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IACM-Bulletin of April 2, 2000


UK — Police Foundation proposes depenalisation of cannabis

The Police Foundation, influential police charity, released the findings of a two-year study on 28 March, concluding that marijuana should be "depenalized"-- removing the risk of prison sentences except for people suspected of dealing in the drug. Users could still be fined or cautioned.

The Police Foundation panel was composed of 12 leading lawyers, academics and police officers. The commission's report stated, "The present law produces more harm than it prevents," adding that marijuana is less dangerous than tobacco and alcohol.

Home Secretary Jack Straw accepted that there was a "coherent argument" for legalizing cannabis -- but immediately insisted that the case for doing so was fatally flawed. He stressed that the Government would continue to take a "cautious" approach to proposals for drugs law reform. He did, however, allow for the possibility that cannabis might be made available on prescription to relieve the pain of those suffering from conditions such as multiple sclerosis -- provided medical experts decided that it could be used safely.

Labour MP Paul Flynn is to introduce a Bill to Parliament that would decriminalize the use of cannabis. Mr Flynn said on 31 March he believed there had been a sea change in public attitudes towards drug use, and Britons now understood tough laws were causing more problems than they were solving.

(Sources: Reuters of 26 March, PA News of 28 March 2000 and 1 April 2000, The Independent of 1 April 2000)

News in brief


In Florida 30 medical marijuana patients, including several in wheel-chairs, conducted a 160-mile several days long journey from a state prison in Starke to the state capitol in Tallahassee. Several protesters of the Journey for Justice caravan wore black and white striped jail uniforms. Others carried red stop signs reading, "Stop arresting patients for medical marijuana." (Source: Reuters of 26 March 2000)


Regular marijuana users have substantially lower blood flow to a part of their brains associated with memory, language and sense of time, according to a recent study by University of Iowa researchers, published in NeuroReport. Researchers found that long-term use of the drug does not affect brain size or structure but does have a noticeable effect on the rate of blood that flows through parts of the cerebellum (posterior cerebellum). As of yet, the researchers do not know how long the effects on brain function last. (Source: COMTEX newswire of 30 March 2000)


On 28 March the Santa Cruz City Council gave preliminary approval to an ordinance that would protect patients with a medical use identification card from prosecution, without requiring they identify the physician who recommended the use of marijuana. The ordinance states the city will permit buyers cooperatives to cultivate and sell marijuana to patients and caregivers. (Source: NORML of 30 March 2000)


The British newspaper The Independent said on 24 March: "The Government is to legalize the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes in a significant change to its hard-line policy on drugs. (...) Senior government sources told The Independent yesterday that Ms Mowlam will win her battle to allow cannabis to be used legally for therapeutic purposes." In an official statement the government said it would consider allowing cannabis to be used for medicinal purposes if medical trials were successful. (Sources: The Independent of 24 March 2000, PA News of 25 March 2000)