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The Hempire News - December 05

Review of the Year
We danced the old three steps forward, two steps back, shuffle again this year. Reclassification continued to work: arrests dropped, the police had more time to catch actual criminals and two separate studies said fewer adults and teenagers were using the substance. Even so Labour made it clear they wanted cannabis put back to class B.

There isn't much Blair cares about more than how he's viewed and the prevailing view about cannabis is that it causes psychosis. Studies and experts and newspapers all said it was so and prohibitionists gleefully warned of the catastrophe to come. What they failed to notice was the conclusion of just about every study and just about every expert: the more dangerous cannabis is the more we need to control who makes, who sells and who buys the stuff.

Amazingly, the only person who seems to get this is the new Tory leader David Cameron. Cameron wants radical options to the laws on cannabis examined and asked the UN to look at legalising all drugs. A position he stood by whilst trying to get the people who most oppose change to vote for him. The fact a politician took a principled stand on drugs is remarkable enough, the fact it was a Tory is astonishing.

This year brought a wealth of new evidence about the benefits medicinal cannabis can bring. More studies showed how cannabis helps people cope with cancer and HIV. Cannabis was found to improve the quality of life for people with neurological diseases, migraines and chronic pain. Cannabis helped people recover from brain trauma and cope with weight loss, arthritis and anorexia.

Other studies indicated possible benefit for sufferers of cystic fibrosis and heart attacks. There was increasing evidence cannabis might help prevent some types of cancer. We learned that extremely high doses made rats' brain cells grow and that (human) users aren't as depressed as the general population. Finally, studies showed that cannabis rich in CBD, rather than THC, could work as an anti-psychotic.

Late in the year Sativex was finally allowed into the country, though only to patients with MS, only if they ask their doctor and only if the doctor can get a licence from the Home Office. This decision came after the Court of Appeals refused the "medical necessity" defence, which would have allowed people to break the law in order to prevent suffering.

Fortunately a hero emerged in the shape of a 66 year-old grandma from Northumberland. Granny Pat was first arrested in January, given a suspended sentence and arrested again in September. The police want to send her to jail, she wants to go and should that happen the sheer cruelty of this law will be highlighted like never before.

It is disheartening to take two steps back after every three forward. But we still always end up ahead of where we started. We're not winning fast and other setbacks will come. But the destination is inevitable and is getting closer all the time.

UK News
If that doesn't make you feel good, how about the sense of satisfaction from completing a questionnaire? It's only a wee one, so it wont take long. But the feeling you've done something worthwhile will be disproportionately great. So for anyone who hasn't told us your voting intentions here's your chance. Thanks for your help.
- click here

Charles Clarke has the report from Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) and we should know if he'll put cannabis back to class B early in the new year. His decision will be entirely political because the council and the police don't recommended change, nor do most of the experts who submitted evidence.

Whether he'll choose what looks right over what is right depends on which paper you read. Some say he'll recommend class B regardless, some say he'll stick with what the ACMD think is best. Depressingly, none think he's got enough backbone to tell prohibitionists they're talking nonsense and wont be pandered to anymore.
- The Times
- The Independent

If you're thinking the Government is a little, well, schizophrenic in its views towards cannabis you'd have a point. On the one hand they want cannabis put back to class B, on the other they want personal possession limits set at 4oz of resin and 17oz of leaf. Anyone caught with less will not be presumed to be a dealer unless scales or other evidence is found.

There was a lot of excitement when the figures were announced, the press got particularly worked up and said it would allow people to carry up to 500 joints, presumably in very big pockets. However, these are only proposed limits and the Government is asking for feedback before making them law.

Which of course means they wont become law. Because whilst drug experts and many police officers think they're workable editorial teams and newspaper columnists think it's madness. And we all know who Blair listens to more.
- full story here

Medical News
A new study adds weight to the belief that whilst THC makes life worse for people with psychosis another active ingredient in cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD), might make life better. Only mice were examined and more evidence does need to be found. However, this isn't the first time CBD has proven to be beneficial and I doubt it will be the last.
- full story here

A different study adds weight to the idea that cannabis acts as a trigger for schizophrenia in those genetically vulnerable. A new type of brain scan revealed that the brains of young cannabis users were damaged in a very similar way to the brains of people with schizophrenia.

The part of the brain which was damaged is a part still developing during adolescence. Therefore, the goal must be to try and stop as many young people as possible using cannabis. A goal prohibition has shown itself spectacularly incapable of achieving.

We need age controls over the sale of cannabis. We need places which sell a range of cannabis and tell people about the effects of each. And we need to find a way of warning young people about the dangers. The problem being that young people wont listen to a prohibitionist warn them and will assume anyone who does warn them is a prohibitionist.
- full story here

It's been a mixed month for Sativex. First the Spanish drug company Almirall paid GW Pharmaceuticals 12 million pounds for the right to market the product in Europe. Then an inquest determined that Sativex was a 'significant contributory factor' in the death of a woman using the product to help with her diabetes.

Rene Anderson started exhibiting classic paranoid symptoms soon after using Sativex. She was admitted to hospital and there developed the pneumonia and kidney failure which killed her. So whilst Sativex caused her to go to the place where she contracted the diseases it is hardly accurate to blame the product for her death.
- Almirall
- the inquest
- GW's response

International News
It's also been a mixed month for Holland. First we heard that even right wing Dutch politicians want to regulate cannabis growing. At present coffeeshops can sell the stuff but growers have to operate illegally. This works for no one and the Dutch, being eminently pragmatic souls, realise the only option is to legalise the whole process.

Next we heard that Maastricht, the same place the growing experiment is to start, plans to ban anyone but Dutch citizens from buying cannabis. It seems no one likes drug tourists; they create problems in Maastricht itself and embarrass the German, French and Belgian governments who hate their citizens popping over the border to score.

Whether this is legal under European law will be settled by a test case working its way through the courts. In the meanwhile, and in case they lose, Maastricht plans to build out of town coffeeshops so the Germans French and Belgians can buy without bothering the locals.

All of which demonstrates just how the Dutch view this issue. Not with hysteria, not with any emotion, but with sense and realism. To them the problem isn't cannabis, the problem is they are the only one with a different approach. This makes them a refuge for users and a pariah to other countries who haven't yet worked out this war is lost.
- grow away
- go away

If we Brits are lucky we may soon be able to carry up to four ounces of dope. However, we're still a long way away from being as lucky as the Czechs. Their lower house has just approved proposals which would make it legal to cultivate up to three plants. Grow up to 300 and you'd be locked away for six months at most.
- full story here

Miscellaneous News
A police officer who allegedly told a party full of other officers 'it's time for a bit of herbal' has been found not guilty of possession. The judge accepted her claim she confiscated the weed, put it in her pocket and forgot about it. Then she found it, placed it in a drawer and forgot about it all over again.

I bet she's relieved. If her judge had been a little more clued up he'd have recognised the classic symptoms of short-term memory loss.
- full story here

Stephen MacDonald's judge was a little more knowledgeable. Or perhaps his claim not to be a dealer was a little less believable. After all, he was caught going into a club with skunk, scales, baggies and a grand in cash. He also had 30 plants at home.
- full story here

Drug dealers are notoriously wary about answering the door to unknown visitors. But even they must have felt the carol singers in Victorian costumes were harmless enough. Unfortunately the cloaks were covering the stab-proof vests and CS canisters of nine Dorset police officers, who busted the occupants for a massive eight grams of coke.

Reports that police ruled out a Santa disguise because they were too fat to fit down the chimney are completely unfounded.
- full story here