Monday, 30 April 2012

Message sent to Dutch Tourist Board


I have visited The Netherlands many times and always enjoyed the fact that I could go into a Coffeeshop and enjoy a quick smoke of cannabis (without tobacco) in peace - now for "foreigners" the only alternative will be to drink in a bar, which will mean more drunken foreigners and less safety - maybe I won't be coming again - I don't come only for the cannabis, by the way, there is plenty in the UK too.

When I first visited Amsterdam in 1975, there were very few coffeeshops. I was offered cannabis and hard drugs like cocaine and heroin on the street - lost my money twice - right then I thought never again would I visit that city. Then I found a coffeeshop and was able to buy and smoke some cannabis in safety and peace.

It is a shame that the Dutch Government have taken this step - and act of discrimination for sure, even if the courts say it is not due to the fact that cannabis is still illegal to possess and supply there.

Now Dutch cities will become like many other cities: beautiful buildings and sites, great multi-cultural people, but streets with drug dealers and runners on every corner, probably a worsening hard drug problem and all that goes with it.

Alun Buffry, UK

Friday, 27 April 2012

I went to Netherlands in 1975, before there were many coffeeshops

I went to Netherlands in 1975, before there were many coffeeshops, I did not go for "drugs". But i was offered cannabis and hard drugs on the streets - so I bought some cannabis which turned out to be house brick.

Then I found a coffeeshop, a safe and friendly environment where I could buy good quality, be advised on strength, and smoke in safety.

Since then I have been to Holland several times - not specifically for drugs- - but often visited relaxing and safe coffeeshops where no hard drugs are allowed.

If this ban comes into effect, I guess I and others will be the targets of street drug dealers again, dealers that often may offer hard drugs too.

So Dutch streets will see more drug dealers - Dutch economy will see less income - drugs will be associated with crime again.

Of course those that go to Netherlands just for cannabis, may not go again, so there will be less tourists, less trade.

It seems to me that this proposed ban is just a jobs-creation scheme for street dealers.

Netherlands judge to rule on cafe cannabis ban
BBC News, April 27 2012
A judge in the Netherlands is due to decide whether foreign tourists should be banned from entering cannabis cafes.
While soft drugs are tolerated, there is growing concern at tourists visiting just for drugs, and foreign dealers selling illegally at home.
The ban is due to start in three southern provinces next month, with a nationwide one by the end of the year.
A group of cafe owners are arguing at The Hague district court that the ban is discriminatory against foreigners.
If the measure is approved Dutch residents will still be allowed into the cafes, as long as they have valid identification, or possibly hold a new "weed pass" which is also being debated.
Michael Veling, a spokesman for the Dutch Cannabis Retailers Association, is among those challenging the plan.
"It is going to cost me 90% of my turnover," he told the BBC World Service. "That is a very good reason for anyone to oppose any plan. Second it puts our customers in a very difficult spot, because why do you have to register to buy a substance that is still illegal?"
There are about 700 coffee shops, as they are called, in the Netherlands. The cultivation and sale of soft drugs through them is decriminalised, although not legal; police generally tolerate possession of up to five grams of cannabis.
Tougher approachThe BBC's Anna Holligan in The Hague says the nationwide ban is being strongly opposed by the Mayor of Amsterdam because around a third of the city's tourists visit to smoke cannabis in the cafes.
If the coffee shop owners lose their case they say they will take it to the European Court of Human Rights, on the grounds that the Dutch should not be allowed to discriminate against people on the basis of where they live.
The moves are part of a tougher approach to drugs introduced by the coalition Conservative-led government elected 18 months ago.
In October strong cannabis was reclassified as a hard drug, amid concerns that it has a psychotic effect on some users.
The move forced cannabis coffee shops to remove the more popular stronger varieties from their shelves.
In November the city of Maastricht brought in a coffee shop ban for foreign tourists from all countries, except Belgium and Germany, from where the majority of foreign customers come.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

If they do no harm and pose no threat, leave cannabis users alone.


I read the story "Cannabis use brought on by grieving" (Carmarthen Journal, April 25).  The man Mark Phillips had apparently started using cannabis more often after his father died.  He was caught with half a cigarette containing cannabis said to have been worth £1.50 - "if it was whole, with its value estimated as "pence"."

What sense and what justice was there in arresting this man and taking him to court, where he was given a conditional discharge with £85 costs?

In this case, it is reported, the man was driving his car - well if that was the case and he was detrimentally effected by cannabis, he ought to have been arrested for dangerous driving.  But it seems that it was not his driving that attracted police attention but the smell.

There have been numerous studies on the effects of driving whilst under the influence of cannabis that show that there is little or no bad effect on driving skills and none at all if the cannabis had been smoked the night before as Mr Phillips claimed.   In fact, reports say that it makes drivers less tense.

Don't the police and courts have better things to do with their time - time the taxpayers are charged for?

Does the arrest and prosecution make anybody feel safer - did it prevent harm or risk of harm?   I cannot see how he could have been harming anybody else?

It's time the authorities stopped treating victimless cannabis users like this.  If they do no harm and pose no threat, they should be left alone, not criminalised.

Alun Buffry

'Cannabis use brought on by grieving'

Carmarthen Journa, April 25 2012

AN UNEMPLOYED Llanboidy man used cannabis to help deal with the death of his father, a court heard.
Appearing before Carmarthen magistrates, Mark Phillips, 30, of Old Mill admitted possessing half a herbal cannabis cigarette on March 26.
The cannabis cigarette was said to be worth £1.50 if it was whole, with its value estimated as "pence".
Prosecuting, Gerald Neave said police stopped Phillips, driving in his silver Peugeot 206 near Llanboidy.
He said the officer could smell cannabis from the vehicle.
Phillips admitted to smoking cannabis and handed over the drug. He was arrested and bailed.
During police interview, Phillips said he smoked half the cannabis the previous night, claiming it was a present from a friend.
Defending, Aled Owen said Phillips had a history of social cannabis use, which had increased after his father passed away.
He added: "In recent times he's started using it on a more regular basis after the death of his father, he finds it a way of medicating himself."
Mr Owen placed the value of a full cannabis cigarette at £1.50, adding: "The mathematics will tell you you're talking about pence."
He added: "He is trying to move away from this cannabis misuse brought on by his bereavement and is getting help through counselling."
Phillips was given a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay costs of £85.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Man who grew cannabis as pain-relief sentence reduced but still unjustly locked up

Although I welcome the reduction in sentence, truth is that Matthews seems to have harmed nobody and simply tried to ease his pains with a plant he found effective and that he could grow in the privacy of his own home - NOBODY ELSE WAS INVOLVED.

I find it remarkable that courts, the legal profession and journalists alike do not seem to realise the difference between some form of medical dependency and addiction.

All people that take medication to treat the symptoms of illness or accident are dependent upon the medication until they either recover or it is replaced by something more effective.

The result of stopping the medication is usually a return of or worsening of the symptoms or pain.

Addiction, however, is completely different, depending upon the addictiveness of the substance and the person.

Stopping use of an additive drug is usually accompanied by withdrawal symptoms - new problems that were not there before the drug was taken.

I very much doubt that Matthews was a cannabis addict as cannabis itself is not an addictive drug.

One thing is quite obvious though - sending him to prison will not (has not) help his whether or not be was dependent or addicted!

Sending a person to prison for doing something to ease suffering of self - such being that there was somebody else involved - is simply unjust.

Had Matthews been suffering from MS, had he been living in certain parts of the country (some NH areas refuse to prescribe) - he may have been prescribed cannabis in the form of an expensive extract called Sativex, also containing alcohol that brings its own problems for some people.

And guess what!

Sativex is simply cannabis in a liquid spray form, contains all the chemicals found in the plant - but just about 20 times more expensive

Jail term cut for back pain man who grew own cannabis
By Stuart Richards, April 24, 2012, Get Surrey

A MAN who grew cannabis in his loft and used the drug as a painkiller for chronic back problems has been granted a reduction in his prison sentence.
Pro-cannabis campaigner Winston Matthews, 55, of Upfield Close, Horley, took his case to the Court of Appeal last Thursday (April 19) and had his jail term cut from 16 to 12 months.
The appeal court heard that Matthews - who previously admitted breaching a suspended sentence, three counts of cultivating cannabis and two of possessing the drug - was due to receive a deferred sentence at Guildford Crown Court in February, so he could get help for his addiction, but was instead sent to prison after saying he would "struggle" not to take cannabis.
But senior judges have now reduced the sentence, ruling that the original term was "too long".
Judge Paul Batty QC, sitting with Lord Justice Pill and Mr Justice Spencer, said Matthews was first given a suspended sentence in August 2010 after 56 cannabis plants were found in his home.
His flat was searched by police later that month, and again in December that year, and a further 42 plants were discovered during those two raids.
Matthews was told he would receive a deferred sentence, in order to give him a chance to find alternative pain relief and stop using cannabis.
But, speaking directly to Judge Christopher Critchlow at Guildford Crown Court on February 3 this year, Matthews said he could not guarantee that he would stop using cannabis to alleviate his pain.
He was jailed three days later by Judge Suzan Matthews, who said she had no other option but to send him to prison due to his "persistent" offending.
Challenging the 16-month jail term last week, Matthews' lawyers argued Judge Matthews did not take enough account of his physical and mental problems which had led to him using cannabis for pain relief.
Barrister Ben Cooper said his client grew his own drugs in order to "bypass" criminals and used cannabis because he had chronic back pain, following an accident as a teenager, and a depressive illness.
Mr Cooper said Matthews was not eligible for a cannabis-based prescription drug as it is currently only given to Multiple Sclerosis sufferers, but that he had taken steps towards finding a lawful alternative form of pain relief.
Judge Batty said Matthews did deserve to go to prison, but that the sentence should have been shorter as it was his first jail term.
He added: "Even where cultivation is for the defendant's own use then custody is almost inevitable. The courts have tried and tried again so far as this appellant is concerned to avoid a custodial sentence.
"No matter what the personal mitigation may be, the time has to come at some point when custody cannot be avoided and that time has come for this appellant.
"That said, this is the appellant's first sentence of imprisonment and we have sympathy for his position.
"We think it is possible to slightly mitigate the length of the sentence without in any way criticising the perfectly proper approach the judge took in this case."

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Is cannabis "getting stronger"?

I have heard it claimed in the UK that "cannabis is getting stronger".

As somebody that smoked cannabis 40 years ago and many times since, including some of the strongest varieties of "home-grown" today, I can categorically say that it is not true.

However, it is often different: people are growing more of the stronger varieties here for two reasons: first it is illegal, and grown indoors in secret with limited space; secondly because many people, whether using for easing pain, treating symptoms or for relaxation, prefer to stronger varieties of which one has to smoke less.

Also many people seem to prefer cannabis with a high THC and lower CBD level, which has a different effect - but the overall effect is and always has been down to "set and setting" - as well as the potency it is dependent upon the mind-set of the user and the surroundings and people in which it is taken.

It's like saying "coffee is getting stronger" because that is how it is made and that is what people want to drink.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

No Victim No Crime on drug use

It's not a war on drugs, it's a war on the users of some drugs.

There needs to be some equity in law based upon the concept of "No Victim, No Crime" - if a drug user - whether alcohol, cannabis, heroin of whatever, does harm to another or threatens another or their property , then there is clearly a case for arrest and prosecution.

If there is no harm and no threat, then drug users should be treated as are those that drink alcohol - and when it comes to supply, just like alcohol, it needs to be controlled and taken out of the un-taxable hands of crooks. The supply of each drug should be separated from that of other drugs, accurate and credible information given at point of source with regulations dependent on the level of risk to the users.

Drugs have been part of human life for thousands of years - and is still part of our culture today, even in the UK. It is part of human nature to want to change ones mood.

For sure, the Government needs to open it's eyes and ears and consider a new approach based upon controlling supplies and reducing harm .

Why we must lookat legalising drugs
The Sun, April 17 2012

A controversial view on global epidemic.

A FORMER British MI6 chief has joined growing calls to end the "war on drugs" and consider legalising them.
The battle has left tens of thousands dead in Latin America but failed to reduce drug-use around the world.
Here Nigel Inkster, of the International Institute For Strategic Studies, argues that we need to rethink our approach to narcotics.
PRESIDENT Santos of Colombia wants independent experts to look at alternatives to the war on drugs, including making them legal.
This is precisely what research by the International Institute For Strategic Studies has led us to conclude in our new report.
Our investigation has shown that the so-called "war on drugs" undermines international security.
Consumer countries of the developed world have seen whole communities devastated by epidemics of drugs misuse and crime. Addicts of drugs such as heroin have been marginalised and stigmatised and many otherwise law-abiding citizens criminalised for their consumption choices.
But the vulnerable producer and transit countries of the developing world have paid a far higher price.
I have seen at first hand the serious unintended consequences of banning drugs. The huge profits to be made from supplying them have led to a massive global black market dominated by powerful international criminal groups.
Producer countries such as Colombia and Afghanistan have been shaken by high levels of drugs-related violence for the past 30 years as criminal groups fight each other and the state.
More recently, they have been joined by Mexico and Central America where drug-related murders have reached horrific levels.
And as traffickers look further afield to avoid law-enforcement, fragile states in West Africa have become part of the global narcotics supply chain, their institutions comprehensively corrupted.
For many years, senior politicians have not been willing to challenge the effectiveness of the global ban on drugs. But that is now changing.
The presidents of Latin American states such as Colombia and Mexico have begun to question publicly why they should bear the brunt of the West's "war on drugs”"
Nigel Inkster
They are calling for a fundamental rethink of the current approach, based on an open discussion in which expertise and evidence would replace the emotion and ideology that have so far dominated the debate.
While demand for drugs exists, there will be people willing to do whatever it takes to meet that demand. It is time the international community recognised that and moved away from talk of winning a "war on drugs" towards treating the issue as a problem to be managed with minimal collateral damage.
The UK has a potentially significant role to play in supporting an independent review of all policy options and has been at the forefront of efforts to address the trafficking of narcotics.
The UK's drugs consumption relies heavily on those who produce and supply narcotics in Latin America and Afghanistan and as such, it is in all our interests that the policy we adopt increases the security of those at both ends of the supply chain.
Nigel Inkster is Director of Transnational Threats And Political Risk at the International Institute For Strategic Studies.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Man who tried to grow cannabis in his shed for medical reasons unjustly punished

What an atrocious waste of police time and public funds and what a terrible injustice even taking this man to court.

Although a curfew is not exactly a harsh punishment, it is still too much.

This man does not appear to have done any harm or posed any risk, growing his medicinal plants in his private dwelling.

Now I guess he will have to do without the natural and safe pain-relieving effects of plants and turn to risky and expensive pharmaceutical preparations.

Surely the Misuse of Drugs Act was not meant to stop people growing plants for their own beneficial use.

We need to see the law changed and the medicinal value of raw and natural cannabis recognised in the UK as it has been in so many other countries.

Man tried to grow cannabis in his shed for medical reasons
Thisislancashire, April 16 2012

A MAN who attempted to grow 80 cannabis plants in his garden shed was cultivating the crop in order to deal with a medical condition, a court heard.
When police visited Derek Doherty’s home in Parkfield Avenue, New Bury, they found a propagator tray full of seedlings hidden behind a partition in the shed.
Joseph Allman, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court on Friday it was an “extremely amateurish set-up” with no high-wattage lighting, ventilation or irrigation usually associated with cannabis farms.
Scrap dealer Doherty, aged 41, told police he usually smokes five cannabis cigarettes a day and spends up to £20 a week on buying the drug.
Richard Dawson, defending, added that the attempt to grow the drug, which was to be for his own use, was “doomed to failure.”
He said: “In a cold, dark outside shed, in all likelihood the plants would have withered away.”
The court heard that Doherty, who pleaded guilty to producing cannabis, has received a caution for a similar offence a few months earlier, but was using cannabis in order to help alleviate pain in his leg caused by a road traffic injury.
Judge John Appleby sentenced Doherty to be electronically monitored and observe a 7pm to 7am curfew for four months.