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

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legalise cannabis

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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Scammers the world over are exploiting public fears over the coronavirus outbreak

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exploiting public fears over the deadly coronavirus outbreak

Scammers across the globe are looking to profit from public fears over the coronavirus outbreak, with reports across the world highlighting how fraudsters seek to profit from the panic created by major disease outbreaks.

On Wednesday, Kyodo News reported that authorities in China have seized more than 31 million counterfeit or substandard face masks as members of the public clamour for such products amid a countrywide shortage.

China’s Ministry of Public Safety said police in the country have dealt with 688 cases involving the manufacture and sale of fake and substandard protective materials, arresting over 1,560 people while doing so.

China’s state-backed Xinhua news agency quotes the ministry as saying that as of Monday, law enforcement officers across the country had dealt with some 22,000 criminal cases related to the coronavirus outbreak.

Addressing a press conference in Beijing today, Vice Minister Du Hangwei revealed that a total of 4,260 suspects have been detained in relation to these alleged offences.

On Sunday, the UK’s People newspaper revealed that phishing scammers are sending elderly and vulnerable British citizens emails that purport to be from the country’s National Health Service in which they demand a payment of £169.99 ($216) for access to “rapid and effective treatment” for the disease.

Elsewhere, Business Insider reports that Facebook has announced that it will take down bogus adverts that guarantee a cure, create a sense of urgency or otherwise attempt to profit from the virus.

In a statement, the company said: “In the weeks after the World Health Organisation’s declared a public health emergency, Facebook is working to support their work in multiple ways, including taking steps to stop ads for products that refer to the coronavirus and create a sense of urgency, like implying a limited supply, or guaranteeing a cure or prevention.

“For example, ads with claims like face masks are 100% guaranteed to prevent the spread of the virus will not be allowed.”

In January, NutraIngredients-USA revealed that the US Natural Products Association (NPA) had asked federal authorities to monitor dietary supplement companies that claim their products can be used to treat the coronavirus.

NPA President and CEO Daniel Fabricant commented: “We have been in touch with some of the ecommerce organisations.

“We are urging them to take a look at how marketers that sell on their sites are tagging products.”

Earlier in February, the US Federal Tarde Commission warned that fraudsters are seeking to take advantage of fears surrounding the disease by setting up websites to sell bogus products.

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Petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down for hosting videos of sex trafficking victims and children passes 300,000 signatures

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petition calling for Pornhub to be closed down

A petition on Change.org calling for adult website Pornhub to be closed down after it hosted videos featuring sex trafficking victims and child sexual exploitation has attracted more than 300,000 signatures.

Launched by US women’s rights group Exodus Cry, which works to end commercial sexual exploitation, the petition labels Pornhub a “super-predator”, and calls for the website’s executives to be held to account.

The petition cites the case of the mother of a missing 15-year-old girl who discovered that videos featuring the rape and sexual assault of her daughter had been uploaded to Pornhub.

The girl’s trafficker, Christopher Johnson, who can be seen in the films raping the teenager, was arrested in Florida when police matched his appearance in some of the videos and linked it with 7-11 CCTV footage.

In its petition description, Exodus Cry also highlights the case of the owners of adult websites GirlsDoPorn and GirlsDoToys, who were charged with sex trafficking offences after they allegedly tricked young woman into appearing in pornographic films that were uploaded to Pornhub.

Last month, a judge in San Diego awarded nearly $13 million to 22 women who said they were tricked into performing in adult films by GirlsDoPorn owners Michael James Pratt and Matthew Isaac Wolfe.

Noting that one of the most-searched terms on Pornhub is “teen” pornography, Exodus Cry writes in its petition description: “Pornhub is complicit in the trafficking of these women and minors and probably thousands more like them.

“Pornhub is generating millions in advertising and membership revenue with 42 billion visits and six million videos uploaded per year.

“Yet it has no system in place to verify reliably the age or consent of those featured in the pornographic content it hosts and profits from.”

In a statement issued to the UK’s Daily Star, a Pornhub spokesperson said: “In the cases of Christopher Johnson and GirlsDoPorn, the unauthorised, illegal videos were removed from our platform as soon as we were made aware of them, and Pornhub has been assisting law enforcement and legal counsel with both of these investigations.”

Earlier this month, the BBC reported on the story of a woman who was forced to contact Pornhub after it hosted a video of her being raped when she was aged just 14.

Noting that videos of the attack had been posted on the website with titles such as “teen crying and getting slapped around”, Rose Kalemba explained how she emailed the company several times over a period of six months in 2009 to ask for the videos to be taken down, making clear that they depicted het being assaulted as a minor.

The videos were only removed when Kalemba contacted Pornhub posing as a lawyer.

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans caged for six and a half years

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UK ticket touts who fleeced Harry Potter and Ed Sheeran fans

Two British ticket touts who made millions of pounds by ripping off fans of Harry Potter, Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift were yesterday jailed for a total of six and a half years following a trial at Leeds Crown Court.

Peter Hunter, 51, was handed a four-year jail term while David Thomas Smith, 66, was sentenced to 30 months behind bars after the pair were found guilty of fraudulently and dishonestly buying and reselling tickets for high-profile music and entertainment events.

Hunter and Smith are said to have raked in at least £11 million ($14.1 million) while running their BZZ Limited company, through which they purchased and sold on hundreds of tickets at hugely inflated prices to fans desperate to see their favourite artists and shows.

The pair, who were found guilty of committing their offences between 2010 and 2017, brought in a net profit of £3.5 million over the final 32 months of their fraud alone.

As well as selling customers overpriced and sometimes invalid tickets, the court found the men had also prevented thousands of people from getting hold of tickets at face value by buying up huge quantities to sell on at a massive profit.

Both men were found guilty of three counts of fraudulent trading and one of possession or control of an article for use in fraud.

A National Trading Standards investigation into Hunter and Smith revealed the pair used a number of dishonest and fraudulent tactics in order to purchase large quantities of tickets from primary ticket providers such as Ticketmaster, Eventim and AXS.

Speaking after sentencing, Lord Toby Harris, Chair of the UK’s National Trading Standards organisation, commented: “This is an important milestone in the fight to tackle online ticket touts who fraudulently buy and resell tickets to thousands of victims to line their own pockets.

“Today’s sentences send a strong message to similar online ticket touts: these are criminal offences that can lead to prison sentences.

“I hope this leads to a step-change in the secondary ticketing market, making it easier and safer for consumers buying tickets in the future.”

In June of last year, Britain’s national fraud reporting centre Action Fraud launched an awareness-raising campaign in which it appealed to music and sports fans to be on their guard against unauthorised ticket sellers ahead of the busy summer period.

The agency said it had received 4,755 reports of ticket fraud in the 13 months to the end of April last year, noting that victims across the UK had lost more than £1.6 million to ticket scammers over that time.

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