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The sooner other countries follow Canada’s lead and legalise cannabis, the better

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Canada last week became the second country in the world to legalise recreational use of marijuana. After the Cannabis Act cleared its final legislative hurdle in the Canadian Senate last Tuesday, marijuana enthusiasts across the country can now look forward to buying their drug of choice legally from as early as this September. While Uruguay is the only other nation to have made the move to date, many campaigners hope the Canadian government’s decision to legalise the drug may serve as a tipping point in the global debate over its safety, and the wisdom of continuing to outlaw its sale and use. Welcoming the decision on Twitter after the vote, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wisely pointed out that prohibition had made it far “too easy for our kids to get [illicit] marijuana – and for criminals to reap the profits”. Fortunately, this is a position that is becoming increasingly popular among senior politicians, drug experts and law enforcement officials in many countries where it remains illegal to sell or use cannabis.

Indeed, while Canada and Uruguay remain the only two countries to have fully legalised cannabis, many other nations are reacting to changing social attitudes towards the drug by altering the way in which they deal with users. Eight US states have legalised the recreational use of marijuana, while possession of the drug for personal use has been effectively decriminalised in Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. In Norway, the country’s Parliament last year passed a bill that will decriminalise cannabis and a range of other substances for personal use. Other countries, including the UK and France, have taken a less progressive position on cannabis, despite senior lawmakers such as former leader of Britain’s Conservative Party William Hague declaring the war on the drug “irreversibly lost”. While few would have predicted a decade ago that the US would be leading the way on cannabis legalisation, Canada’s recent decision to allow the drug to be sold legally must surely now persuade other governments to accept that all the evidence suggests this is the only sensible way forward.

As Trudeau pointed out after the Canadian Senate passed the Cannabis Act last week, prohibition has totally failed to limit the availability of marijuana. This is true across the whole of the Western world. All it has done is create a multi-billion dollar business that is controlled by organised criminals, the majority of whom have no qualms about cutting the products they sell with all manner harmful substances. Drug traffickers have been known to bulk out herbal cannabis with crushed glass, sand and laundry detergent, and resin with beeswax, boot polish and glue. Much of the illicit marijuana sold in countries such as the US and the UK is now grown in domestic cannabis factories, and is much stronger than the strains users would have been familiar with 20 years ago, when supplies of the drug were more commonly imported. Legalisation would allow governments to regulate the supply of cannabis, making it less harmful to users, and standardising its strength, allowing those who choose to take it more control over what they put into their bodies.

It is often argued that cannabis has been proven to induce psychotic illness in individuals who might be prone to this type of condition. While it may be the case that evidence suggests marijuana use can induce psychotic symptoms and increase the chances of users developing a psychotic illness, this should not be used as a barrier to legalisation. Much in the same way that alcohol is not outlawed on the basis that some people who drink are more prone to becoming alcoholics, the possible negative reaction that a small number of people might experience when taking the drug should not trump the wider benefits that legalisation would bring. In any case, the legalisation of milder forms of cannabis might actually prevent people with a propensity to develop a psychotic illness from coming across more potent strains of the drug, which are more likely to trigger a psychotic episode. Furthermore, a small portion of the huge amount of tax revenue that would be raised by the legal sale of cannabis could be used to launch a public awareness campaign about the dangers of using cannabis for those who might be prone to developing a psychotic illness.

The argument that cannabis can act as a gateway drug to more damaging substances should also not be used as an argument against legalisation. The primary reason cannabis use might lead to the consumption of harder drugs is the fact that those who wish to take it in countries in which it is outlawed are forced to mix with criminals who routinely sell other, more damaging substances. If anything, legalisation would make it less likely that cannabis users would mix with the type of people who might offer them something harder. Again, some of the revenue raised from the sale of legal marijuana could be used to fund education programmes about addiction, and treatment for the small number of people who might experience problems with their own cannabis use.

On balance, the argument for the legalisation of cannabis is beyond compelling. While making harder drugs more accessible should be approached with considerably more caution, the reduction in user harm and crime associated with the prohibition of cannabis should make the legalisation, regulation and taxation of the substance a no-brainer. Countries with enough courage to follow Canada’s lead will almost instantaneously free up valuable law enforcement resources that could be used to much better ends elsewhere, and generate valuable tax revenue that could be spent on health and education. The majority of right-thinking people accept that it is only a matter of time before cannabis is made legal in most Western democracies. A great deal of harm could be prevented and a great deal of good done if more governments abandoned their failed policies of prohibition sooner rather than later.

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Crooked vendors exploiting flaw in eBay’s feedback system to con buyers into purchasing bogus and dangerous items

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Buyers on eBay are being duped into purchasing substandard and counterfeit products due to a flaw in the online auction platform’s seller feedback system, according to an investigation conducted by UK consumer group Which?

The watchdog found that dishonest vendors can take advantage of these flaws by linking positive reviews of genuine products manufactured by companies such as Apple and Samsung to fake and low-quality items.

Which? found that crooked sellers are able to link thousands of positive reviews to eBay listings they have nothing to do with.

The organisation discovered that real reviews can be associated with fake products that are potentially dangerous, such as counterfeit mobile phone chargers that can pose a fire risk.

Sellers are able to do this by using “product IDs” associated with genuine items when adding their products to eBay, subsequently benefitting from the positive reviews those items have attracted.

The system is intended to make the process of listing products on eBay quicker and easier by allowing sellers to pull information from similar items that have a linked product ID.

As part of its investigation, Which? purchased 20 bogus Apple and Samsung accessories such as chargers and USB cables that were supposed to be official and shared the same reviews as products manufactured by the two technology firms

Calling for online ecommerce platforms to be held accountable for flaws in their seller feedback systems that allow dishonest vendors to pull the wool over buyers’ eyes, Head of Home Products and Services at Which? Natalie Hitchins said: “Our investigation has uncovered yet another example of online reviews being manipulated to mislead people.

“eBay’s product review system is confusing for consumers and could even direct them towards counterfeit or dangerous products sold by unscrupulous sellers.

“Online reviews influence billions of pounds of consumer spending each year.

“The [UK Competition and Markets Authority] must now investigate how fake and misleading reviews are duping online shoppers, taking the strongest possible action against sites that fail to tackle the problem.”

Responding to the findings of Which?’s investigation eBay said in a statement: “The research does not fully consider that there are distinctions between product reviews (which provide buyers with a holistic review of the same product), and seller feedback (which can be used to see specific reviews of a seller’s performance and may reflect the item’s condition).”

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that US politicians had called on lawmakers to hold ecommerce companies such as eBay and Amazon to account if they fail to prevent third-party vendors selling counterfeit or substandard products on their platforms.

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Major ‘lover boy’ prostitution gang broken up by coalition of European law enforcement agencies

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A Romanian human trafficking and prostitution network that used the “lover boy” method to entrap young women before forcing them into sex work has been broken up a coalition of European law enforcement agencies.

The lover boy method, also known as the “Romeo pimp” method, involves young men seducing victims with the objective of coercing them into prostitution.

Lover boy traffickers groom their victims to believe they have entered into a serious romantic relationship before using emotional, psychological and sometimes physical abuse to intimidate them into working in the sex services industry.

Investigators from Spain, Romania, the Czech Republic and several other European nations were involved in the operation that resulted in the dismantling of the gang, which is said to have groomed and exploited at least 10 young women by forcing them to work as prostitutes.

The operation resulted in the arrest of 14 people in Romania and Spain, the safeguarding of 10 trafficking victims, and the confiscation of a number of items, including a quantity of cash, jewellery, expensive vehicles and several electronic devices.

In total, the agencies taking part in the effort raided 16 properties in the Czech Republic, Romania and Spain.

Having groomed their victims, Romanian members of the network would develop manipulative dependent relationships with the young women they targeted before forcing them into sex work.

Once under the traffickers’ control, victims would be abused and drugged before being sold onto other members of the network for as much as €6,000 ($6,632) each.

The women would then be moved between locations and countries on a regular basis as part of the gang’s efforts to avoid the attention of police.

Profits made by the network were laundered through the purchase of property, expensive jewellery and high-value cars.

Ongoing investigations into the network’s activities are focussed on the theory that it was working in cooperation with another gang.

Enquires have already resulted in the identification of more than 40 additional women who fell victim to the two criminal organisations.

In a statement, Europol said: “Europol facilitated the information exchange between the participating countries, provided coordination support and analysed operational information against Europol’s databases to give leads to investigators.

“Europol conducted a financial analysis based on the information provided which highlighted the extension of the criminal activity of the group and the presence and flow of illicit profits to other jurisdictions.”

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Taking cocaine will not cure people struck down with the coronavirus, French government warns public

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Authorities in France have been forced to inform the public that taking cocaine will not cure people infected with the coronavirus.

Taking to Twitter on Sunday, the French Ministry for Solidarity and Health told its followers that cocaine is not only ineffective when it comes to fighting the coronavirus, but is also a highly addictive drug that can cause serious harm to users’ health.

The government department was seeking to counter fake news circulating on social media that taking the drug could cure or prevent the virus, including doctored news stories that appeared to confirm the drug’s effectiveness at fighting the disease.

The ministry’s Twitter post included a link to a government information page that provided further guidance on disinformation circulating about the coronavirus outbreak.

As well as encouraging those worried about the coronavirus to start taking cocaine, online trolls have also suggested that bleach can also help fight the disease.

In a post on Twitter that has attracted many thousands of engagements, @Jordan_Sather_ told his followers: “Would you look at that. Not only is chlorine dioxide (aka ‘MMS’) an effective cancer cell killer, it can wipe out coronavirus too.

“No wonder YouTube has been censoring basically every single video where I discuss it over the last year.”

In August of 2019, the US Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about that dangers of consuming bleach, noting: “Drinking any… chlorine dioxide products can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, and symptoms of severe dehydration.”

As well as warning about cocaine’s inability to fight the coronavirus, the French government has also told members of the public that spraying bleach or alcohol on their bodies will not neutralise viruses they have already been infected with.

Elsewhere, US Vodka maker Tito’s Homemade was last week forced to urge people not to make DIY hand sanitiser out of its products.

Responding to one of its customers who said they had done just that, the company said on Twitter: “Per the CDC [Centres for Disease Control and Prevention], hand sanitizer needs to contain at least 60% alcohol. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is 40% alcohol, and therefore does not meet the current recommendation of the CDC. Please see attached for more information.”

For its part, the World Health Organisation, which today officially categorised the coronavirus as a pandemic, has published a webpage dispelling misinformation about the disease, noting that the virus cannot be killed of avoided by taking a hot bath or using hand dryers.

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