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.

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“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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Peruvian President Ollanta Humala suspended U.S.-backed plans to begin eradication there and replaced the Peruvian drug czar who was advocating it

LIMA, Peru — Colombia surpassed Peru last year in land under coca cultivation, with Peru experiencing a 14 per cent drop in acreage for the plant used to make cocaine, according to UN data released Wednesday.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime’s annual report on Peruvian coca’s crop said it encompassed 42,900 hectares. It’s the crop’s fourth straight year of decline and the smallest area under cultivation since 1998.

The finding does not necessarily mean Colombia is now the world’s No. 1 cocaine producer, however. Much of Peru’s crop is more mature and higher yielding, having never been subjected to eradication.

Peru’s government does not destroy coca in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley, the world’s leading coca-growing region, citing security concerns. The size of Belgium and Israel

combined, the valley accounts for 68 per cent of Peru’s coca crop.

Last year, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala suspended U.S.-backed plans to begin eradication there and replaced the Peruvian drug czar who was advocating it.

The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates Peru’s potential cocaine production for 2014 at 285 metric tons, versus 245 metric tons for Colombia.

Peru’s drug czar, Alberto Otarola, said his government is not finished measuring potential cocaine production but estimated it at currently “no more than 270 tons.”

Two weeks ago, the UN said Colombia’s coca acreage skyrocketed in 2014 from 48,000 hectares to 69,000 hectares. That’s in large part because of reduced aerial spraying. The herbicide used, glyphosate, was recently classified by a UN health agency as a probable carcinogen.

Peru only eradicates manually.

“We are the Andean region country that has advanced most in reducing coca leaf,” Otarola told reporters. Peru destroyed 31,000 hectares of coca last year and has set the goal of destroying 35,000 hectares this year.

The policy provokes resistance from the tens of thousands of Peruvians who depend on coca for their livelihood.

On Tuesday, at least one person was killed and 25 people, including seven police officers, were injured in a clash between coca farmers and police in the Amazonian town of Constitution, local officials said. The farmers were protesting eradication and a lack of alternative development in the region.

One indicator of cocaine production is the amount of coca leaf harvested per country.

In 2014, Peru produced an estimated 100,800 metric tons, compared to 132,700 metric tons for Colombia, said Flavio Mirella, the Peru country representative for the UN agency.

The vast majority of coca leaf grown in both countries is used to produce cocaine.

The UN and the U.S. both agree that Bolivia is the No. 3 cocaine-producing nation after Colombia and Peru. The White House put Bolivia’s estimated potential cocaine production at 210 metric tons, up from 145 metric tons in 2012.

Bolivia has become a major transit and refining country for Peruvian cocaine in recent years.

The U.S. ended counter-narcotics assistance to Bolivia in 2013, five years after its government expelled the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership: An Alliance of Money Over Guns

By Matthew Cooper 4/24/15 at 6:45 AM

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Congress and the presidential candidates are weighing in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But what is this trade deal, and what are its prospects?

Well, the TPP promises to be one of Washington’s most contentious fights during this Congress. But in an unusual way. Most business interests, Republicans and the Obama administration back the agreement, while virtually all of organized labor, most Democrats and environmental groups oppose it. The arguments about whether the pact is a job destroyer or a job creator echo the debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) forged by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the 1990s —an argument that continues decades after it passed.

But the TPP is a much bigger deal not only because it has the potential to rewrite American rules about labor and environmental standards, intellectual property rights and other important aspects of the American economy, but also because the countries involved make it nothing short of a major international economic alliance. Here’s a quick breakdown:

What is the Trans-Pacific Partnership?

It’s an agreement, among 12 nations bordering the Pacific, aimed at reducing trade barriers and promoting greater economic cooperation. The idea has been negotiated since 2006, and it got started with relatively small economies like New Zealand and Brunei. It now includes very big economies as well. Among the participants: the United States, Japan, Australia, Chile, South Korea and Peru. The 12 nations make up close to 40 percent of the world’s gross domestic product. Other Pacific-facing nations could join at a later date.

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