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.
Woman arrested in Malaysia for attempting to smuggle heroin hidden in durian fruit
Customs officers at a Malaysian airport have arrested a woman for attempting to smuggle 6.13kgs of heroin worth an estimated RM953,529 ($227,900) out of the country concealed inside frozen durian fruits, according to a report from Malaysian state-run news agency Bernama.
Police arrested the 34-year-old woman after border security workers at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang found the drug-stuffed fruit hidden among 20 Styrofoam boxes at a cargo centre where it was waiting to be transported to Hong Kong.
Datuk Zulkarnain Mohamed Yusuf, the Central Zone Customs Assistant Director General, said the fruit had been hollowed out before being filled with heroin.
“Four of them were found to contain white lumps of suspected heroin wrapped in translucent plastic inside the fruit,” he said during a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur Customs Complex in Kelana Jaya.
Yusuf said his officers acted after receiving intelligence about the smuggling plot, and moved to arrest the woman suspected of being behind the shipment after her details were found on the shipping manifesto.
The woman, who was remanded in custody for five days on suspicion of drug trafficking, could face the death penalty if she is convicted of attempting to smuggle heroin.
Durian fruit, which is renowned for the pungent aroma it gives off, is popular in Malaysia and Indonesia, and is finding a growing number of admirers in countries including China and Hong Kong.
Earlier this month, FlightGlobal reported that an Air Canada flight was forced to make an emergency landing due to the smell given off by a shipment of durians.
Hiding large consignments of illicit narcotics has become a popular smuggling method among drug traffickers across the globe.
In August, Chinese government-funded news agency Xinhua reported that Bulgarian customs officers had discovered almost 76kgs of cocaine said to be worth nearly $3 million concealed inside a shipment of fruit in the port city of Burgas.
Elsewhere, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced in February that its investigators had found over half a tonne of cocaine estimated to be worth more than $19 million hidden inside a shipment of fresh pineapples that had arrived in Georgia by boat from Colombia.
Spanish investigators last April discovered nine tonnes of cocaine estimated to be worth more than €285 million (£312.7 million) among hundreds of boxes of bananas on a shipping container that arrived from Colombia at Algeciras port.
US police use sophisticated cryptocurrency tracing techniques to smash world’s largest dark web paedophile film network
US prosecutors have charged a South Korean man with running the world’s largest dark web distribution network for indecent images of children, according to a statement from the US Department of Justice (DoJ).
Jong Woo Son, 23, has also been charged and convicted in South Korea, where he is currently serving jail time for the crimes of which he stands accused in the US.
The Welcome to Video website, which is reported to have hosted more than 250,000 indecent videos featuring minors that users had downloaded more than one million times, charged paedophiles for access to abuse material using cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
Despite Son’s concerted efforts to avoid being discovered by law enforcement authorities, investigators were able to trace the server he used to host the site through sophisticated cryptocurrency tracking techniques.
An additional 337 site users were arrested across the US as well as in country’s including the UK, South Korea, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the Czech Republic, Canada, Ireland, Spain, Brazil and Australia.
As well as the arrest of users of the site, the operation to close down the three-year old paedophile film network also led to the rescue of least 23 child victims of abuse in the US, Spain and the UK.
Son was arrested in March last year in South Korea in an operation that resulted in the seizure some eight terabytes of child sexual exploitation material, which the DoJ said was one of the largest such discoveries of its kind.
Specialists at the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) examined the material and found the site contained over 250,000 unique videos, 45% of which featured new images that had not been previously known to exist.
The website offered access to this content in exchange for payment in Bitcoin.
Analysis of the server that hosted Welcome to Video revealed that the site had more than one million Bitcoin addresses, suggesting it had the capacity for at least one million users.
Commenting on the shutdown of the site, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Acting Executive Associate Director Alysa Erichs said: “Children are our most vulnerable population, and crimes such as these are unthinkable.
“Sadly, advances in technology have enabled child predators to hide behind the dark web and cryptocurrency to further their criminal activity.
“However, today’s indictment sends a strong message to criminals that no matter how sophisticated the technology or how widespread the network, child exploitation will not be tolerated in the United States.
“Our entire justice system will stop at nothing to prevent these heinous crimes, safeguard our children, and bring justice to all.”
Two men charged with poaching offences after investigators in Florida seize 600 turtles
Authorities in Florida have charged two men suspected of illegally selling more than 4,000 turtles over on six-month period with poaching offences.
The suspects were arrested after officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) were handed intelligence in February last year that a ring of wildlife traffickers was poaching native species of turtle before selling them to reptile dealers and illegal distributors.
The animals would then be shipped overseas to be sold on the black market.
During a raid that led to the men’s arrest, FWC investigators seized more than 600 live turtles, as well as the skull and shell of a Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, which is an endangered species.
The FWC said the species the men stand accused of poaching and selling include Florida box turtles, Eastern box turtles, striped mud turtles, Florida mud turtles, chicken turtles, Florida softshell turtles, Gulf Coast spiny softshell turtles, spotted turtles and diamondback terrapins.
The turtles seized during the operation, which had an estimated black-market value of $200,000, were returned to their natural environment, with almost 300 becoming part of a long-term monitoring project led by the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
In a statement on its website, the FWC said the turtles the men sold were offered for a wholesale price of $300 each, but could fetch as much as $10,000 on the Asian black market.
Over the course of just one month, the men are thought to have sold turtles estimated to be worth some $60,000.
Dr Craig Stanford, Chairman of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Tortoise and Freshwater Turtle Specialist Group, said: “We know that the global black market in live animals includes traffickers smuggling protected species of turtles out of the United States, usually for export to the Asian pet market.
“This sinister and illegal trade threatens the future of many species of North American animals, and as one of the most threatened animal groups on the planet, turtles are at the forefront of our concern.”
In July of last year, a US court fined two Chinese flight attendants $5,500 each and ordered them to leave America within 72 hours after they were found guilty of attempting to smuggle dozens of spotted and box turtles in carry-on luggage from Los Angeles to China.
The China Eastern Airlines cabin crew members were arrested while passing through Los Angeles International Airport after border guards found 31 live spotted turtles and 14 live box turtles hidden inside pillowcases and plastic bags in their luggage.
- Woman arrested in Malaysia for attempting to smuggle heroin hidden in durian fruit
- US police use sophisticated cryptocurrency tracing techniques to smash world’s largest dark web paedophile film network
- Two men charged with poaching offences after investigators in Florida seize 600 turtles
- Europol launches campaign to catch women fugitives accused of serious and organised crime
- Human fallibility is the secret behind CEO fraud scammers’ continuing success
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
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28 November 2017
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