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The Hempire News - January 05

UK News
The Abbey School in Faversham, Kent has become the first state school in Britain to test its pupils for drugs. Each week twenty children chosen at random will be asked to accept a mouth swab. Parents had to approve the policy and pupils can refuse the test. Anyone who tests positive will be offered counselling, only in extreme cases will pupils be expelled.

On the face of it this seems like a good idea. Cannabis is more dangerous for kids than for adults and we must stop schoolchildren using it. The question is what approach will help. The answer is not drug testing.

If the experience of America is anything to go buy, and it should be because they've tried this tactic for years, then drug tests don't act as a deterrent. The largest study ever conducted into the subject found there are "virtually identical rates of drug use in the schools that have drug testing and the schools that do not."

So what about its other purpose, to catch problematic users? Well, determined users - the really problematic - will always find a way round the tests. They'll use any one of the hundreds of kits available online. Or worse, they'll turn to drugs which are harder to detect.

Many of these kids will have a 'fuck you' attitude to life. Beating the test will become a matter of pride. They wont think about the wider consequences of taking cocaine, they'll just know it's out of your system in half the time. And they'll have one more reason not to trust the people whose help they need the most.

We need to prevent children getting hold of cannabis, not catch them after they've taken it. Which means we need to legalise. We gain age-controls, accountability, fewer street dealers and an audience far more likely to listen to warnings. We lose nothing, apart from a war that was always unwinnable anyway.
- the tests
- the criticisms
- the study

You know that Tory tendency to shoot themselves in the foot? Well they're at it again. Their latest brilliant idea to prove reclassification was a mistake is to call for an independent inquiry into its effectiveness.

What they forgot is that every independent study ever conducted into cannabis and the law has found that further liberalisation is needed. Every single one of them - and there's been a few. Nothing we know suggests this one would be any different. Which means that for the first time in history the cannabis movement can support the Conservative party.
- full story here

But let's not get carried away, they don't deserve our vote just yet. Then nor does Labour. The new Home Secretary, the Right Hon. Charles Clarke - a one-time toker himself - claims he doesn't respect the legalisation argument in any way.

There's an election coming up so this is probably not the idiotic statement it appears at first to be. Labour and the Tories are scrambling for the anti-dope vote. But there's more of us than them. Our combined vote is the forgotten force of British politics. If we use it we could have the change we want by June.
- full story here

Perhaps Charles Clarke needs more proof the existing policy doesn't work. The latest tributary to the endless torrent of which was provided by the Independent Drugs Monitoring Unit. The IDMU are the people you see handing out surveys in festivals. And the 2,000 people who replied last year offer probably the most accurate indication of the price of drugs in Britain.

The study found that pills can be bought for less than a pint and that a line of cocaine is cheaper than a cappuccino (and it can be more expensive than a cocktail of course). Crack has dropped in price by a fifth, heroin is down by a third and dope is about half the price it was ten years ago.

The demand for drugs is going up and the price of them is coming down. A growing market is being oversupplied. Prohibition hasn't stopped people from taking drugs and it hasn't stopped people from supplying them. It's caused more problems to people who use drugs and it's caused more problems to people who don't.

The question isn't where's the proof legalisation works, it's where's the proof prohibition works? Where's the proof we should continue it a second longer?
- full story here

The main group opposed to legalisation are also the group with least personal experience of drugs. Though this may be about to change. Cannabis brings benefit to sufferers of most of the serious illnesses which affect older people. And now there's a report which claims we're about to enter an age of 'silver sniffers'.

As the name suggests, silver sniffers are people who use their pension cards to rack out lines. The theory goes that we're getting to the point where there's very little reason for people to stop taking drugs. Getting high is already considered to be an unexceptional activity and provided enjoyment is still gained and problems aren't experienced then the activity could well continue into old age.

So the Tory party conference might someday be worth a visit after all.
- full story here

We don't have to look very hard for proof of this theory. Patricia Tabran is a 66 year-old grandmother who's arthritis and whiplash caused her prolonged agonising pain. When local idiots attacked her home she started thinking about suicide. But then her guardian angel appeared proffering a spliff. The next morning all pain was gone.

As a restaurateur who didn't want to smoke the obvious method of ingestion was food. Cakes and hot-pots and hot chocolate were sprinkled with the herb, though chicken and leak pie and lemon and lime cheesecake were the real signature dishes.

The change was obvious to all in her village and when other sufferers found similar benefits a bulk buying group was formed. This evolved into a little gardening club but sprightly pensioners are hard to hide and soon enough someone shopped her and she was raided.

Ever helpful, Grandma Pat told the police they should stop searching the shed as the plants were in the attic. She even pointed out a plant they'd missed on the hallway table. And she attempted to demonstrate the benefits of cannabis by offering police cookies laced with the stuff.

This admirably honest woman even admitted possession with intent to supply. Which presents an interesting dilemma for the courts. Patricia Tabran has become a celebrity. The news media loves a quirky story and she's it in spades. There would be a national outcry if she serves a second in jail.

Intent to supply is a serious charge, but she supplied friends in great pain. Physical, debilitating, big ahh generating, pain. The furore which would follow any punishment greater than community service would see medicinal cannabis legalised quicker than you can say 'bandwagon'.
- ganja granny
- circle continues

Medical News
As Chris Smith has just proved people HIV-positive can live long lives provided they rigidly take the cocktail of drugs which make up "combination therapy". One of the factors which impedes this is the oft experienced side-effect of nausea.

That cannabis decreases nausea we already know. Now a new study has discovered a happy consequence of less nausea is more adherence to the treatment regime. However, if a patient didn't experience nausea then cannabis actually made sticking to the regime harder.

The oft-touted 'acceptable' substitute, Marinol, came a poor second to the real thing when it came to dealing with nausea or taking the pills on time.
- full story here

GW Pharmaceuticals may be criticised as self-serving by some in the movement. But one thing it is undoubtedly wonderful at is providing clinical proof of anecdotal evidence. They started last year by showing cannabis helps people with MS. They've continued the trend in 2005 by proving it helps cancer patients too.

Two-fifths of the patients studied said Sativex had a significant effect on their pain. Meaning at least some no longer needed the addictive, expensive and dangerous alternative options.

It is absolutely right that medicines be rigorously tested before being given a licence. However, there's testing and there's politics and I know which one I'd say is causing Sativex's delay.
- full story here

World News
Campaigners can support the drug testing of drivers for two reasons. Firstly, because we shouldn't be allowed to get behind the wheel unless we can control it, and experience tells us we're not the best judge of our own competency. Secondly, because the mere presence of cannabis in the bloodstream is not absolute proof of intoxication. Therefore, like alcohol, a figure will have to be put on how much cannabis makes us incapable.

This is not wishful thinking. A German man successfully appealed his driving ban because the courts decided tests for cannabis had become so accurate it was difficult to tell when someone last had a joint. The fact cannabis was detected was not sufficient evidence to prove he couldn't handle his car.

Prohibitionists often claim cannabis users are stoned weeks after their last joint, something the highest court in Germany has found to be untrue. It might not have much resonance in Britain, not yet at least. But it is one more brick out of the prohibitionist's wall. A wall that closer resembles a ruin with every passing day.
- full story here

Two bits of good news from the land where mostly comes bad. Until last month New York state had some of the most draconian drug laws in the U.S.. Mandatory minimum sentences condemned first time offenders to jail terms starting at 15 years. New sentencing guidelines mean this will be reduced to "as little as" eight.

In a separate ruling the U.S. Supreme Court, declared mandatory minimum sentences unconstitutional as they allow judges to increase sentences based on evidence not proven before a jury. The guidelines are now to be considered advisory rather than compulsory.

Mandatory minimums have two aims. First, to deter anyone from getting involved with drugs. Second, to remove from society all those foolish enough to ignore the warnings. Neither of which worked. More Americans use drugs than ever before and as soon as one dealer is jailed another fills the gap.

The failure of mandatory minimums prove it is absolutely impossible for prohibition to succeed. We cannot eradicate entire species of plants from every nook and cranny of the world. We cannot remove the primal desire we have to become intoxicated. And the demand for drugs will always, always, ensure their supply.

They waved the biggest stick they've got and still drug use increased. Threats, lies and punishment have not and will not deter people seeking pleasure. But it doesn't half take a long time and a lot of ruined lives to get this point across.
- New York State
- Supreme Court

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