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The Hempire News - December 04

Review of the Year
2004 was a pretty good year for cannabis. Reclassification happened and was hailed a success, though not by The Daily Mail of course. It wasn't much of a change and what we got was watered down. Still it was the most significant shift in drug policy for over 30 years and meant fewer people were arrested.

The year was full of reports proclaiming the herb's medicinal benefits. Studies showed cannabis helps people suffering from MS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, HIV and various forms of cancer. It also eased morning sickness, relieved attention deficit disorder and enabled fishermen to see in the dark.

In Canada cannabis became available on prescription and more American states passed laws permitting medicinal use. We're not so advanced in the UK and strictly speaking it is still possible for ill people to be sent to jail. However, it was exceedingly rare for any genuine sufferer to be punished in 2004 and it will be astonishing if any are next year.

It wasn't all good news though. They closed our coffeeshops. Children are smoking skunk. Denmark, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and America took regressive steps. Labour and the Tories preferred pandering to fears over telling the truth. The Bush administration fought any liberalisation of drug laws anywhere in the world and leading politicians somehow got the idea that the American war on drugs is working so well we should copy it here.

The magnitude of task facing prohibitionists was revealed by a series of New Scientist articles late in the year. These clearly showed that occasional intoxication is entirely normal. Intoxication is something the vast majority of humans, most other mammals and more than a few insects enjoy. The desire for it cannot be eradicated, nor can it be completely satisfied by legal intoxicants. Therefore, prohibition can never succeed. And that should be the end of the matter.

Not that it will be of course. There's lots of work still to do and we start today. Our task this year is to tell the truth about cannabis. We need to address the misrepresentations and correct the misunderstandings held about this plant. The more people know what we know the sooner the law will be changed.

UK News
The unstoppable march toward legalisation would take an unwelcome break should the Tories get elected, though we would have to respect the divine intervention necessary. If the incredible did happen Michael Howard has promised re-reclassification would be at the top of their agenda. A 'day one' issue no less.

Sounds absurd doesn't it? But it's clearly policy. The first attack Charles Clarke had to parry wasn't on immigration, crime, or terrorism. It was cannabis. Blunkett's Home Office has presided over any number of issues the Tories would normally be up in arms about. Yet reclassification was first to their lips.

Which makes no sense. Why would intelligent people believe undoing a small change the most pressing task facing the Home Office? Could it be they think this will differentiate them from Labour and appeal to voters they lost in '97? Well it's either that or they're stupid, which I suppose can't be discounted.
- full story here

Evidence for this theory can be found in the newspaper politicians believe gets them elected. Both Labour and the Tories slavishly support whatever policy The Daily Mail is currently pursuing in the belief that's what floating voters want. Which, according to The Mail, is most definitely not reclassification.

You see The Mail knows the real reason cannabis was reclassified. A quite fantastic editorial claims "a secret elite lobby" have successfully achieved "one of the greatest reversals in Government policy in modern history... in defiance of logic".

They came to this, logic-defying, conclusion because Anji Hunter is one of Blair's closest confidents and she allowed dope smoking under her roof. Which must mean there are other influential people in Government who also allow dope smoking, or worse smoke a bit of dope themselves.

There's more. Perhaps these decision makers used cannabis in their teenage years. Perhaps their children use it now. Put all this together and voters "are entitled to conclude that the self-indulgence of the political class has been allowed to triumph over the good of the country."

And they say we're paranoid and delusional.
- full story here

Medical News
A major new study has shown that young people who use cannabis are more inclined to experience psychotic episodes. The increase is greatest for children with a pre-existing vulnerability to the condition. However, even children with no family history of psychosis or individual tendency toward it are more at risk.

None of which means cannabis should be prohibited. Young people shouldn't be taking cannabis, but we can't do much to prevent them under the current system. Dealers don't usually care who they sell to, coffeeshop owners would - even if only to keep hold of their licence.

Moreover, we can't educate people about the harm cannabis can cause whilst it's illegal. Information is only reliable if delivered by a credible source. And the Government is simply not credible when it comes to drugs. Too many years of 'just say no', too many years of fear dressed up as fact, have seen to that.
- The Independent
- review of other studies

It would be nice to think the Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM) is removed from Government pressure on this issue but their actions say otherwise. The CSM has again denied a licence for Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals' medicinal spray, on the grounds they need more evidence it works.

Two studies last year weren't enough. Anecdotal evidence is not enough. Cast iron proof that cannabis has fewer side-effects than the drugs currently taken is not enough. Instead they wait for what we know not, whilst tens of thousands of people suffer unimaginable pain.

Meanwhile the Canadians, who don't rush any old drug to market but do have a significantly more tolerant view toward cannabis, have just issued final terms for the release of Sativex. All that remains to resolve are issues such as how the medicine will be promoted.
- UK
- Canada

Angel Raich is the American woman who sought permission from the Supreme Court to be allowed to use cannabis, without which she will die. It seems likely the court will decide against her, partly at least because judges believe she'd be better off getting cannabis reclassified as a prescribable drug.

The problem is her government wont allow researchers to properly study its benefits. The DEA have just refused permission for the University of Massachusetts to grow cannabis of a strength suitable for testing and so continue a long tradition of preventing medical proponents from getting the evidence they need.

This decision must be politically based. The DEA blocks studies into medicinal use because they fear it will lead to permitted recreational use. However, the response of American citizens, and their media, show how counterproductive such actions are.

Raich's case was taken up by publications across both the country and political spectrum. More people are now aware of the arguments surrounding medicinal use which must mean fewer will oppose it. If the Supreme Court does decide against her expect these calls to rise to a volume even George Bush can't ignore.
- Gordian Knot
- all the stories on Raich Vs Ashcroft here

Miscellaneous News
Christmas is a time for forgiveness. And three wise men. Admittedly the ones below don't seem particularly wise but none of them are in jail now and look at the excuses they tried.

Harry Mullen was up first. Harry found some seeds in his basement and decided to conduct a little botany experiment. He just wanted to see what would grow. As luck would have it the seeds turned into glorious green marijuana. Amazingly the judge didn't swallow his story but he'd done enough time on remand so he's free.
- full story here

Martin Prichard's approach was to argue his cannabis plant was nothing more than decoration. A simple, nice smelling, house plant with funny shaped leaves; which coincidentally produces the resin also found in his possession. Martin was fined, mostly for underestimating the intelligence of the court I imagine.
- full story here

Ben Ollis takes first prize though. Ben knew something was up when the gasman spotted his plants. In fact, he opened the door to police with a welcoming "You want to know where the cannabis are, don't you?". It wasn't all easy for the police though, one plant was disguised as a Christmas tree. Ben was fined, less than Martin despite having more plants.
- full story here

Recently there have been quite a few stories about people who put the dope into selling. One guy tried to help a party full of undercover police score. Another didn't even have the 'plain clothes' excuse, he made his offer in the station.

However, we must turn to America for our champions. To Florida in fact where two of the Sunshine State's teenagers sought help from police to recover their stolen cannabis. As they helpfully explained, they needed it back so they could sell it.
- full story here

Marijuana.com, the domain name and web site, is to be auctioned. Starting price $1.5 million U.S.. Perhaps they came up with this figure after sampling a little too much of the product, after all they think Snoop Dogg might buy it. Still let's say they've done their research.

If someone pays that kind of money for a web site dealing with an illegal activity then big business is getting involved. Which would mean change comes sooner. Logic and reason might not persuade politicians, but money always turns heads.
- full story here

Robbie Williams has shocked the entertainment world by claiming to enjoy drugs. In a stunning diversion from party lines Williams refused to look back on his drug taking with denial, regret or guilt. Anti-drug campaigners were quick to condemn. "We know people have a good time on drugs" said one "we'd just prefer to keep it a secret."
- full story here

Christmas came early for two Hawaii residents in the form of a $30,000 cheque settling a wrongful arrest lawsuit. John and Rhonda Robison were busted for growing cannabis, despite having a licence to do so. They continued to grow throughout the case and didn't experience any further harassment. Given the size of the settlement it's unlikely they'll experience any more now.
- full story here

Christmas also came early for Bree Thornton, although the teenager didn't fully appreciate her gift. Bree was doing good work picking up litter on a Florida beach when she stumbled upon a 20 pound lump of cannabis (that's 320 ounces). Being a good girl she handed her find to the police. Which is of course what we'd have done too.
- full story here