Thursday, November 1, 2018
Under the Cannabis Act, adults are allowed to possess, carry and share with other adults up to 30 grams of dried cannabis. They will also be permitted a maximum of four homegrown marijuana plants per household in most provinces. However, the substance is still illegal under federal law in the United States. If an immigration authority suspects someone at the border of illegal activity, which includes possession of marijuana in the United States, the authority may stop the person and refuse entry.
Stefanie Di Francesco, a Canadian employment attorney at McMillan LLP, reports that companies that require employees to regularly cross United States-Canada border would benefit from specific training for those employees regarding how to handle port of entry questioning with immigration authorities.
Both Canadian and American immigration authorities at the ports of entry , she notes, must assess whether a traveler is admissible for entry, which includes assessing whether a traveller is criminally inadmissible. According to Di Francesco:
“Generally, a traveller is considered to be criminally inadmissible to Canada if the person was convicted of an offence in Canada, or was convicted of an offense outside of Canada that is considered a crime in Canada, or committed an act outside of Canada that is considered a crime in the country where it occurred and would be punishable under Canadian law.
A traveller is considered to be criminally inadmissible to the United States if the person violated any law or regulation of any state, the federal government, or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance, which includes cannabis and cannabis related products. As in Canada, an actual conviction for a crime is not required for a traveller to be found inadmissible. Admitting to the essential elements of an American crime will render a person criminally inadmissible to the United States even if that conduct is legal in Canada.”
As with any law enforcement matter, a traveler’s experience may vary depending on the officer. It should be noted that immigration authorities employed by the United States government are required to enforce federal law, especially with respect to illegal drugs. However, according to Di Francesco, “[U]nless there is directive from the federal government, travelers’ experiences may vary significantly depending on the particular officer responsible for reviewing their status at the port of entry.” In the case of business travelers, it is best not to take chances. Not only is a business traveler likely a valuable member of a company’s team, they also represent the company and affect the company's reputation even outside of normal work parameters. For this reason, it is advisable that such business travelers know how to handle any situation that could arise at the border due to new cannabis laws.
For example, an immigration authority could simply ask, “Have you ever used marijuana either prior to or following its legalization in Canada?” Given the agent’s broad latitude for decision-making at the border, if the traveler answers yes, the admission could be used as a basis to determine that they are inadmissible. Not surprisingly, there are risks for those employed in Canada’s cannabis industry. Authorities can question a business traveler about the purpose of their proposed entry, their employer’s business, and whether the traveler has aided in the production or sale of cannabis as part of their employment. The answers given could be viewed by an officer as providing a basis for a finding of inadmissibility.
Di Stefano advises employers whose businesses rely on cross border travel to draft clear employment policies to address requirements around cannabis use for employees who travel internationally on business; ensure employees are adequately prepared for port of entry questioning, which may include conducting training on best practices; and include contractual provisions in employment agreements concerning termination where international travel is required and the employee is found inadmissible to the United States (or another country).
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
Most people view marijuana legalization as a floodgates moment where long-time black-market marijuana users can finally go to the corner
store to buy ultra-potent strains of the drug in large quantities, and spend their free time testing the hypothesis that it is impossible to overdose on marijuana.
This may be true, but according to a recent report by Deloitte, widespread marijuana legalization may also create a large market of first-time users trying legal marijuana products out of curiosity. According to the report, these consumers are expected to seek out a less potent, more socially acceptable method of ingesting the substance. Forbes.com has the story:
It seems the American CBD craze has invaded Canada. Now, more of those customers, presumably the ones with less experience with hard-hitting pot like GG#4, or these things called dabs are requesting products heavy in the non-intoxicating compound of the cannabis plant. These people are the focus of the latest market report that suggests new, legal users (typically older folks) are more intrigued these days by the stress relieving powers of the plant than they are in getting wrecked.
"CBD is becoming kind of an 'it' word in cannabis. We see a real trend there," Andrew Pollock, vice-president of marketing for The Green Organic Dutchman, told CBC News.
Due to the forecasted demand for low-THC pot products, dispensaries may want to consider advising customers on the advantages of micro-dosing. Some are already making this part of the plan. After all, this low-key method for consuming cannabis, which is geared toward the person wanting to maintain a functional high without drooling all over themselves and dreaming of tacos all day, is already catching on in parts of the United States.
"(They say) two milligrams or three milligrams just has a mild relaxing effect and doesn't interfere with you going about your day," said Tom Adams, managing director of BDS Analytics in Colorado.
It's not totally surprising that this new consumer segment seems to be emerging. After all, the purpose of legalization is to make marijuana safer through regulation, and more accessible to the public. The Deloitte report describes current black-market marijuana users as young "risk takers" indicating that their use of marijuana is driven by a desire to "live life to the fullest", and that its illegal status does not curb that desire–if anything it amplifies it.
However, the report goes on to project that the marijuana consumer of the future will be more interested in a less frequent, more relaxing or therapeutic marijuana experience. In other words, once the drug is legalized it will no longer be a ritualistic and taboo exercise in hedonism, but instead will become more akin to the occasional glass of wine or scotch. Further, the report projects that marijuana users in the future will be willing to pay a premium for their products, and will place a high value on knowledgeable staff and diverse product selection. These insights further the parallel between marijuana and alcohol, as recent years have seen a growing demand for high-quality craft beers and locally distilled liquors sold by knowledgeable bartenders and similar connoisseurs.
Government regulators are sure to be happy to hear this information, as there have historically been some concerns that marijuana legalization would result in increased habitual drug use, leading to a host of other societal problems. At least for now, it sounds like cannabis consumers of the future will approach the drug with caution and treat it as an occasional indulgence, rather than instantly succumbing to the "Reefer Madness" that many used to fear.
October 31, 2018 in Business, Drug Policy, Edibles, Federal Regulation, International Regulation, Medical Marijuana, News, Recreational Marijuana, State Regulation, Voter Initiatives | Permalink | Comments (1)
Saturday, October 20, 2018
The move to legalize cannabis in Canada comes into effect on October 17th, but it is estimated that suppliers will not have enough weed to meet demand.
While a recent survey conducted by Statistics Canada shows that the number of Canadian cannabis users is not expected to rise significantly, Statistics Canada's National Cannabis Survey, 3rd quarter 2018, reveals that some 4.6 million Canadians or 15% of the population has used cannabis just in the past 3 months.
According to MetroUK: Researchers from the University of Waterloo and the C.D. Howe Institute say suppliers will only be able to fulfill between 30-60% of demand. According to them, the legal cannabis supply is expected to be around 210 tonnes while total demand in the country will be about 610 tonnes.
One of the main reasons for the lack of cannabis is that the Canadian government seems to be dragging its feet in granting licenses to suppliers. This could cause quite a loss, as MetroUK reports: "[This] means the government will be losing out on an estimated $774,000,000 (£454,000,000) in tax revenues."
Thursday, October 18, 2018
Doctors in Britain can start writing cannabis prescriptions in less than a month. The motivation for the government to quickly legalize medical use came from two cases of sick children whose suffering was eased by cannabis. Both kids have life-threatening epileptic seizures and are successfully managing their diseases with cannabis. The New York Times reports:
The change was announced on Thursday by Home Secretary Sajid Javid, after he called for an urgent review of cannabis-based medicinal products over the summer, and his office said in July it had decided that “senior clinicians will be able to prescribe the medicines to patients with an exceptional clinical need.”
Mr. Javid said on Thursday, “Having been moved by heartbreaking cases involving sick children, it was important to me that we took swift action to help those who can benefit from medicinal cannabis.”
The home secretary commissioned the review after the cannabis-based medicine of Billy Caldwell, 12, who has life-threatening epileptic seizures, was confiscated at Heathrow Airport on June 11. The case was publicized in the British news media and prompted a national discussion on the legalization of medicinal cannabis products.
Ms. Caldwell, the young boy's mother, spoke praise of the Home Secretary for the "swift movements" on behalf of her son and others. The whole process, from Mr. Caldwell's case to approval of medicinal cannabis took about four months. The Home Secretary clarified that general practitioners will not be authorized to write cannabis scripts, but specialized doctors will have discretion to give patients who have exhausted other options access to medical cannabis. This change adds the U.K. to a growing list of states and countries that have legalized medical cannabis use.
--Manda Mosley Maier
Thursday, September 27, 2018
With Canada legalizing adult-use marijuana, effective October 17, 2018, it is expected that Canadian citizens will partake in this new industry, either through consumption or investment means. While the substance may be legal in Canada, and a few U.S. states that border Canada, crossing the border could become difficult.
In an interview with The Star Vancouver, Len Sanders, a Washington based immigration attorney, explained how the federally controlled U.S.-Canada border has begun to classify those in the marijuana industry as "drug traffickers." He went on to say that this enforcement applies to people involved with the actual plant, such as growers, users, and dispensary owners, to people who have either directly invested or their investment will be used in the cannabis industry. He mentions how the CEO and two employees of Keirton Inc. (a large agriculture equipment manufacturer) were stopped at the border and moved to a secondary location only to be told that they were banned for life from entering the United States. Keirton Inc. was not the only group to face this punishment. In an interview with the Financial Post, Sam Zneimar was banned for life simply for investing in U.S. based marijuana companies.
In this current administration, U.S. citizens have seen a big push for more enforcement at our Southern border and a new wave of keeping America "safe". But will the same hold true on the other side of the country? In both interviews the offending party expressed sympathy for the poor border patrol agent that was made to enforce this law. These articles both mention a civil interaction between a "drug trafficker" and a border patrol agent and an unfortunate outcome. The U.S. has yet to tweet about the "drug traffickers" that are attempting to get into the U.S. through Northern points of Entry.
--Loren D. Elkins
With the legalization efforts coming out of Mexico, it should be interesting to see how those investors will be greeted at the border.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
American states that have legalized marijuana have been wrestling with the question of how to deal with it in the workplace. On the one hand, employers have legitimate reasons to want employees to refrain from using it on the job. On the other, medical marijuana raises issues regarding discrimination against those with medical conditions.
While the American courts have been addressing things in a piecemeal fashion, all Canadian provinces and territories will have to deal with the issue beginning on October 17, which is Day 1 of the new Marijuana Era there. Employment lawyer Patrick Essaminy of Montréal's Stikeman Elliott LLP discusses the looming issue on an interesting new podcast. There is a lot of good discussion, but Essaminy points out some of the difficulties employers will have in dealing with employees who are impaired at work. What should employers do?
This is a very interesting question and a great challenge for employers in that, unlike alcohol testing, testing for cannabis is tricky. The first priority for employers should be to ensure that their workplace is safe and that any employees that are demonstrating signs of impairment be managed accordingly.
In the world of law enforcement officers rely on the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, also called the SFST. Drug recognition experts are highly trained under the Drug Evaluation and Classification Program and employers can certainly decide to implement testing based on these sophisticated programs. However for now, we can talk about the standard signs of impairment which by the way can be the result of cannabis use, but also in other cases it can be when someone is simply fatigued or overworked.
Given that random testing or testing without proper justification is difficult in Canada, we recommend that employers manage situations of potential impairment by properly training their managers to recognize signs of impairment, whatever the cause is, and to act upon these signs by meeting with the employees, and if necessary removing the employees from the workplace in order to protect both the affected employee and any other people that may come into contact with that employee.
Some of the signs that employers need to be sensitive to in assessing whether someone is impaired include the following: glossy or red eyes; slurred speech; poor coordination; lack of focus or concentration; someone who is easily irritable or demonstrates inappropriate or emotional responses. Other signs may include an unsteady posture, someone whose personal hygiene or appearance is getting worse, someone who has a delayed reaction or appears to have an increased appetite while at work.
I want to emphasize that all of these signs should make an employer proactively react, but it does not mean that the employer can conclude automatically that an employee is impaired as a result of the use of cannabis. That said, the obligation of an employer is to ensure health and safety at the workplace and therefore the cause of the impairment is not the relevant immediate concern in this case. There may be other situations where an employer may be reacting to a near miss, an incident, or a serious accident, which will warrant specific testing and that is a whole different topic.
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Marijuana will soon be legal in Canada, but is still illegal in the United States. This means that those who are involved in cannabis businesses in the Great White North may find themselves running into trouble at the U.S. border as they attempt to enter the country.
Over at MarketWatch, reporter Jeremy C. Owens runs down some of the issues:
Todd Owen — a senior officer with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, overseeing border operations — told Politico in an interview published Thursday that border agents would still seek to permanently ban any foreign visitor who admits to working or investing in the cannabis industry, or admits to have taken the drug, even after recreational marijuana use becomes legal in Canada on Oct. 17.
MarketWatch confirmed that stance in an email exchange with a CBP spokeswoman, who said investors could face a permanent ban from entering the U.S.
“Although medical and recreational marijuana may be legal in some U.S. states and Canada, the sale, possession, production and distribution of marijuana or the facilitation of the aforementioned remain illegal under U.S. federal law,” spokeswoman Stephanie Malin said in a statement.
In a follow-up exchange, Malin confirmed that investing in publicly traded marijuana companies, including those traded legally on U.S. exchanges, is considered “facilitation” of illicit drug trade under CBP policy.
“That’s the first [time] I’ve actually heard them say a Canadian-only enterprise is an illegal enterprise for U.S. entry purposes,” said Scott Railton, a lawyer at Cascadia Cross-Border Law in Bellingham, Wash.
. . .
Lawyers who spoke with MarketWatch said guards at the border have the freedom to ask any questions they deem fit.
”They have really absolute power, in a nutshell,” Preshaw said.
At least until the situation in the U.S. changes, those entering from Canada will have this issue. But it would be incredibly dumb for such visitors to lie to U.S. border agents. Investing in a marijuana business may prevent you from entering the U.S. Lying about it will get you entry into the U.S., but as a resident of a federal corrections facility.
Thursday, September 13, 2018
Canada's policy of allowing marijuana to be delivered legally has brought up several tough questions. According to Perrin Grauer, writing for The Star, the questions are mainly about how the government will prevent the drug from getting into the hands of minors.
The B.C. Liquor Distribution Board (BCLDB) says that a valid ID will still be required for verification purposes at the point of delivery before the cannabis is released into the customer's possession.
The packages are also being sealed in odor-proof containers, with nondescript external packaging. The goal of these policies is to prevent recreational cannabis use from causing undue harm to children. Michael Bramwell, a Vancouver father working in law enforcement, suggested that legalization may ultimately make children safer in relation to cannabis use.
“If you’re restrictive, (kids) are gonna go behind your back,” Bramwell said in an interview in August. “Kids are still getting drunk at bush parties. Or when they do hit (legal) age, they’re going to go buck wild, and go too crazy.”
Bramwell emphasized that he does not feel as if there’s nothing to worry about. Rather, he hopes legalization will take some of the glamour of taboo out of cannabis use, and make safe, educated engagement with drugs an easier topic for families to broach.
“(The) prohibitive mindset is not the best way to handle parenting,” Bramwell said. “With anything. Including marijuana.”
Other countries considering legalization of marijuana and allowing its legal delivery may be able to look to Canada to determine whether they should use similar methods as well.
Tuesday, September 11, 2018
The traditional picture of the US-Mexico marijuana trade involves drug cartels bringing Mexican weed into the US. But according to a piece from San Diego's KPBS, Mexico’s Demand For Potent California Marijuana Creates Southbound Smuggling, the flow increasingly is going the other way.
California’s cultivation of marijuana has created an unprecedented phenomenon: southbound smuggling of the drug across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Mexico’s demand for potent California strains is on the rise as Mexican drug cartels have mostly failed to make a competitive homegrown product.
“If you’re in Mexico, and you want the best marijuana out there, there’s only one place to get it,” said Matthew Shapiro, a San Diego-based attorney who specializes in marijuana. “There’s no such thing as high-quality Mexican weed.”
California’s initiative to legalize marijuana for recreational use could further boost southbound smuggling, experts on both sides of the border told KPBS. It would make it easier for Tijuana residents with visas or dual citizenship to access California’s more potent strains — and bring it back to Mexico.
It’s illegal to move marijuana from the U.S. to Mexico, just as it’s illegal to move the drug from Mexico into the U.S. But it’s easier to smuggle southbound. At the San Ysidro Port of Entry, drivers can cross the border into Tijuana without ever stopping to speak with a Mexican official.
This shift in perception has become a motivating factor in the recent changes to Mexico's own drug laws, including a suggestion by a Mexican government official back in February that Mexico may consider legalization:
"Colorado, California and the other states that have legalized marijuana have in some ways put the U.S. in a really awkward position," said David Shirk, a Mexico security analyst and professor at the University of San Diego. "On one hand, we are telling our friends like Mexico we want you have to have a zero tolerance policy on illicit drugs while at the same time we have let the camel's nose under the tent when it comes to marijuana."
"There is a significant contradiction in current U.S. policy that Mexico and other countries will begin to use as a basis for modifying their own drug policies," Shirk said.
--Loren D. Elkins
Sunday, September 9, 2018
The Canadian military is planning ahead for the October 17 legalization of cannabis to take effect, by beginning to draft rules to regulate soldiers' cannabis use. For example, some would be banned from using cannabis at least 24 hours before they handle loaded firearms, among other things.
Global News reports:
According to an internal draft of the military’s cannabis policy, members will be banned from consuming marijuana eight hours before duty, once it’s legalized.
In some situations, both consumption and possession of cannabis would be banned, including when a military member is deployed to an international operation, except for a period of authorized leave.
Cannabis would also be banned in any vessel, vehicle and aircraft under the military’s authority.
Developing policy for military members' use of cannabis gives one more insight into the many regulations that must take shape to successfully integrate a country into a cannabis-legal era.
--Manda Mosley Maier
Thursday, September 6, 2018
That's the title of a new look at the about-to-explode Canadian market for marijuana conducted by Grow Biotech and New Frontier Data. In one sense this isn't surprising--big companies have big R&D budgets and big patent-prosecution operations. On the other hand, there seem to be a lot of patents for something that's still highly illegal. From the study:
Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multi-national pharmaceutical companies, according to a joint research project between Washington D.C. based New Frontier Data, the global authority in data, analytics, and business intelligence for the cannabis industry, and London based cannabis bio-technology firm, Grow Biotech .
“Big Pharma’s inevitable entrance into the Cannabis space has arrived. The top nine medical conditions for which Cannabis can be used as an alternative treatment could cannibalize as much as $20 billion in U.S. pharmaceutical sales in the next two years. As more medicinal applications for the plant are discovered, and more physicians and patients integrate cannabis into treatment regimes, the potential impact of cannabis on healthcare will continue to grow for years to come,” said New Frontier Data Founder & CEO Giadha Aguirre de Carcer.
Leading Canada’s Cannabis Patent Race
CIBA-GEIGY AG (Switzerland): 21
PFIZER PRODUCTS INC. (United States of America): 14
GW PHARMA LIMITED (United Kingdom): 13
TELEFONAKTIEBOLAGET LM ERICSSON (Sweden): 13
MERCK SHARP & DOHME CORP (United States of America): 11
SOLVAY PHARMACEUTICALS B.V. (Netherlands): 7
KAO CORPORATION (Japan): 7
OGEDA S.A. (Belgium): 7
SANOFI-AVENTIS (France): 6
UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT (United States of America): 6
With Canada poised to be the first G-7 country to fully legalize cannabis, firms have been racing to secure protectable intellectual property (IP) before the market launches an adult use market later this year. Notably, pharmaceutical firms are among the leading cannabis patent holders in Canada. These patents, which would have been difficult to enforce while cannabis remained illegal, will become enforceable post-legalization, giving the patent holders a key strategic advantage in an increasingly competitive market.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
The Canadian government has approved a new saliva test for drugged driving. Not everyone seems to be happy with it, especially because it doesn't seem to really work well below about 40 degrees F. I understand there are parts of Canada where it sometimes gets colder than that . . . .
Friday, August 24, 2018
With the Great White North bracing for greatly increased cannabis availability, Canada's Policy Options magazine has a thoughtful new article on how to minimize the potential health risks, Pulling levers to mitigate health costs of cannabis. The authors are Rebecca Jesseman and Matthew Young from the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. From the article:
Legalization of cannabis in Canada has potential benefits — lower criminal justice costs, new government and private revenue sources — but we must also recognize the public health costs of cannabis use. It’s vital to ensure that governments at all levels use the available policy levers to reduce these costs.
A very helpful graph notes the various "levers" that policy-makers can use to help change consumer behaviors. The authors continue:
Canada has the chance to provide international leadership for a public health approach to cannabis. Realizing that opportunity means applying the available policy levers based on the evidence we currently have and calibrating them according to the evidence we gather after legalization. It means prioritizing public health over revenue generation something we have not done well with alcohol. It means providing Canadians the information they need to make responsible, educated decisions about cannabis use by scaling up prevention and education initiatives and promoting guidelines for lower-risk cannabis use. It means equipping our health system to support those who encounter problems with use by addressing existing gaps in tools and information for primary care providers. It means improving and increasing specialized services for youth, Indigenous people and those who live in rural or remote communities. Protecting public health also involves protecting public safety, which includes improving education and enforcement capacity to reduce cannabis-impaired driving.
Cannabis has been the most commonly used illegal drug in Canada and internationally for many years. Legalization provides an opportunity to reduce the many costs of a criminal justice approach. It also comes with the risk of increasing public health costs if we fail to make good use of the policy levers available at all levels of government by investing in effective prevention, education and treatment programs. Many countries are looking to Canada to inform their own decisions about cannabis regulation. We have an opportunity to demonstrate that legalization does not have to lead to commercialization. What’s more, it can be an opportunity to reduce public health costs by opening the door to a better understanding of the risks and benefits of use, and to honest dialogue with youth and other consumers about reducing those risks.
Monday, August 20, 2018
If it's too much trouble to go to the dispensary, an Edmonton company wants to bring it to you. It's open question, though, whether Alberta officials will allow it to launch. The Canadian Broadcasting Company has the story:
Called Save the Drive, the business is set to launch a mobile application when cannabis becomes legal Oct. 17.
CEO Chanel Graham sees a need for the service among medical users who are ho mebound, can't drive, or among recreational users who are intoxicated and unable to drive.
"This is something that would be needed and in demand in Canada," Graham said. "And it's something that we can offer to keep drivers off the road."
The company would employ three full-time and six part-time employees and then at least 200 drivers who are paid per delivery.
The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission will have to decide whether it wants to keep its monopoly or open things up to competition.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
Cannabis production in Canada seems to be looking up, as at the country's top licensed marijuana producer, Canopy Growth Corp., is set to double its production. Reuters reports that growers are rushing to ensure product to all Canadians who will be legally capable of purchasing recreational marijuana by July of next year. Canopy's substantial increase, which will involve a C$21 million investment to upgrade its facility, is in response to an unexpected shortage in supply. From the report:
“This is a very big leap, in terms of our output, our capacity, our footprint,” Bruce Linton, Canopy Growth’s CEO, said in an interview.
Canopy Growth is currently licensed to produce 31,000 kilograms of marijuana and related products, and aims to triple that by July next year, the deadline the federal government has given provinces to make pot legal for all.
The deal gives Canopy 450,000 square feet of greenhouses that can be immediately added to its existing 350,000 square foot facility in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. It is also building an additional 200,000 square feet of greenhouse capacity on its existing property.
Linton said that a 250,000 square foot greenhouse should be able to produce around 10,000 kilograms of marijuana annually, which at an average sale price of C$8 a gram could bring in C$80 million.
The company says it is expanding beyond Niagara to other parts of Canada and expects 3 million Canadians to use legal recreational marijuana next year. It also has partnerships with medical marijuana companies in Brazil and has been exporting marijuana to Germany for sale in German pharmacies for over a year.
Canopy may be expanding in Canada, but the company says it intends to stay far away from United States market due to uncertainty in a country where all aspects of marijuana are federally illegal.
-- Erin Milliken
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Britain's largest newspaper has endorsed the recent Royal Society of Public Health proposal to decriminalize all illegal drugs. Here's a an editorial take on the proposal from The [London] Times:
Would it ever make sense to jail a chain smoker for smoking or an alcoholic for touching drink? On the basis that the answer is no, the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is urging the government to decriminalise the personal possession and use of all illegal drugs. This is radical advice, but also sound. Ministers should give it serious consideration.
Prosecutions in Britain for small-scale personal cannabis use are already rare. To this extent the new proposals would not do much more than bring the statute book up to date with the status quo in most parts of the country. But the change the RSPH has in mind would go much further. It would push Britain into a small group of countries that have switched from regarding the use of drugs including heroin, cocaine and ecstasy as a health issue rather than one of criminal justice.
This is not a switch to be taken lightly, nor one the Home Office under present management is likely to take without sustained pressure from elsewhere in government. Yet the logic behind it and evidence from elsewhere are persuasive. Indeed, the government should be encouraged to think of decriminalisation not as an end in itself but as a first step towards legalising and regulating drugs as it already regulates alcohol and tobacco.
The RSPH’s model is a drug decriminalisation initiative in Portugal that is now 15 years old. Since 2001 possession of even hard drugs in Portugal has meant at most a small fine and, more likely, referral to a treatment programme. It does not earn the user a criminal record. More importantly, as of last year the country’s drug-related death rate was three per million citizens compared with ten per million in the Netherlands and 44.6 in Britain. Recreational drug use has not soared, as critics of decriminalisation had feared. HIV infection rates have fallen and the use of so-called legal highs is, according to a study last year, lower than in any other European country.
The Times suggests that the ultimate solution is to move to a legal supply chain for all of these drugs -- a step that the authors of the report didn't quite get to.
Friday, June 17, 2016
Two private British public health groups have released a new document calling for decriminalization of marijuana and all other "illegal drugs." nd The Royal Society for Public Health and the Faculty of Public Health, two organizations whose membership works in the public health field, have released Taking a New Line on Drugs, which recommends that the U.K. take law enforcement out of drug policy at the possession level, while keeping it up against those who manufacture and sell the stuff. The paper's executive summary sets out the suggestions:
From a public health perspective, the purpose of a good drugs strategy should be to improve and protect the public’s health and wellbeing by preventing and reducing the harm linked to substance use, whilst also balancing any potential medicinal benefits. RSPH is calling for the UK to consider exploring, trialling and testing such an approach, rather than one reliant on the criminal justice system. This could include:
a. Transferring lead responsibility for UK illegal drugs strategy to the Department of Health, and more closely aligning this with alcohol and tobacco strategies.
b. Preventing drug harm through universal Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education in UK schools, with evidence-based drugs education as a mandatory, key component.
c. Creating evidence-based drug harm profiles to supplant the existing classification system in informing drug strategy, enforcement priorities, and public health messaging.
d. Decriminalising personal use and possession of all illegal drugs, and diverting those whose use is problematic into appropriate support and treatment services instead, recognising that criminalising users most often only opens up the risk of further harm to health and wellbeing. Dealers, suppliers and importers of illegal substances would still be actively pursued and prosecuted, while evidence relating to any potential benefits or harm from legal, regulated supply should be kept under review.
e. Tapping into the potential of the wider public health workforce to support individuals to reduce and recover from drug harm.
There's some special pleading here, of course -- turning things over to the health authorities means more money and jobs for health workers. And decriminalizing without maintaining penalties against those who make and sell the stuff isn't going to do much to harm the criminal gangs involved in the trade.
Still, an interesting take on the subject.
Friday, January 8, 2016
Legalization proponents often seem to forget that whether or not to permit cannabis sales isn't just a problem of national policy. Cannabis is illegal very nearly everywhere in the world under the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, and any country that legalizes is in violation of its treaty obligations. Mike Adams of High Times has this very nice piece on the potential treaty problems for Canada and Mexico if they want to pursue legalization. The whole thing is worth a read. Some highlights:
Before Canada, Mexico or any other country can legalize marijuana across their respective nation, governments must first show the United Nations General Assembly later this year how they plan to make it happen while remaining in compliance with several international drug treaties.
A briefing memo sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which was obtained by The Canadian Press, suggests that the northern nation will have to divulge a plan to legalize, regulate and restrict access to marijuana without violating three treaties, all of which make the possession and manufacture of the cannabis plant for recreational purposes illegal worldwide.
. . .
International law expert, Errol Mendes, a professor at the University of Ottawa, says that while the Canadian government basically has to tell the tale of “why it feels it has to do it,” the outcome, even if the debate is highly successful, will still result in marijuana legalization taking “many years” before it sees the light of day.
The three treaties that would need to be amended before Canada or any other nation could effectively end prohibition are: The Single Convention on Narcotic Drug of 1961; The Convention of Psychotropic Substances of 1971; The United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988.
The note implies that a number of other countries interested in reforming their drug laws will also be forced to plead their case.
"At the meeting, several South American countries as well as Mexico wish to discuss what they perceive as more effective policy approaches to respond to the current realities of the drug problem, which could include decriminalization/legalization of illicit drugs, harm reduction, and/or a call to renegotiate the international drug control conventions."
Friday, June 12, 2015
Not everyone in Canada seems to be thrilled by the Supreme Court of Canada's decision that it, and not the Health Ministry or other agencies of government, is the final authority on what medicines it is appropriate for patients to take. Initial reactions from Health Canada aren't supportive, according to this CTV piece:
Health Minister Rona Ambrose says she is "outraged" by the Supreme Court of Canada decision that expands the definition of medical marijuana beyond dried leaves, to include cannabis oils, teas, brownies and other forms of the drug.
In a unanimous decision Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that users should not be restricted to only using the dried form of the drug. They said the current rules prevent people with a legitimate need for medical marijuana from choosing a method of ingestion that avoids the potential harms of smoking it.
But Ambrose says, despite recent court rulings in favour of the use of marijuana, her government maintains that cannabis has never been proven safe and effective as a medicine.
"Marijuana has never gone through the regulatory approval process at Health Canada, which requires rigorous safety reviews and clinical trials with scientific evidence," she told reporters in Ottawa.
"So frankly, I’m outraged by the Supreme Court."
She said Thursday’s decision, as well as prior court rulings that permit the use of medical marijuana, give Canadians the impression that the drug has been shown to be effective, when it has not.
"We have this message that normalizes a drug where there is no clear clinical evidence that it is, quote-unquote, a medicine," she said, adding that never in Canada’s history has a drug become a medicine "because judges deemed it so."