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.
Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has threatened to flood Europe with heroin, migrants and terrorists in revenge for sanctions imposed on the country by the US over Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.
Addressing a six-nation counter-terrorism conference in Tehran attended by lawmakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia over the weekend, Rouhani told delegates that crippling US sanctions would prevent Iran’s security services from stopping drug traffickers and people smugglers targeting western countries, noting how the criminal groups behind such trades are often linked to terrorist groups.
In a speech that was carried by state TV, Rouhani said: “Weakening Iran by sanctions, many will not be safe. Those who do not believe us, it is good to look at the map.”
He added: “Imagine what a disaster there would be if there is a breach in the dam.
“I warn those who impose sanctions that if Iran’s ability to fight drugs and terrorism are affected…, you will not be safe from a deluge of drugs, asylum seekers, bombs and terrorism.”
While Iran is by no means a major drug-producing nation, large quantities of opium pass through the country on major smuggling routes that link Afghanistan and Pakistan with Europe.
Afghanistan is the world’s largest producer of opium, the primary ingredient of heroin, with Helmand Province, which is close to the border with Iran, being the country’s largest opium-producing region.
Iran claims to incinerate around 100 tonnes of seized drugs every year as a symbol of its determination to halt the flow of narcotics through trafficking routes that cross its borders.
In June 2017, Iranian media reported that drug addiction across the country had more than doubled over the previous six years, with research showing that approximately 2.8 million Iranians were regularly consuming drugs.
Iran also serves as a major hub on a number of people smuggling routes used by migrants looking to make their way to Turkey.
Many of these asylum seekers pay large sums of money to people smuggling gangs, some of which are thought to be closely linked to terrorist organisations.
Over recent weeks, scores of mostly Iranian migrants have been picked in flimsy boats while attempting to cross the English Channel from the French border town of Calais.
Rouhani said worsening economic conditions in Iran brought about by the sanctions had led to an increase in the number of migrants illegally crossing the border from Iran into Turkey since the summer.
Customs officers on US-Mexico border intercept multiple shipments of methamphetamine worth more than $1.2 million
US customs officers in California yesterday said they had arrested multiple people on suspicion of smuggling methamphetamine into the US at an immigration checkpoint close to the Mexican border over the weekend.
In the first incident, officials from US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) pulled over an unlicensed taxi carrying a female passenger on Saturday morning.
The vehicle was referred for a detailed inspection, during which a sniffer dog alerted officers to the possibility of drugs being present around the passenger side of the vehicle.
After asking the female passenger to step out of the taxi, officers discovered three packages of suspected methamphetamine weighing approximately 1.8kgs strapped to her stomach.
Later on Saturday, a female driver was stopped in a Nissan Altima.
During a secondary search of her vehicle, sniffer dogs alerted their handlers to 17 packages of suspected methamphetamine weighing more than 10kgs wrapped in brown tape close to the dashboard.
On Sunday morning, a US woman who approached the checkpoint in a Nissan Altima was found by customs officers to be carrying several packages containing suspected methamphetamine weighing nearly 26kgs hidden beneath the vehicle’s floorboard.
A few hours later on Sunday evening, another unlicensed taxi that approached the checkpoint was referred for further inspection.
This resulted in the discovery of a black package containing nearly 1.5kgs of suspected methamphetamine strapped to the stomach of a 16-year-old US citizen.
The drugs in all of the packages, which tests later confirmed contained methamphetamine, had a combined weight of nearly 40kgs, and an estimated value of $228,085.
Commenting on the seizures, Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez said: “Our Border Patrol agents from the Indio Station did an outstanding job of interdicting almost 90 pounds of methamphetamine over the weekend.
“Drug smugglers going through our checkpoints will be caught and charged to the fullest extent of the law.”
Separately, the CBP on Monday announced that its officers had intercepted methamphetamine with an estimated street value of more than $992,000 at the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge in Texas.
The drugs were confiscated on Saturday from a 40-year-old Mexican woman driving a 2012 Nissan Versa.
She was found to be carrying more than 22kgs of methamphetamine before being handed over to agents from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further investigation.
“I congratulate our frontline officers for their firm commitment to carry out the CBP mission and protect the public from illegal narcotics,” said Port Director Albert Flores, Laredo Port of Entry.
Police in Europe arrest hundreds in operation targeting euro banknote dark web counterfeiters
Police forces across Europe have participated in a major joint operation targeting euro banknote counterfeiters operating on dark web illicit marketplaces.
A series of Europol-backed days of action, which took place from 19 November to 6 December, involved raids on more than 300 properties in 13 countries, resulting in the arrests of 235 suspects.
During the raids, a number of criminal assets were seized, including €1,500 (£1,713) in cash, a quantity of drugs, electronic devices including smartphones and computers, Bitcoin, and equipment that had been used for the mining of cryptocurrencies.
A number of weapons were also confiscated during the raids, including guns, knives and nunchaku.
German investigators involved in the operation also discovered two cannabis factories, while police in France uncovered an illegal euro counterfeiting print shop, as well as a marijuana planation.
The crackdown was launched after police in Austria dismantled an illegal banknote print shop in the city of Leoben in June of this year.
The owner of the shop is said to have been producing bogus euro banknotes of various denominations before offering them for sale on dark web marketplaces.
It is thought the Austrian counterfeiter sold some 10,000 fake banknotes to customers all over Europe.
After being handed evidence seized during the raid in Austria, Europol analysed data obtained from the alleged counterfeiter’s computer and decided to launch a coordinated operation targeting other bogus banknote traders in a number of EU countries, including Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and the UK.
Congratulating officers who took part in the operation, Europol Deputy Executive Director of Operations Wil van Gemert said in a statement: “This joint effort highlights that complete anonymity on the internet and the dark net doesn’t exist.
“When you engage in illegal activity online, be prepared to have police knocking on your door sooner or later.
“Europol will continue to assist member states in their efforts of protecting the euro against counterfeiting, both in the real world as in the virtual one.”
Back in September, Europol announced that Polish police had taken down an illegal print shop in Gdansk that had been producing fake €50 banknotes.
The law enforcement agency said the alleged owner of the facility had been selling counterfeits on a number of dark web platforms for many years, and had built up a strong reputation.
He is currently facing up to 25 years behind bars.
- Iran threatens to flood Europe with drugs and migrants following US sanctions
- Customs officers on US-Mexico border intercept multiple shipments of methamphetamine worth more than $1.2 million
- Police in Europe arrest hundreds in operation targeting euro banknote dark web counterfeiters
- European Commission launches list of counterfeiters and pirates targeting EU intellectual property
- Suspect in notorious UK race hate murder jailed for major cannabis-smuggling conspiracy
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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