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The Hempire News - March 04

Legalisation News
Boy is the news interesting this month.

Penelope Swainson was busted with nearly 200 cannabis plants and walked free from court. It's not exactly clear why as the judge only quoted 'exceptional circumstances' when suspending her sentence. However, two things probably helped; she's a mum to a ten year-old and her claim to be providing him a nest egg was proven by her lack of high living.

Roderick Cotton was busted with over 350 cannabis plants and walked free from court. In fact, he was busted for growing cannabis three times, twice whilst on bail for the original offence. Oh and he was accused of assaulting police officers too. Despite all of this, and despite defending himself, the prosecution decided it was unlikely to achieve a conviction and so dropped all the charges.

They reached this conclusion after accepting his only intention was to produce seeds he’d sell once cannabis was legalised.

Speechless? Try Yippee.

Not that this means much for the home grower just yet. These are two exceptional cases but they do seem to indicate the direction in which the judiciary is moving. Plus, it's a little strange to sort-of allow you to have cannabis at home but ban you from having a plant which hasn't even produced cannabis yet.
- Penelope
- Roderick

Cafe News
The Purple Haze in Edinburgh is no more. Constant harassment, and a severe lack of custom, proved the downfall. In London, Errol Anderson is starting a six and a half year sentence for running his Green Leaf cafe. But in Weymouth a very courageous Vic Hamilton has openly declared his intention to keep the coffeeshop movement going.

That's the visible cafes. More hidden are the hundreds of other places up and down the country where people are publicly smoking. You probably know of a few, I'm starting to hear about loads. This is quiet change and, given the consequences others have suffered, rightly so.

At the moment we're just getting away with it. But the more we do, the more confident we'll feel. Soon we'll find we've got a popular revolution on our hands, one we'll win through sheer strength of numbers. All you have to do is refuse to abide by an unjust law. Which, as Martin Luther King said, is our moral responsibility.
- Edinburgh
- London

International News
We move tentatively in Britain, other countries are way ahead of us.

Russia, not exactly known for it's libertarian policies, is about to remove the threat of jail for anyone possessing small quantities of drugs. Which is a large improvement on the previous policy of up to three years for a tenth of a gram. There's still a battle to be won over the definition of a 'small quantity'. However, with their prisons full and their drug war lost some positive change is likely.
- full story here

In Berlin a majority of lawmakers want possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis decriminalised. Somehow they've managed to get together a coalition of Free Democrats, Social Democrats, Socialists and Greens, all of whom believe policing personal possession a waste of time. This view is supported by the police, who gave up arresting smokers ages ago. Their relaxed attitude to other intoxicants seems to have helped too.
- full story here

A Jamaican commission into Ganja recently recommended the "private, personal use of small quantities [of cannabis]" be made a petty offence. Some countries hold expensive inquiries and then ignore the recommendations. Jamaica's actually going to implement them.

Even more interesting is the Joint Select Committee's recommendation that Rastafarians be allowed to use cannabis for sacramental purposes. This would put Jamaica outside of it's international obligations and would pile more pressure on the UN treaties we must escape from.
- full story here

It's not enough that Australia should have sun, surf, a great standard of living and fridges for their pint glasses. Now another state has decided to decriminalise cannabis. Like everywhere else it seems the law in Western Australia is unclear. However, if you've got less than 30 grams and/or two plants you should escape criminal sanctions. Interestingly, hydroponically grown plants remain expressly prohibited.
- full story here

However, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Lene Espersen, the justice minister, believes "it's very short-sighted to allow people a little abuse because they often end up being big criminals". So she's cracking down on cannabis; mandatory fines for even the smallest amount, longer jail time for dealers etc. etc.

She's a brave woman, it's not every politician who'll target the sons and daughters of the very people who voted her into power. Though at least she can claim consistency. This move tie-ins with the sanitising of Christiania (Pusher Street is no more) and it's entirely in harmony with the approach of right-wing governments around the world. All of whom, I'm sure, can point with pride to their success in the war on drugs.
- hang 'em all
- Christiania

North America
Where have all the prohibitionists gone? When unchallenged they wont stop talking. When faced with informed citizens they wont start. Whilst the DEA is the example here, evidence of prohibitionists' fear can be found around the world. They can't debate the issues, so they don't turn up, so the debate doesn't take place. Which doesn't mean we win, it means we lose. Without a debate minds wont be changed.

Instead what they do is lie. And incredibly, the US Government has just been given licence to freely disregard the truth in their attempt to win the war on drugs. They are allowed to take "such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use" of certain controlled substances. Or in other words, say what you want, do what you want, lie as much as you want, just stop those legalisers.
- a scared DEA
- lying politicians

They're a brave lot in Canada. One group of intrepid growers converted a single carriage of a working commuter train into a giant grow room. Why didn't anyone notice I hear you ask? Good question. An all-over ad prevented passengers seeing in, they locked the door and put signs up explaining the carriage was full of kids selling chocolates for a school fundraiser.

Even more amazing is the story of two chancers who decided the lights in a tv studio would be perfect for cultivating cannabis. So they recreated themselves as mob informers who needed to protect their identity with plants. As soon as the plants were big enough they'd hide behind them and reveal all. This was enough to fool security and production staff, some of whom were so eager to hear the real Sopranos speak they even helped water the plants.

Funniest of all though is the tale of a growing operation who protected their whereabouts by posting a sign on the door proclaiming 'Official Headquarters, Dalton McGuinty Fan Club'. To understand who Dalton is imagine 'Official Headquarters, Iain Duncan Smith Fan Club'
- full story here

Miscellaneous News
Tip of the month No 1. When growing large amounts of cannabis resist the desire to take photographs of your crop. If you must snap away consider digital photography. Developing your photos at Tesco's is not advised.
- full story here

Our magistrates do a wonderful job. Usually. Unless you're Graeme Rennie of course. His previous includes jailing a depressed woman for stealing two Pot Noodles. Now he's forced a main who had less than a gram of cannabis to spend three weeks in jail. It's a good job they're not full or anything.
- full story here