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.
Canada to pardon minor cannabis possession convictions as country legalises the drug
Canadians convicted of possessing 30 grams or less of cannabis are to be pardoned, a source from Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party has said.
Speaking as Canada became only the second country in the world after Uruguay to legalise the recreational use of cannabis, the source said Ottawa will allow anybody with a criminal record that includes any such charge to apply to have it removed from their files.
Revealing that the exact process people will need to follow to apply for a pardon will be announced in the near future, the official told Canada’s Star newspaper: “For people to whom this applies in their past, we’re going to give them certainty that there will be recourse for them… in terms of exactly how it gets rolled out, the steps that we take, how much time it will take them, we’ll lay that out in the coming days and weeks.”
The announcement was made after members of the New Democratic Party lobbied the Canadian government to pardon people who had been caught in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use, noting how such convictions can prevent individuals from marginalised communities from accessing housing and services.
The amnesty was announced after Canada officially legalised cannabis on Wednesday after the country’s parliament voted to do so back in June.
Long queues formed outside new cannabis shops across the country on Tuesday evening ahead of the first legally-sold marijuana being purchased from a store on the eastern island of Newfoundland at midnight.
Tom Clarke, 43, who owns the shop in Newfoundland, told reporters: “I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now.
“This is awesome. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this. I am so happy to be living in Canada right now instead of south of the border,” added Clarke, who told reporters he had been dealing cannabis illegally in Canada for 30 years.
“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve only been discussing this for 50 years. It’s better late than never.”
Despite the introduction of the new law, it will remain forbidden for Canadians to be in possession of more than 30 grams of cannabis while in public, grow more than four marijuana plants per household or buy the drug from unlicensed dealers.
Charity probe reveals true scale of brutal European puppy smuggling trade
An undercover investigation conducted by a British animal charity has revealed the scale of the brutal European puppy smuggling trade.
The Dogs Trust discovered that European smugglers trafficking canines into the UK routinely force heavily-pregnant bitches and puppies to travel hundreds of miles in poor conditions.
Investigators from the charity also found that crooked vets are providing smugglers with faked pet passports and bogus vaccination stamps for underage puppies.
They also described hearing one dealer in Hungary boast of possessing 300 bitches producing puppies for the UK market.
The Dogs Trust noted how the UK government has failed to crack down on puppy smugglers since the charity first highlighted the illicit trade four years ago, and called on British lawmakers to use Brexit as an opportunity to update and strengthen pet travel rules, which are currently regulated by the European Union.
“Puppy smugglers are only concerned with making a profit, and the UK provides an attractive market because the high demand for ‘designer breeds’ converts into fast internet sales,” said Veterinary Director Paula Boyden.
“Importers are exploiting the lack of visual checks being made at the borders, and insufficient penalties for illegally importing puppies mean there is no real deterrent for these abhorrent crimes.”
The investigation resulted in the identification of new puppy smuggling trade routes from non-EU country Serbia, finding evidence of underage puppies being sold with EU microchips and pre-filled European passports and passed off as EU-bred animals for easier entry into EU countries.
Speaking last November, UK Environment Secretary Michael Gove said Brexit will allow the UK to crack down puppy smuggling.
“Once we have left the EU there is even more we could do,” Gove said in a written statement to Parliament.
“EU rules prevent us from restricting or banning the live export of animals for slaughter.
“EU rules also restrict us from cracking down on puppy smuggling or banning the import of puppies under six months.”
Organised criminal gangs have become involved in puppy smuggling over the past few years, attracted by the large profits that can be made from the trade, and the fact that being caught trafficking canines results in less severe punishment than other illegal activities such as drug smuggling and people trafficking.
The Dogs Trust has previously called for puppy smugglers to face stiffer penalties, noting how many are willing to risk the three months they could face in jail if they are caught attempting to sneak dogs into the UK.
Police smash crime network behind illicit trade of Bluefin tuna in Spain
A coalition of European law enforcement agencies have arrested scores of people suspected of being involved in a scam involving the illegal sale of Bluefin tuna in Spain.
Authorities from Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Malta took part in a Europol-backed operation that resulted in 79 individuals being detained and the seizure of more than 80 tonnes of illicit Bluefin tuna.
As well as the seizure of a significant amount of fish, the operation also resulted in the confiscation of €500,000 ($576,500), seven luxury vehicles, jewellery, watches and other valuable items.
It is thought the network behind the scam trafficked 2,500 tonnes of tuna a year.
Operation Tarantelo began after officers from Spain’s Guardia Civil were alerted to a number of irregularities relating to the fishing of Bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean Sea.
This led to the discovery that large quantities of fish caught in Italian and Maltese waters were being traded illegally in Spain after being smuggled into the country via French harbours.
The members of the gang behind the scam are said to have made at least €5 on every kilo of tuna they sold, resulting in them raking in a total estimated profit of €12.5 million.
A number of people are reported to have fallen ill after eating tuna smuggled into Spain by the gang due to the unhygienic conditions in which the fish was transported and stored.
The smugglers used documentation from legitimate fish farms to illegally import their illicit tuna into Spain, where poor customs checks failed to identify the rogue Bluefin.
Illegally-caught hauls of fish were also discovered on boats in Spanish waters, on which smugglers are said to have transported the tuna in false bottoms under the deck of their vessels.
Europol supported the operation by providing analysis support, advice from environmental crime experts and by coordinating meetings for information exchange.
“The tuna business is often linked to other crimes such as food fraud or document fraud,” the agency said in a statement.
“The main risks for consumer health were due to the unsanitary conditions in which the fish was transported and stored. Sometimes the fish was hidden underwater after it was fished, awaiting transportation.”
In December last year, the Maltese Independent reported that five tonnes of Bluefin tuna were being smuggled into Malta every single week before being trafficked onwards to EU states including Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and France.
- The failed war on drugs has made vulnerable communities victims of deadly new psychoactive substances
- Canada to pardon minor cannabis possession convictions as country legalises the drug
- Charity probe reveals true scale of brutal European puppy smuggling trade
- Police smash crime network behind illicit trade of Bluefin tuna in Spain
- Global experts convene for Interpol conference on wildlife crime
9 February 2018
9 February 2018
8 February 2018
28 November 2017
28 November 2017
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