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The Hempire News - February 05

UK News
The Tories can be our best friend. No, I haven't been smoking particularly strong skunk; we need an enemy, and they appear to be desperate for the job. Without an enemy there's nothing to rouse us and no reason for neutrals to decide whose side they're on.

Believe me, I'm not normally one to start fights. But they've got nothing. They can't have, prohibition is not better than legalisation. Doesn't matter how you measure success, prohibition will not come out top. Unless of course the criteria is enriching gangsters and punishing citizens.

This is a fight we will win, but first we need an opponent to get into the ring. Step forward Michael Howard, who has just announced mandatory minimum sentences for repeated dealing of hard drugs and the promise of a clear consistent message that drugs are wrong, dangerous, ruinous and should not be taken. If you don't stop he'll make you.

By and large the attempts by both major parties to prove themselves the biggest cowboy have so far gone unchallenged. But that wont last. This is prohibitionist poker and there's more rhetoric to be dealt yet. The more it is the more those who utter it will be seen as out-of-touch and rabid.

Yes it's a high stakes game but we're right and they're wrong. It really is as simple as that. Winning the argument is not easy but it is inevitable. And often the best people to make our case are the people who hate us the most. Anyone remember Anne Widdecombe?
- full story here

Lambeth council started its annual battle to ban the cannabis march and festival late this year. Normally organisers have been taken to court by now, once for allowing people to dance, then for playing music eighty-five seconds over the allotted time.

Perhaps the council was put off by losing both cases and by the judge's verdict that they were wasting his time. They certainly didn't attempt to use the courts again, preferring instead to price the event out. Their threat of an 800 percent increase in fees wasn't followed through, but they did change their regulations so the free festival became reclassified a commercial organisation and had to pay as such.

Yet still the festival took place. Thousands of people came, had fun and left without causing a single problem. Loads of people smoked dope and a few dealers stood near one of the entrances. According to the council innocent families were harassed. On this basis they summarily refused to even entertain the idea of giving the festival a licence.

For the last two years police have been asked to do something about the dealers and have refused. These requests are on record. The decision to turn down the licence was made by a Conservative councillor who wishes we didn't exist. She didn't put to the licensing committee. All we're asking is it should be.

Something will happen on May 7th. It may just be a march and picnic, but there will be something for you to come and enjoy. We're currently looking at ways to put pressure on the council and if you " or anyone you know " lives in Lambeth then a short, polite, email to the council would work wonders. We'll get back to you with other ways you can help next month.
- the story
- fax your councillor
- the festival site

A new study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports that an unintended consequence of drug testing schoolchildren might be they turn to harder drugs. Its author was concerned that the policy was costly, invasive and alienating. Oh and he found "very little clear positive evidence of effectiveness."

As you'd expect this expert will be ignored by those making policy. There's no votes in opposing drug tests for kids, not in an election year. Politicians find children useful hostages when they want compliant parents.

By sanctioning drug tests at school our leaders tacitly approve drug tests at home, an even worse scenario. Home testing kits are less reliable, meaning more children will be falsely accused. They also destroy the fragile respect rebellious teenagers have for their parents.

Children have to get their drug information from somewhere. If they don't trust their parents or teachers they'll turn to their peers. And surely no one needs explaining how dangerous that is.
- the Joseph Rowntree study
- ten minute tests

Medical News
You'll remember Patricia Tabram, the 66 year-old grandma running a cannabis cookery club for 150 fellow pensioners, all of whom use the herb to gain relief from serious and debilitating ailments. Patricia will be sentenced in eleven days, but the risk of jail hasn't curtailed her activities one bit.

Not only did she deliver a petition to number 10 but she also took the opportunity to eat a muffin outside Tony's pad. She then spoke at the Legalise Cannabis Alliance's annual conference and will be standing for Parliament as one of their candidates in the next election.

- full story here

If the six cases currently awaiting a verdict from the Appeals Court go the right way then life would be a lot easier for Grandma Pat and those like her. Half the cases involve people who used cannabis to alleviate their own serious pain. The others concern the supply of cannabis to others in dire need.

These, in which Jeff Ditchfield, May Po Lee and Tony Taylor are defendants, are the most interesting. Very few police will arrest genuine sufferers and even fewer courts will punish them. However, most people in medical need can't or don't want to grow their own. Someone has to supply them.

The question judges are being asked to resolve is whether the defence of necessity can be used to excuse this kind of law-breaking. Currently you can only claim it was necessary to commit an offence if you are "in imminent peril of death or serious injury". Which unfortunately excludes the defence that was a bloody stupid law to begin with.
- full story here

If there's anyone left who opposes legalisation for medical use there wont be after they've read the extraordinary story of Jeffrey Jeffries.

Jeffrey was hardly out of nappies when diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder), obsessive/compulsive behaviour and violent tendencies. Doctors tried all the drugs they had, including antidepressants normally used by adult schizophrenics and epileptics. All of these either made the conditions worse or had serious side effects. So much so that Jeffrey was institutionalised three times and nearly suffered a fatal overdose.

Then his mother tried cannabis.

"In some ways, I've felt like that was the first day of Jeff's life. ... As I entered the city streets, I felt something strange happen between our clasped hands. Jeffrey's grip, always tense and restless, suddenly just loosened. It startled me " usually he clutched my fingers. I glanced over at him, and he was smiling. He said calmly, 'Mommy, I feel happy, not mad. And my head doesn't feel noisy.' . . . Within half an hour of ingesting that first piece of muffin, I had a new child. I didn't know whether to keep on driving or pull over and cry."

There's much more, too much to be summarised here. Which is why I urge you to click the link below.
- full story here

World News
Spain already has long experience in conducting clinical trials into the effectiveness of cannabis as a medicine. Now it's about to allow four hospitals and sixty pharmacies to proscribe cannabis capsules to 1,500 patients in the most wide-ranging study yet conducted.

The year-long programme, encouragingly called a 'pilot', will treat four different kinds of patients: those with multiple-sclerosis, those experiencing side-effects from cancer and AIDS treatments and those with pain other drugs can't ease.
- full story here

There's more good news from Belgium. They've just clarified their cannabis laws and adults in possession of less than three grams or with a single plant will be given a verbal warning. More serious action will only be taken against people who exceed these, not overly generous, amounts or who are smoking near children or in public.
- full story here

In fact it's getting hard to find a European country which isn't liberalising. The European Drug Monitoring Unit reports that Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland the Czech Republic, and good old Britain all have moved away from outright incarceration.

Ten out of twenty-five. So far.
- full story here

Even America could be turning. George Bush's 2006 budget has been released and it reveals a significant shift in priorities. The massive jail building programme is to be halted " which means states can't just lock up everyone they find with drugs. The useless Safe and Drug Free Schools Program is to end and there will be an effective cut in the drug-war advertising budget. Some of these savings will be passed on to treatment policies, whose budget will at least double.

Defending this radical about-face was left, incredibly, to our old friend John Walters who commented that: "it's time to eliminate anti-drug programs that don't work and increase funding for programs that do".

Welcome home prodigal son.
- full story here

Miscellaneous News
Unfortunately prohibition is alive and well in Lichtenstein. A recent edict has banned farmers from feeding their cows the hemp they love so mooch (sorry). Apparently the hemp contains too much THC and its getting in the milk and well that just wont do.
- full story here

Two more tales of how not to conduct your cannabis business. Firstly, don't put your big grow-op in smelling distance of the local police station. If that's the only place available then carbon filters might be a wise buy. At least they were lucky enough to not be around when the coppers came calling.
- full story here

Secondly, if you're going to take pictures of your crop try not to label them 'my home grown'. Or at least don't put them in your wallet. If you do lose your wallet then getting rid of anything incriminating would be sensible.
- full story here