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This "dugout" style pipe is designed to mimic a cigarette for surreptitious smoking in public

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Since the 20th century, most countries have enacted laws affecting the legality of cannabis regarding the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. Many jurisdictions have lessened the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation and a fine, rather than imprisonment. Punishment focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market. Some jurisdictions/drug courts use mandatory treatment programs for young or frequent users, with freedom from "narcotic" drugs as the goal. A few jurisdictions permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. There are also changes in a more restrictive direction as in Canada or the United Kingdom. Drug tests are more common than before in many countries. However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in East Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to a sentence of life in prison or even execution.

History

Under the name cannabis, 19th century medical practitioners sold the drug (usually as a tincture), popularizing the word amongst English-speakers. It was rumored that Queen Victoria's menstrual pains were treated with cannabis; Her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, wrote an article in the first edition of the medical journal The Lancet about the benefits of cannabis.[1] In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in the decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries.[2] From 1906 different states in the United States started to implement regulations for sales of Cannabis indica. In 1925 a change of the International Opium Convention[3] banned exportation of Indian hemp to countries that have prohibited its use. Importing countries were required to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was to be used "exclusively for medical or scientific purposes".

In 1937 the F.D. Roosevelt administration crafted the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act, the first US national law making cannabis possession illegal via an unpayable tax on the drug.

The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s. The prohibitionists deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the populace against the idea that it should be legal by playing to negative attitudes towards that nationality. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marihuana omitted the fact that the "deadly marihuana" was identical to cannabis indica, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety.[4] It should be noted, however, that due to variations in the potency of the preparations, cannabis indica in the 1930s had lost most of its former popularity as a medical drug.[5]

Some advocate legalization of cannabis, believing that it will reduce illegal trade & associated crime and yield a valuable tax-source. Cannabis is now available as a palliative agent, in Canada, with a medical prescription. Yet 86% of Canadian cannabis users with HIV/AIDS, eligible for a prescription, continue to obtain cannabis illegally. (AIDS Care. 2007 Apr;19(4):500-6.) In 1969, only 16% percent of voters in the USA supported legalization, according to a poll by Gallup. According to the same source, that number had risen to 36% by 2005.[6] More recent polling indicates that the number has risen even further since the financial crisis of 2007-2009: in 2009, between 46% and 56% of US voters would support legalization[7]

Detection and the law

A chart demonstrating the reflective qualities of cannabis in comparison with other common plants, which may be used for cover.

As cannabis and its cultivation are illegal in most parts of the world, considerable resources and effort are committed to both interdiction and counter-interdiction of cultivation. Thermal imaging helicopters, to detect hot lighting, inspection of trash, to find evidence of cultivation including waste plant matter, examination of credit card purchases, to find purchases from hydroponic equipment vendors, and analysis of energy bills, to detect energy usage patterns of marijuana growers, have been used in prosecutions. In the US, thermal imaging cameras are considered to violate civil liberties embedded in the United States Constitution. This has resulted in significant changes to growing trends and availability.[8]

To counter these efforts many methods are used. The throwing away of cannabis waste in trash is avoided since no warrant is required to search garbage in the United States. Infra-red light blocking materials prevent the detection of heat signatures[citation needed] and are used to avoid this problem alongside timing lights to coincide with daylight hours. Additionally careful monitoring of electrical usage, spending only cash and money orders on supplies, and using devices to mask or eliminate odors are all means used by cultivators to avoid detection. Further, many cultivators mail order supplies with a money order and have them delivered under another name to a location not used for growing. This avoids the risk of having police watch a physical hydroponic supplies vendor and follow purchasers.

By country

Australia

It is illegal to use, possess, grow or sell cannabis in Australia, but penalties differ for each state or territory. In the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory there are differing degrees of decriminalization for minor offenses. In New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland the possession of cannabis is considered a criminal offence.[9]

In the ACT a civil penalty system for possession of small amounts of cannabis was introduced in 1993. Possession of up to 25g or two non-hydro plants attracts a fine of AUD$100 to be paid within 60 days. Offenders can choose to attend the Alcohol and Drug Program (ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Strategy). In South Australia possession of small quantities of cannabis is decriminalized attracting fines similar to a parking ticket. However, penalties for cultivation of marijuana have become harsher since the widespread advent of large scale cultivation. There is much confusion on the subject, with many people believing that possession of a certain amount is legal. In Western Australia, possession of up to 30 grams, two non-hydro plants, or smoking equipment attracts a fine of up to AUD$200, with an option to attend a cannabis education session[9](Drug Aware). Any amount exceeding this is dealt within the criminal court. The Northern Territory has a similar civil penalty to system to Western Australia.

In New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania possession and use of cannabis is a criminal offence, however, it is considered unlikely that anyone caught with a small amount will be convicted[9]. Diversion programs in these states aim to divert offenders into education, assessment and treatment programs. In New South Wales if you are caught with up to 15g of cannabis, at the police's discretion, up to two cautions can be issued[9]. In Tasmania up to three cautions can be issued for possession of up to 50g of cannabis, with a hierarchy of referrals for treatment then intervention for each caution[9]. Similarly in Victoria up to 50g of cannabis will attract a caution and the opportunity to attend an education program (Victoria Cannabis Cautioning Program); only two cautions will be dealt out. In Queensland possession of cannabis or any schedule 1 or 2 drug specified in the Drugs Misuse Regulation 1987 carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years, however, jail terms for minor possessions are very rare. Possession of smoking utensils or anything used to smoke cannabis is also a criminal offense in Queensland. However, under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 a person who admits to carrying under 50 grams (and is not committing any other offense) must be offered a drug diversion program.

With the rapid expansion in hydroponic cannabis cultivation, the Australian Drug Misuse and Trafficking Act (1985) was amended in 2006, reducing the amount of cannabis grown indoors under hydroponic conditions that qualifies as a 'commercial quantity' or as a 'large quantity'[10]

Bangladesh

Cannabis grown throughout the Bengal region, which is currently split between Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal. In both parts of Bengal, cannabis (Bengali language: গাঁজা gãja or গাঞ্জা ganja) has been widely used for centuries. Cannabis was banned in Northern Bangladesh in 1984.[11]

Belgium

Individual or solo use by adults has the lowest priority to police and government instances, if the use doesn't cause any problems to their environment. This basically means only the use in public places, possession of more than 3 grams, or the sale of the drug are pursued in court. However, the use in the presence of minors is strictly forbidden. The cultivation of one female cannabis plant for personal use is decriminalized.

Canada

Cannabis is currently illegal in Canada, with exceptions only for medical usage. However, the use of cannabis by the general public is broadly tolerated.[12]

  • A July 13, 2007, decision in Ontario Provincial court has ruled that criminal possession laws for cannabis are unconstitutional (R. v. Long). However, Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said that nothing will change about how the police deal with marijuana possession for the time being.[13]
  • Possession of cannabis is illegal in Canada according to Justice Edmonson of the Ontario Court of Justice in R. v. Bodnar/Hall/Spasic - "there is no offence known to law which the accused have committed."[14][15]
  • Marijuana was first banned in Canada in 1923 under the Opium and Drug Act. Since 1997 marijuana has been covered by the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
  • The Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs reviewed Canada's current anti-drug policies and legislation and reported in September 2002 that marijuana is not a gateway drug and should be treated more like tobacco or alcohol than harder drugs.
  • The House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs looked at an overall drug strategy for Canada and issued their report in December 2002. The House committee said that while marijuana is unhealthy, the current criminal penalties for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis are disproportionately harsh. They recommended that the Canadian Ministers of Justice and of Health come up with a strategy to decriminalize the possession and cultivation of not more than thirty grams of cannabis for personal use.[16]
  • Various estimates peg this country's cannabis trade at considerably more than $7 billion in annual sales—twice as much as pig farming brings in, and almost three times more than wheat does. Even the cattle industry, at $5.2 billion a year in revenue, lags behind the marijuana business for sheer size. Just as importantly, the report points out, every dollar reaped by government regulation of the pot industry would be a dollar taken away from the criminal gangs that run the industry today. In 2001, Auditor General Sheila Fraser said the federal government was spending close to $500 million a year fighting the drug trade. Roughly 95 per cent of that goes to enforcement and policing, and two-thirds of the country's 50,000 annual drug arrests are for cannabis offences.[17]

In October 2007, Prime Minister Harper announced a new National Anti-Drug Strategy. A proposed Bill would have dealers facing one-year mandatory prison sentences if they’re operating for organized crime purposes, or if violence is involved. Dealers would also face a two-year mandatory jail sentence if they’re selling to youth, or dealing drugs near a school or an area normally frequented by youth. Additionally, people in Canada who run a large marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants would risk facing a mandatory two-year jail term. Maximum penalties for producing cannabis would increase from 7 to 14 years.[18]

Perhaps the biggest proposed policy change is mandatory six-month sentencing for those growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking. If the Bill passes, this is certain to be felt by small-time distributors who are not linked to the ring of organized crime, and who usually face no more than a fine if caught.[19]

Currently the Conservative Government holds a minority in Parliament, so the Bill would require support of at least one other political party before it can become law. Previous attempts by past Liberal Governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s to decriminalize marijuana for personal use have failed to become law - this is a distinct policy contrast from the current minority Conservatives who aspire to a more US-style 'War on Drugs'.[20]

Czech Republic

In 1938 production and possession (but not the consumption) of drugs became a punishable crime in Czechoslovakia. The law did not distinguish between different types of drugs. Until the Velvet Revolution (1989) narcotics were only a minor problem in Czech society. A law from 1992 stopped criminalization of drug possession for personal use. This changed in 1998, "possession of more than a small amount of drugs" (the amount was not defined) became a criminal offence again. The limits were defined later through internal research by Czech law enforcers making the possession of under 20 grams not a crime.The owner could be fined. Consumption was not punishable. Enforcement of the law was spotty and sometimes inconsistent.

The Czech cabinet approved a Justice Ministry proposal in early 2010 that sets personal use quantity limits for illicit drugs under a penal code revision that decriminalizes drug possession in the Czech Republic. Under the new law, possession of less than the following amounts of illicit drugs will not be a criminal offense:

Possession of “larger than a small amount” of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. For other illicit drugs, the sentence is two years. Trafficking offenses carry stiffer sentences. The Czech Republic now joins Portugal as a European country that has decriminalized drug possession

Young people are the most frequent users of marijuana: a poll from 2007 estimated that almost 30% of Czechs under 24 had tried it. In 2007 the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic ruled that mere cultivation of hemp should not be punishable unless production of the drug is proven; an officer from the Czech anti-drug unit was quoted saying that "this decision is irrelevant to our work". As of 2007 several initiatives towards either decriminalization of marijuana or creating a more tolerated category of soft drugs.[21]

Denmark

In Denmark there is a great general public tolerance towards cannabis for private consumption.[citation needed] Still it remains illegal and have been pursued in great numbers in recent years to rid the country of widespread open retail.[citation needed]

Finland

Possession, manufacture and use of cannabis products were prohibited by law in Finland in 1972. The parliamentary discussion and the following vote resulted in a stalemate, so the issue was resolved by drawing lots - which resulted in cannabinoid products becoming illegal. In practice, possession or manufacture of cannabis products is considered to be a minor misdemeanor punishable by a minor fine (normally in the range of 60-500 euros). A supreme court decision of 2004 set up a "half a dozen" precedent: Cultivation of up to 6 plants for personal use is subject to the same penalties as personal use. The same applies to distribution and use within a "closed circle of users". However, open distribution is generally punished very severely. Aside from criminal penalties, users are often persecuted by welfare authorities on the pretext of child welfare (if the user has offspring); withdrawal of driving license is also commonplace.

Germany

While illegal, possession is generally not fined as long as a certain maximum amount (so called "geringe Menge" = English "small amount") is not exceeded. This maximum amount varies between 6 and 30 grams depending on which particular federal state the person is in and the potential amount of THC. The person caught will have the cannabis confiscated. Until 2002 one could have one's driver's license taken away because of cannabis possession, even if driving a car was not involved.[22] Use of cannabis is not illegal in Germany.

Law enforcement in the city of Berlin and many other major cities currently places a very low priority on enforcement of cannabis laws; many people smoke openly in parks and bars throughout the central city.

Honduras

In Honduras it is illegal to grow, plant, harvest, or collect cannabis. Violators can face 9 to 12 years in prison and a fine of 5,000 Lps. ($265) to 25,000 Lps. ($1,323). It is also illegal to own cannabis seeds. Traffickers can face 15 to 20 years in prison and a fine of 1,000,000 Lps. to 5,000,000 Lps. The current exchange rate of Lempira to US dollar is 18.8951 Lempiras per 1 US dollar.

Being caught for the first time with an amount considered for personal use will result in 30 days of rehabilitation and a fine of up to 1,000 Lps. If caught a second time, this is increased to 30 to 90 days in rehabilitation and a fine of up to 5,000 Lps. If caught a third time, the offender is sent to rehabilitation until deemed re-socialized and is fined 5,000–10,000 Lps.

If a foreigner is caught with marijuana then they are to face a fine of 5,000–10,000 Lps. and will be expelled from national territory.[23].

Hong Kong

Cannabis is regulated under section 9 of Hong Kong's Chapter 134 Dangerous Drugs Ordinance"[24]. Cultivation and dealing with cannabis plant is illegal and a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for 15 years can be imposed by the court. Anyone who supplies the substance without prescription can be fined $10,000 HKD. The penalty for trafficking or manufacturing the substance is a $5,000,000 (HKD) fine and life imprisonment. Possession of the substance for consumption without a license from the Department of Health is illegal with a $1,000,000 (HKD) fine and/or 7 years of jail time.

India

Often seen as the country where the plant originates from, throughout India it is illegal to grow, consume, or traffic cannabis, although there is a variation in penalties and enforcement according to the region. The law is rarely enforced and usage of cannabis, also known as ganja in Sanskrit or bhang in Hindi, is common throughout India. Sadhus openly smoke ganja and there are government licensed bhang shops in some regions. Furthermore, on the festival of Holi, cannabis is widely consumed in the open in its numerous forms. Hashish is by far the most common form of the drug in India; it is widely available and relatively inexpensive. In Hinduism there are many elaborate spiritual practices that involve cannabis.

Italy

Cannabis is illegal in Italy. Current legislation establishes quantitative limits of active ingredient: within those limits it is considered an administrative offense, over them it is regarded as pushing, punished with 1–6 years of imprisonment for small amounts and 6–20 years for big amounts or cultivation. However, jurisprudence is contradictory concerning growing for personal use. Medical use of substances prepared with marijuana are legal, if provided by medical prescription.

Ireland

The most recent Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order (S.I. No. 69/1998) lists cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol and its derivatives as Schedule 1 drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1977 and 1984. As a consequence manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession of cannabis is unlawful for any purpose, except under licence from the Minister for Health, Mary Harney. The gardaí (Irish police) have a level of discretion when dealing with recreational cannabis users. To procure a conviction any cannabis seized has to be sent for analysis to the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory. This, along with the time needed to process the arrest, means that individual gardaí may decide not to arrest for small amounts, but the drug will be seized and the name and address of the individual will be taken. Possession of cannabis is an arrestable offence and, in 2003, 53 per cent of all drug confiscations and 70 per cent of all drug-related prosecutions were for cannabis. Trafficking or possession with intent to supply are serious offences under Irish law.

Upon being brought to court, the penalties for possession are outlined as follows:

  • First offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €381, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €635.
  • Second offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €508, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €1,269.
  • Third or subsequent offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €1,269 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of such amount as the court considers appropriate or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both the fine and the imprisonment.

There is no law against possession or sale of cannabis seeds. However, the growing of cannabis, even for medicinal benefits by genuine sufferers, is often treated harshly by the courts. Various movements have been founded to legalize the drug, including an attempt at starting a cannabis legalization political party.

Japan

Penalties for possession or use of marijuana in Japan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and fines.[25] Possession of any amount, as little as 0.1 g, is punishable by jail sentence for up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to 30,000,000 yen.[26] However, the defendant has to stay in police custody for at least a few weeks until a court decision is made.

Mexico

On April 29, 2006, the Congress of Mexico passed a bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of drugs intended for recreational use (up to 5g for marijuana).[27] The new bill was hoped to relieve cartel-related crime as well as reduce drug-related arrests. A possibly unintended consequence would have been increased tourism. The move caused many in the US government to question Mexico's commitment to the "War on Drugs". However, President Fox sent the legislation back, asking that the decriminalization be removed. This action showed the U.S. government's influence over the Mexican Government's decisions,[28] sparking broad controversy over the bill.[29][30][31] On October 14, 2008 a bill was proposed in Mexico City's Congress to legalize the consumption, possession and commerce of Marijuana. The bill states that only a person over 18 can have access to the drug, the places where marijuana is sold cannot also sell alcoholic drinks, and must be at least 1000 meters away from schools[citation needed]. The Government would issue special licences for the distribution of marijuana in special places, similar to the legislation in the Netherlands.

On August 21, 2009, Mexico decriminalized "personal use" possession of up to 5 grams of marijuana.[32]

Netherlands

The possession/purchase of Cannabis is tolerated in small amounts. One can purchase cannabis in special shops (called "coffeeshops") if one is age eighteen and over. Sale and purchase of cannabis anywhere else is illegal. Cultivation and wholesale of cannabis is likewise "tolerated" in small amounts (guidelines here are no more than five plants at home or the possession of 5 grams per adult max.). The tolerance guidelines appear in appendix of the Opium Act. The Opium Act states very clearly that every part of the hemp plant is banned except for the seeds – this is in accordance with many of the international treaties which the Netherlands have signed. It is for this reason Cannabis cannot be legalised in the Netherlands. Thus, it remains illegal but it is "tolerated." A recent court decision allowed a medical cannabis user to avoid legal prosecution for possession of a small number of cannabis plants; however, the state is appealing the decision.[33]

By 2009, 27 coffee shops selling cannabis in Rotterdam, Netherlands, all within 250 meters from schools must close down. This is nearly half of the coffeeshops that currently operate within its municipality. This is due to a new policy of city mayor Ivo Opstelten and the town council as a result of increased use of soft drugs among pupils.[34][35]

Although outdoor use is prohibited this is also "tolerated" in most places. Since January 2006 certain areas in the district "De Baarsjes" in Amsterdam have been declared official cannabis-free zones because of nuisance to inhabitants of the areas. A special road sign was chosen out of 3 designs by Hans Bos to designate the areas.[4] This sign is not a recognized traffic sign however as it is not used outside of Amsterdam.

New Zealand

Possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal in New Zealand and can result in a fine of up to $500 or even a 3-month prison sentence (though the latter is rarely used). Anyone caught in possession of more than 28 grams of cannabis or 100 cannabis joints is classed as a dealer unless s/he can prove they are not. Cannabis is a class C drug in New Zealand, of which the penalty for dealing can result in a maximum prison sentence of 14 years under the New Zealand Misuse of Drugs Act 1975. There have been many public campaigns to decriminalise cannabis but so far none have succeeded. It is generally accepted that the usage rates are among the highest in the world and possession in small quantities will often not be prosecuted. In some cases first offences may not always result in convictions.

Norway

Any possession, buying or selling of cannabis is prohibited by law in Norway. Possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis will be punished by fees and anything above 15 grams will be punished by jail. Jail penalties may vary due to the amount of cannabis involved but they range from 6 months to 21 years which is the highest penalty within the Norwegian court.

Poland

Possession of any amount of cannabis is illegal in Poland and can result in 3-year prison sentence.[36] Anyone caught giving another person any amount of illegal drugs (including marijuana) risks a 10-year prison sentence.[citation needed] Giving a dose of drugs to an underage person is a crime and can result in a 3 to 15-year prison sentence.[citation needed]

Portugal

Personal consumption of cannabis is limited at 2.5 grams per day and 0.5 grams per day of hashish. One may possess no more than 10 daily doses, otherwise it may be categorized as trafficking. The consumption still has a penalty and fine. Cultivation however, is still completely illegal and cultivation of even one plant is assumed to indicate involvement with trafficking. Possession of seeds is also illegal and despite there being several "head shops" or "grow shops" in Portugal, they too are forbidden to market the cannabis seeds. It is also true that the number of grow shops has increased over the past few years, which seems to indicate that cultivation for personal use (in Portuguese: auto-cultivo) is becoming a more common practice. The 2006 Global Marijuana March (Portuguese: Marcha Global da Marijuana) was celebrated for the first time in Lisbon and in 2007 both Lisbon and Porto celebrated it.

Russia

Possession of up to 6 grams (dry weight) of cannabis is punishable by fine or administrative arrest for up to 15 days (KoAP 6.9), where said arrest is not considered a criminal conviction. However, a "small dose" is tolerated by the law.[citation needed] Growing in any amount is punishable by prison term (UK 231). Possession of more than 6 grams is punishable by prison term (UK 228).

Consumption is not criminalized, punishable, or technically subject to fining. However, "intoxicated in public" fines (approximately $10) can be and are applied to those visibly under influence in public places. Note that, for intoxication in public fines to be applied, the offending substance does not have to be identified (or illegal, for that matter), and the fine is applied for being in a state of influence that is a potential or actual public nuisance, not for the fact of consumption.

Consumption of any and all substances is legal in Russia, regardless of their legal status; visible intoxication by any substance, regardless of its legality, is an administrative (non-criminal) offense. Intoxication by a substance does not presume or prove prior possession of said substance. Any effort to identify the intoxicating substance is only to be made either when it is part of a different offense (driving under influence, in which case it is admissible in court for charges pertaining to that offense) or when the person thus intoxicated requires medical attention for poisoning/overdose (cannot be used to charge said person, other than with the intoxicated in public fine).

However, persons found in possession of non-criminal quantities of illegal drugs or under the influence thereof may be listed as known drug users (Narkologicheskiy uchet), which may create future difficulty for military or government service and obtaining weapon permits or driver's licenses.

Spain

In Spain the possession and use of cannabis in public places is classed as a misdemeanour under public health laws and you may be fined and suffer confiscation if caught. Trafficking is a criminal offence.

However, the right to consume marijuana and grow plants for personal consumption in one's private property is protected under the Spanish constitution. In practice one can still be denounced for doing so by neighbours or ill-wishers, and the burden is then effectively on the user or grower to prove that the material is for personal use only.

In recent years a number of members' associations have been established throughout the country in an attempt to extend the boundary of the Spanish citizen's constitutional rights. In an association cannabis is grown and shared among the members. The association may not promote or be seen to encourage the use of cannabis and it must be a closed group for existing adult consumers only, distributing only small amounts regularly to each member (typically 10 grams per week) so as to prevent the possibility of trafficking. As well as a membership fee, members must pay for what they consume and prices may not be much different than on the black market.

Where the associations have come under legal challenge they have been able to surmount this, and in at least one case have secured the return of several kilos of confiscated plants. The umbrella group for cannabis associations in Spain is the Federación de Asociaciones Cannábicas: http://www.fac.cc/

Sweden

It is illegal to purchase, possess, sell, transfer or consume any amount of cannabis in Sweden. If police suspect someone has consumed cannabis they could be ordered to take a drug test, which is seen as a way to prove consumption. Minor offenses, such as simple consumption generally renders a 30 day-fine (a day-fine is currently between 50 to 1000 SEK, largely depending on income) while possession and even occasional cultivation of plants for personal use attracts higher fines (up to 150 day-fines) as long as they are under the threshold for minor drug offenses, namely 50 grams (1.8 oz).[37] For the purchase, smuggling and possession of larger amounts, organized cultivation or sale, the punishments range from 6 months to 10 years imprisonment.[38][39] The combined sentence can be even longer, for example when a series of crimes are added up into one sentence. Depending on the circumstances 14 or 18 years is the maximum penalty before limitation rules sets in.[40][41]

Even if mere police intuition is legally insufficient, every time reasonable suspicion arises the police is obliged to intervene under a zero tolerance strategy. The expressed aim of government is the creation of a "drug-free society" and the police are to give high priority towards drug crimes. However, as a condition of largely being a victimless crime, the police own efforts is essential to apprehend cannabis offenders. That is, as opposite to many other crimes where a victim will report it to the police, they must apprehend the drug users and more advanced criminals for themselves.[42] Influenced by the practices in the US, all police officers in external duty are to receive training to become Drug Recognition Experts (DRE) to better detect persons under the influence of drugs. Something that have had an effect on the numbers of apprehended criminals.[43] The traffic police especially, have integrated DRE-practices to test suspected drivers into their every day routine.[44] Subject to the law concerning driving under influence, driving while having mere traces of cannabis in the body is strictly forbidden under a zero tolerance regime.[45]

With the exemption of Khat, Cannabis has the least penal value per effective dose[37] and subsequently the least priority among drugs offenses. Albeit with the general exemption for drug offences among juveniles, which instead is of special priority regardless of what drugs are involved. When juveniles are apprehended, the police is obliged to report the young user to the municipal social care. Although the charges often are dropped in consideration of their youth, the social service may then take various measures ranging from just talking to the adolescent and its parents to placing the delinquent in forced treatment for substance abuse.

Switzerland

Cannabis is classified as an illegal narcotic in Switzerland.[46] The production and sale of illegal narcotics is punishable by a monetary penalty or by imprisonment of up to three years, as are public incitements to the consumption of illegal narcotics.[47]

The enforcement of the prohibition on cannabis is spotty, because around 500,000 Swiss people (or 7% of young people from 15 to 39) are believed to regularly use cannabis.[48] Also, in 1998, some 250 hectares of land were used in Switzerland to grow cannabis,[49] yielding more than 100 tons of cannabis per year.[50] The produce is sold mostly on the street and (in "scent bags" or covertly) through "cannabis shops" clustered in the urban centers. These shops, of which there were about 135 in 1999 and which authorities believe earn about 85-95% of their income with illegal narcotics,[51] are the target of irregular police crackdowns in some cities, while in others they are tolerated to some degree. Overall, enforcement varies substantially depending on the canton.[52] Some tolerate limited public consumption[53] while others periodically attempt to limit it. Nationwide, police registered some 27,000 cannabis-related infractions in 1999.[54]

Turkey

Cultivation of cannabis is strictly controlled by government in Turkey. Non-drug usage of cannabis is a common practice in Aegean region of Turkey. Cannabis seeds are used as a spice in many different foods, especially in different breads and other baked goods. Usage of cannabis as a drug is forbidden in Turkey. Persons carrying small amounts of cannabis can be fined, while drug trafficking is punished with long term imprisonment.

United Kingdom

In 1978: Cultivation and use of cannabis was generally outlawed under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, in its original form - the plant or herb was placed as a class B drug,[55].

In January 2004: Cannabis was downgraded to a class C substance[56]

In 2008: The government commissioned a study into the effects of downgrading cannabis from a class B to a class C. On the 7th of May, 2008: Against the advice of the government's own commissioned report [57], the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced the government’s intention to once again reclassify cannabis as a class B drug.[58] The prime minister Gordon Brown announced that the government would set aside the findings of the committee[59].

On 26 January 2009: Cannabis was reclassified as a Class B substance.[60][61]

Subsequently, in November 2009: The chairman of the Government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (Professor Nutt), was asked to resign by the then Home Secretary (Alan Johnson), after publishing in a professional journal, figures which indicated that cannabis was less harmful than both alcohol and tobacco.[62] Several other members of the Advisory Council resigned in protest [63]. Discussions are now being directed towards imposing a new 'code of conduct'; in order to avoid any similar action in future, rather than having the sole focus of the issue at hand (that being the actual legality of the drug cannabis itself) [64].

United States

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws protesters at July 4th protest.

While more than a dozen US states have decriminalised possession or personal use of cannabis, it is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970. In this act it is classified as a Schedule I drug, implying that it has a high potential for abuse. As such, it prohibits the possession, usage, purchase, sale, and/or cultivation of marijuana. This conflict between state and federal law has led to Drug Enforcement Administration raids of California medical marijuana dispensaries.[65] The United States Supreme Court has ruled in United States v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Coop and Gonzales v. Raich that the federal government has a right to regulate and criminalize cannabis, even for medical purposes.

California passed Proposition 215 in 1996, later renamed the Compassionate Use Act, which would protect anyone from criminal prosecution if recommended by a doctor to use marijuana for relief from some serious illnesses such as cancer, anorexia, AIDS, and glaucoma. In early 2009, California state representative Tom Ammiano introduced a bill, titled Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, to legalize, regulate, and tax the recreational use of cannabis in California.[66] The bill remains pending. According to the Wall Street Journal, Ammiano, a Democrat, estimates that marijuana legalization "would generate more than $1 billion annually for the cash-strapped state". Currently pot is California's biggest cash crop, with annual sales reaching $14 billion. The bill "proposes a tax of $50 on an ounce of marijuana, which sells for a few hundred dollars on the street".[67]

On January 16, 2009, a pair of bills (House Bill 2929 and Senate Bill 1801) were introduced into the Massachusetts legislature. Its stated objectives are "the reduction of cannabis abuse, the elimination of marijuana-related crime and the raising of public revenue." The bill proposes an excise on all cannabis sold that would range from $150 per ounce to $250 per ounce depending on the levels of THC present.[68]

Multiple attempts at rescheduling cannabis at a federal level have failed in the past.[citation needed] In June 2009, the Personal Use of Marijuana by Responsible Adults Act of 2009 was introduced into the US House of Representatives by Barney Frank co-sponsored by Ron Paul and three other congressmen. If enacted, the bill "would eliminate federal penalties for the personal possession of up to 100 grams (over three and one-half ounces)". This would effectively leave the legality of cannabis possession for states to decide.[69]

A September 2009 article on Fortune Magazine argues that Obama’s stance regarding marijuana, expressed by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, has all but decriminalized its use in the United States. The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, confirmed at a press conference that his Office would no longer subject individuals who were complying with state medical marijuana laws to federal drug raids and prosecutions. The article likens Obama’s policy toward marijuana, in terms of its eventual outcome, to the Twenty-First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which repealed the federal prohibition on alcoholic beverage sales.[70]

Uruguay

Uruguayan law and governments systematically agree that drug use should be considered a complex multifactorial issue. The law does not consider the user or consumer as the problem. Consequently, drug consumption is legal and is not criminalized in Uruguay. Instead, the law prohibits traffic, distribution and production. In general, police acts are oriented towards the reduction of large-scale drug trafficking. By contrast, the state takes a public health approach in regards to the population of users or potential users. These include offering free healthcare services at public events where drug consumption is likely to occur (e.g., rock concerts) and voluntary rehabilitation services. Policy is based on epidemiological evidence regarding demonstrable public harm. Thus, government efforts over the past decade to reduce drug consumption have been largely oriented towards tobacco and alcohol, and more recently coca-paste.

Use of capital punishment against the cannabis trade

Several countries have either carried out or legislated capital punishment for cannabis trafficking.

Country Status Notes Notes
 Saudi Arabia Has been used An Iraqi man named Mattar bin Bakhit al-Khazaali was convicted of smuggling hashish and was executed in the northern town of Arar, close to the Iraqi border.[citation needed]
 Indonesia Has been used In 1997, the Indonesian government under international pressure[citation needed] added the death penalty as a punishment for those convicted of drugs in their country. The law has yet to be enforced on any significant, well-established drug dealers.The former Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri announced Indonesia's intent to implement a fierce war on drugs in 2002. She called for the execution of all drug dealers. "For those who distribute drugs, life sentences and other prison sentences are no longer sufficient," she said. "No sentence is sufficient other than the death sentence." Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also proudly supports executions for drug dealers.[71]
 Malaysia Has been used Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 years old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 years old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.2 kilograms of cannabis.[72]
 Philippines No Longer Used The Philippines abolished the death penalty on June 24, 2006. The Philippines introduced stronger anti-drug laws, including the death penalty, in 2002.[73] Possession of over 500 grams of marijuana usually earned execution in the Philippines, as did possessing over ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine. Angeles City is often a mecca for Filipino cannabis users and cultivators, although enforcement has been inconsistent.[74].
 United Arab Emirates Sentenced In the United Arab Emirates city of Fujairah, a woman named Lisa Tray was sentenced to death in December 2004, after being found guilty of possessing and dealing hashish. Undercover officers in Fujairah claim they caught Tray with 149 grams of hashish. Her lawyers have appealed the sentence.[citation needed]
 Thailand Frequently Used Death penalty is possible for drug offenses under Thai law. Extrajudicial killings also alleged.[75]
 Singapore Frequently Used Death penalty carried out many times for cannabis trafficking. (July 20, 2004) A convicted drug trafficker, Raman Selvam Renganathan, 39, who stored 2.7 kilograms of cannabis or marijuana in a Singapore flat was hanged in Changi Prison. He was sentenced to death September 1, 2003 after an eight-day trial. (The Straits Times, July 20, 2004).
 People's Republic of China Frequently Used Death penalty is exercised regularly for drug offenses under Chinese law, often in an annual frenzy corresponding to the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug trafficking[76] The government does not make precise records public, however Amnesty International estimates that around 500 people are executed there each year for drug offenses. Those executed have typically been convicted of smuggling or trafficking in anything from cannabis to methamphetamine.
 United States Never Imposed / Constitutionality Untested / Purely Theoretical While current U.S. Federal law allows for the punishment of death for those who have extraordinary amounts of the drug (60,000 kilograms or 60,000 plants), or are part of a continuing criminal enterprise in smuggling contraband which nets over 20 million.

The United States Supreme Court has held that no crimes other than murder and treason can constitutionally carry a death sentence (Coker v. Georgia and Kennedy v. Louisiana)

Non-drug purposes

Cannabis Sativa (Left), Cannabis Indica (center) and Cannabis Ruderalis (right)

Hemp is the common name for cannabis and is the English term used when this annual herb is grown for non-drug purposes. These include industrial purposes for which cultivation licences may be issued in the European Union (EU). When grown for industrial purposes hemp is often called industrial hemp, and a common product is fibre for use in a variety of different ways. Fuel is often a by-product of hemp cultivation.

Hemp may be grown also for food (the edible seeds), though in the UK Defra (the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and the Rural Affairs) will not issue cultivation licences for this purpose, treating it as a non-food crop, though the seed appears on the UK market as a food product.

In the UK hemp seed and fibre have been always perfectly legal products. Cultivation for non drug purposes was however completely prohibited from 1928 until circa 1998, when Home Office industrial-purpose licenses became available under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Industrial strains intended for legal use within the EU are bred to comply with regulations limiting THC content to 0.2%. (THC content is a measure of the herb's drug potential and can reach 20% or more in drug strains). In Canada the THC limit is 1%.

See also

Further reading

References

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  3. ^ W.W. Willoughby: Opium as an International Problem, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1925
  4. ^ Gieringer, Dale H. (2006-06-17). "The Origins of Cannabis Prohibition in California" (PDF). Contemporary Drug Problems 26 (2). http://canorml.org/background/caloriginsmjproh.pdf. Retrieved 2007-01-05.  p.13
  5. ^ Statement of Dr. William C. Woodward
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  8. ^ Effects of Cannabis Eradication on Cultivation Trends and General Availability
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