannabis in many American states. However, Quartz pointed out France’s marijuana conversation fails to take into account race as an important part of its cannabis history.

‘Hidden war on drugs’

In the 50 years that cannabis is illegal in the country, studies show that Muslim minorities living in France received disproportionate negative impacts.

Records show that of the estimated 69,000 prisoners in France, 1/5 of the convictions are drug-related. Moreover, a study by the French National Assembly revealed that in 2010, there were 117,421 drug arrests. Around 86% of this number is related to marijuana.

The study also showed that there was a significant increase in cannabis-related arrest for “simple use.” In fact, the annual number grew from 14,501 in 2000 to 129,683 in 2015.

According to Farhad Khosrokhavar, a sociologist specializing in the French prison system, around 50% of the people imprisoned in the country are Muslims with Arabic origins. France has 67 million people and only 9% of them are Muslims.

Quartz noted that the records suggest that around 1 in 6 French prisoners “may be an Arab Muslim man” who was charged with marijuana possession or distribution.

A history of misinformation

The marijuana policies in France is highly influenced by a history of misinformation. According to Quartz writer David A. Guba, Jr., hashish (another term for the plant) was seen in 19th-century France as a herb that induces “insanity, violence, and criminality.”

In fact, this misinformation permeated Algeria, a French colony during the 19th century. Psychiatric hospitals were filled with Muslims who suffer from “folie haschischique” or reefer madness.

Such misinformation still persists until today and evidently influences current drug laws in France. According to Guba, the “historic racism” related to marijuana remains to exist in the country.

French Muslims are bound to benefit from the proposal to legalize and regulate marijuana, along with cannabis enthusiasts and doctors.

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Benefits of Medical Marijuana

DC Opens Marijuana Dispensaries to Out-of-State Patients

Daniel King

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DC Opens Marijuana Dispensaries

On Thursday, August 8, Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, DC announced that they will now accept medical marijuana cards from patients coming from any of the states in the U.S. with equivalent medical marijuana programs.

The new program will allow patients to purchase up to four ounces of medical marijuana each month. Patients from other states will only need to show their state-issued medical marijuana card to buy their medicines at any D.C. dispensary.

“This emergency rule making is patient-centric,” said Mayor Bowser in a statement. “It ensures medical marijuana patients from other states can obtain their needed medicine. It will also promote public safety by allowing visitors to obtain their medicine at one of the District’s six — soon to be seven — authorized marijuana dispensaries rather than forcing them to go without or patronizing the illegal market.”

The new policy will now expand the list of reciprocal acceptance from 19 to 27 states. The new additions include Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Vermont. The District is also currently reviewing four other states to include in the list, namely Louisiana, Minnesota, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.

DC’s Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Amendment

First introduced in 2016, the Medical Marijuana Reciprocity Amendment includes a reciprocity arrangement that allows medical marijuana users to use their out-of-state registration cards to purchase medical cannabis in the District. The amendment took effect in April of 2018 and approved 19 states as part of its list of reciprocal acceptance. Under the said policy, patients enrolled in a medical marijuana program from other jurisdictions can access medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.

A year later, Mayor Bowser proposed the Safe Cannabis Sales Act of 2019, which allows the sale of recreational cannabis in Washington, D.C. with a 17 percent tax. It requires cannabis-focused businesses to meet a threshold of 60% ownership by D.C. residents, and 60% DC-native employees.

“We want to be able to regulate, we want to be able to make sure we are collecting our fair share in taxes, we want to invest those taxes in ways that affect communities that have been disproportionately affected, and we want to train and hire DC residents,” she said at the time. The bill is currently under DC Council review.

The latest emergency rule making is regarded by many to have opened an avenue for non-resident patients to access medication when visiting the nation’s capital.

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