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Canada takes action to legalize and strictly regulate cannabis

News Release

From Health Canada

Proposed legislation would provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis and crack down on impaired driving

April 13, 2017              Ottawa, ON      

                                                           Government of Canada

The current approach to cannabis does not work. It has allowed criminals and organized crime to profit, while failing to keep cannabis out of the hands of Canadian youth. In many cases, it is easier for our kids to buy cannabis than cigarettes.

That is why the Government of Canada, after extensive consultation with law enforcement, health and safety experts, and the hard work of the Task Force on Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, today introduced legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis.

The proposed Cannabis Act would create a strict legal framework for controlling the production, distribution, sale and possession of cannabis in Canada. Following Royal Assent, the proposed legislation would allow adults to legally possess and use cannabis. This would mean that possession of small amounts of cannabis would no longer be a criminal offence and would prevent profits from going into the pockets of criminal organizations and street gangs. The Bill would also, for the first time, make it a specific criminal offence to sell cannabis to a minor and create significant penalties for those who engage young Canadians in cannabis-related offences.   

In addition to legalizing and strictly regulating cannabis, the Government is toughening laws around alcohol- and drug-impaired driving. Under the Government’s proposed legislation, new offences would be added to the Criminal Code to enforce a zero tolerance approach for those driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs. Additionally, the proposed legislation would authorize new tools for police to better detect drivers who have drugs in their body.

Subject to Parliamentary approval and Royal Assent, the Government of Canada intends to provide regulated and restricted access to cannabis no later than July 2018.

The Government will invest additional resources to make sure there is appropriate capacity within Health Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency and the Department of Public Safety to license, inspect and enforce all aspects of the proposed legislation. These additional resources will also allow the Government to undertake a robust public awareness campaign so that Canadians are well informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of cannabis and other drugs.

Working in partnership with provinces, territories, municipalities and local communities, the Government will also make appropriate investments to train and equip law enforcement so that Canada’s roads and highways are safe for all Canadians.

In the months ahead, the Government will share more details on a new licensing fee and excise tax system. It will also continue to engage with all levels of government and Indigenous Peoples.

Quotes

“As a former police officer, I know firsthand how easy it is for our kids to buy cannabis. In many cases, it is easier for our children to get cannabis than it is to get cigarettes. Today’s plan to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis will put an end to this. It will keep cannabis out of the hands of children and youth, and stop criminals from profiting from it.”
Bill Blair
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

“Today, we are following through on our commitment to introduce comprehensive legislation to legalize, strictly regulate and restrict access to cannabis and to create new laws to punish more severely those who drive under its influence. The Cannabis Act reflects an evidence-based approach that will protect Canadians’ public health and safety. By tackling alcohol- and drug-impaired driving with new and tougher criminal offences, Canadians will be better protected from impaired drivers and the number of deaths and accidents on our roads will be reduced.”
The Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

“The bills we propose today are aiming at putting drug dealers and organized crime out of the cannabis business. It will allow law enforcement to focus on other serious offences, including the distribution of cannabis to children and youth and driving under the influence of drugs. Drug-impaired driving puts the lives and the safety of drivers and passengers at risk every day, and we will lead a wide-ranging campaign to raise awareness of the dangers of driving while impaired. The proposed Bill will also provide more tools and stronger laws to punish more severely drivers who drive under the influence of drugs, including cannabis. We will continue to work with our law enforcement, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders to develop a consistent enforcement approach and to provide support in building capacity across the country.”
The Honourable Ralph Goodale
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

“The Cannabis Act will help keep our children safe and address the health risks associated with cannabis. The proposed legislation would allow Canadian adults to possess and purchase regulated and quality-controlled cannabis products, while prohibiting sales to young Canadians and any products, promotion, packaging or labelling that could be appealing to young people.”
The Honourable Jane Philpott
Minister of Health

Quick Facts

  • The Cannabis Act proposes that legal sales of cannabis would be restricted to people who are 18 years of age and over. Provinces and territories could increase the minimum legal age of sale, purchase and consumption.
  • The movement of cannabis and cannabis products across international borders would remain a serious criminal offence.
  • Following Royal Assent, the Government intends to bring the proposed Act into force no later than July 2018. At that time, adults would legally be able to possess up to 30 grams of legal cannabis in public, and to grow up to four plants per household at a maximum height of one metre from a legal seed or seedling. Until the new law comes into force, cannabis will remain illegal everywhere in Canada, except for medical purposes.
  • The provinces and territories would authorize and oversee the distribution and sale of cannabis, subject to minimum federal conditions. In those jurisdictions that have not put in place a regulated retail framework, individuals would be able to purchase cannabis online from a federally licensed producer with secure home delivery through the mail or by courier.
  • The proposed legislation would amend the Criminal Code to modernize and simplify the transportation provisions, strengthen the criminal law responses to impaired driving, and facilitate the effective and efficient investigation and prosecution of drug- and alcohol-impaired driving.
  • To facilitate detection and investigation of drug-impaired driving, law enforcement officers will be authorized and equipped to use oral fluid drug screeners at the roadside.

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Contacts

David Taylor
Office of the Minister of Justice
613-992-4621

Media Relations
Department of Justice Canada
613-957-4207
media@justice.gc.ca

Andrew MacKendrick
Office of the Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Health Canada
613-957-2983

Scott Bardsley
Office of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
613-998-5681

Media Relations
Public Safety Canada
613-991-0657
media@ps-sp.gc.ca

Public Inquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866 225-0709

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South African Court OKs Marijuana for Home Use

FILE - A protester carries a marijuana pipe during a march calling for the legalization of cannabis in Cape Town, South Africa, May 7, 2016. On Friday, Western Cape province's High Court ruled that marijuana can now be legally grown and smoked in the privacy of one's home.

JOHANNESBURG — 

Last week’s court ruling allowing home use of marijuana has sent South Africa buzzing about the possibility that cannabis will now be widely legal in the Rainbow Nation.

To which pro-marijuana activist Julian Stobbs says: Chill.

Friday’s ruling from the Western Cape province High Court does apply across the nation, but the decision is really more about privacy than it is about pot.

The ruling struck down part of an old law that prohibits private and personal use of marijuana. The ruling still has to be solidified by parliament and pass through the constitutional court, which could take up to two years.

South Africa first criminalized the substance in 1908. Police statistics say that drug-related arrests have recently risen, with just under 260,000 people arrested last year, according to the most recent annual crime report. That’s just over 13 percent of all arrests.

Stobbs and his partner, who he says use marijuana recreationally and regularly, made headlines in 2010 after police raided their home and arrested them for marijuana possession. They were later released.

No victim, no crime

Under the ruling, Stobbs says, cases like his won’t be part of that toll anymore.

So, if you are using cannabis in the privacy of your own home, or indeed if you have grown cannabis in the privacy of your home and it’s never left the building, you now have a loophole in the law that if you do get arrested and you do go in front of a magistrate, you can use the defense that you are hurting nobody, there was no victim, there was no crime, there’s no black market, there are no transactions, no one is making money out of this, you are using the cannabis you grew in the privacy of your own home,” he told VOA.

As it stands, then, this ruling is only helpful if you’re an above-average horticulturalist with no plan to make a dime off the substance. Buying and selling marijuana is still illegal, as is smoking it in public.

Few anti-marijuana activists made their voices heard to protest the move. One online group, called “South Africans Against Dagga and Satan” — “dagga” is the local slang for cannabis — said on social media that the day of the ruling would “Forever be known as the day Satan took over South Africa!” They were shouted down on their Facebook page by supporters of the ruling.

‘Religious’ use

Users of the drug for religious purposes say they welcome the news. In the seaside Rastafarian community of Judah Square, a well-known tour guide and storyteller who goes by Brother Zebulon told VOA that while he is very happy about the ruling, he doesn’t support the widespread use of marijuana.

“My daughter,” he said to VOA, “it’s sacred, so it’s secret, so we really don’t advocate it. Yeah, no, no, no, no, we don’t advocate it, no. It’s a personal … you know, it’s your meditation.”

In February, South Africa’s government approved a bill that would allow for the limited manufacturing of medical marijuana.

Stobbs says he hopes these are just first steps in the eventual regulation and decriminalization of marijuana, like in the U.S. state of Colorado. Marijuana is now legal in 28 U.S. states for either medical or recreational use.

“That’s exactly what we see,” he said. “And we see billions of rand going back into the treasury in taxation on the plant.”

“Because we’re not asking for legalization; we’re asking for the legalization and regulation of the plant. This doesn’t come with a free-for-all. It is a free-for-all now — we’re trying to stop the free-for-all. It’s legalized regulation that we’re after.”

But Stobbs, who is 56, told VOA that he took a moment to pause and celebrate the court ruling.

“We had a pretty smoked-up weekend,” he said.

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Spannabis 2017: Lessons On Spain’s And Barcelona’s Marijuana Industry

By Hilary Bricken

Mar 20, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Spain flag cannabis

From March 10th through 12th, I was in Barcelona attending Spannabis. My firm’s Barcelona lawyers constantly get inquiries from serious international businesspeople wanting to start a cannabis social club or some other sort of cannabis business in Spain. And with more than 200 medical marijuana social clubs in Barcelona alone, I wanted to go there to meet with key industry players to learn more about what is going on with marijuana in Catalonia’s capital city and in the rest of Spain.

Barcelona and medical marijuana felt to me like some combination of California, Oregon, and Washington seven years ago. Namely, it feels like an unregulated, quasi-commercial gray market chock-full of “collective” non-profits and rotating patient members, unclear laws, and inconsistent enforcement of those laws. For a breakdown on the current medical marijuana laws in Spain and in Barcelona, go here. This unclear and pioneer atmosphere was also in full force at Spannabis, which was in many respects just like pretty much every other marijuana trade show/expo I’ve attended in the United States: light on serious education about marijuana laws and regulations and heavy on promoting marijuana consumption and on seeking to preserve the counter-culture. But with cannabis cups and consuming events dwindling in the U.S. from increasing state marijuana regulations, I would be remiss if I did not mention how the Spannabis fairgrounds managed to maintain a steady cloud of overhanging marijuana smoke from its more than 3,000 attendees who openly and consistently consumed despite the presence of law enforcement.

Spannabis had only a single panel on the legality and rules surrounding Barcelona’s (mostly medical) marijuana social clubs and the panelist gave little detail or explanation about the law that enables cannabis clubs to operate. That panel was made up of one criminal defense attorney telling attendees about the national and local government’s conflicting policy positions on health and law enforcement and the rights of individuals to consume cannabis for medical use. Needless to say, since our cannabis lawyers represent the business side, I didn’t find this panel very helpful. More importantly, this panel served as just another indication that Barcelona and Spain as a whole have just not yet really “arrived” yet as destinations for those seeking to form and operate a cannabis business fully compliant with local (in this case Barcelona), provincial (Catalonia), and federal (Spain) laws.

But as many in the industry there were quick and emphatic about telling me, the cannabis scene in Barcelona and in Spain is slowly maturing and slowly getting “more legal.” As we wrote just last week, the regional Parliament of Catalonia has proposed reforms in line with a 2014 initiative advocated by Regulacion Responsible in advance of the 2014 Spain national elections. The initiative’s aim was to create a framework for the national reform of cannabis laws to permit regions like Catalonia and cities like Barcelona to set their own cannabis policies. Though the 2016 legislative initiative stalled, it has recently reemerged and anticipation is building for a revised version of this bill that would mean increased regulation for legalized marijuana businesses on a regional basis. Given the inconsistent enforcement of current laws (within both Catalonia and Spain) and the lack of meaningful or comprehensive business regulations, such reforms cannot come soon enough to better protect and give more structure to those cultivating and distributing marijuana for and to patients. Patients would also benefit from such regulation as it would increase both transparency around the sourcing of cannabis products and cannabis quality assurance standards.

Even though marijuana social clubs in Spain exist in a risk-laden gray area, it’s clear that manufacturing and distributing CBD is a popular and, more importantly, legal practice in Spain and Barcelona (in contrast to the United States). Indeed, the majority of booths on the exhibitor floor at Spannabis focused on hemp seeds (there was even a company there from Humboldt County) and CBD-based products. Manufacturing and distributing cannabis paraphernalia or equipment used for consuming, cultivating, or handling are also legal and ancillary companies are alive and well in Barcelona, just like in most of the U.S. This is why foreign investors looking at Spain are mostly focusing on financing, starting, managing, or assisting ancillary companies and not so much on marijuana social clubs, all of which are non-profit because of existing laws prohibiting commercial “trafficking.” The Arcview Group (well-known for angel investments in ancillary marijuana businesses) held an investor meeting in Barcelona for the first time last week.

Barcelona’s medical marijuana marketplace remains immature and risky (these were the words used by many of those with whom I spoke while I was in Spain), but it no doubt has tremendous potential. Once local governments in Spain are given the freedom (and they might soon) to take the reins on cannabis regulation and to create a better business atmosphere for cultivators, manufacturers, and distributors, Barcelona will no doubt quickly become a major marijuana city in terms of popularity, investment, and access.


Hilary Bricken bio photoHilary Bricken is an attorney at Harris Bricken, PLLC in Seattle, and she chairs the firm’s Canna Law Group. Her practice consists of representing marijuana businesses of all sizes in multiple states on matters relating to licensing, corporate formation and contracts, commercial litigation, and intellectual property. Named one of the 100 most influential people in the cannabis industry in 2014, Hilary is also lead editor of the Canna Law Blog. You can reach her by email at hilary@harrisbricken.com.

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In Peru, mothers rouse support for legalizing medical marijuana

Ana Alvarez, a working mother of two in Lima, never imagined being on the frontlines of a fight for marijuana in conservative Peru.

But a police raid on a makeshift cannabis lab that she and other women started to soothe the symptoms of their sick children has roused support for medical marijuana, prompting President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to propose legalizing it in the latest pivot away from decades-old restrictions on drug use in Latin America.

Alvarez said cannabis oil is the only drug that helped contain her epileptic and schizophrenic son’s seizures and psychotic episodes. She and other women in similar situations formed the group Searching for Hope to seek legal backing as they honed techniques for producing the drug.

“We wrote to Congress, to the health ministry,” Alvarez said from her apartment as her son played in his room. “We got two negative responses.”

But the police bust put the women’s plight on national television, triggering an outpouring of sympathy as they marched with their children in tow to demand police “give us our medicine back.”

“When we saw their reality, we realized there’s a void in our laws for this kind of use” of marijuana, said cabinet advisor Leonardo Caparros. “We couldn’t turn a blind eye.”

It is unclear if the right-wing opposition-controlled Congress will pass Kuczynski’s proposed legislation, which would allow marijuana to be imported and sold in Peru for medical reasons and could permit domestic production after two years.

Kuczynski, a 78-year-old socially liberal economist, once provoked an uproar for saying that smoking a joint “isn’t the end of the world.”

But an Ipsos poll conducted following the raid showed 65 percent of Peruvians favor legalizing medical marijuana, and another 13 percent back legalizing the drug for recreational use.

If the bill is passed, Peru would follow neighboring Chile and Colombia in legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Mexico’s Senate has approved a bill to permit the use of medical marijuana, while Uruguay has fully legalized cannabis from seed to smoke.

In the meantime, Searching for Hope has turned to the black market. Member Roxana Tasayco said cannabis oil had given her terminal cancer-stricken mother her appetite back and calmed her vomiting and nausea.

Also In Health News

“It’s not going to cure her but it’ll give her a better quality of life in her last days,” said Tasayco. “If I have to break a few laws to do that for her I will.”

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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