DRCNet Activist Guide 8/97

International Update

On August 14th, J. McCart of the Ontario Court, General Division rejected arguments on behalf of defendants Chris Clay and Jordan Prentice, that Canada's outright prohibition of cannabis was unconstitutional. In a 27-page decision, Judge McCart opined that while marijuana was relatively (though not totally) harmless, it was the legislature, not the courts, that should decide the issue.

On August 9, in response to PM Tony Blair's announced intention to appoint a "UK Drug Czar," the British Medical Journal urged that U.S. drug policy not be used as a model. Written by John Strang, director of the National Addiction Centre in London, the editorial said that thus far "in the UK, pragma has trumped dogma" on the drug issue. It also warned that "crime dominated posturing would lead to a damaging dissociation between the public appeal and actual evidence of effectiveness."

On Monday, July 21, the New Zealand Drug Policy Forum Trust, a distinguished group of academicians and clinicians, released a discussion paper concerning the cannabis (marijuana) policy of the island nation. The paper, authored by DRCNet Advisory Board member Dr. David Hadorn, recommended several alternatives to Prohibition, ranging from civil fines in place of criminal sanction, to a system of regulation, under which adults could buy cannabis legally from licensed vendors. NZDPFT's paper was front page, headline news in the Evening Post, and the story was picked up by the NZPA for distribution throughout New Zealand and possibly to Australia. Hadorn was interviewed on three national radio programs and appeared on the Nightline television program. Reportedly, the Minister of Health was hand-carried a copy of the report by a Ministry staffer working on drug policy, and there was significant interest in the report within the Parliament. (See Resources for NZDPFT's address.)

In Australia, preliminary approval was given to go ahead with stage one of a heroin maintenance trial modeled on the recently completed, and overwhelmingly successful Swiss trials. Since the approval, however, opposition to the trials has become even more fierce, prompting some politicians to call for a re-thinking of the issue. The preliminary approval came despite reported pressure, some would say blackmail, by the U.S. State Department, which had, according to David Pennington, an Australian official, threatened to close down Tasmania's legal opium trade by action of the U.S.-controlled International Narcotics Control Board, if the trials were approved.

On July 28th it was reported that Mexico's military, long thought to be far less corrupt than the Mexican police, was in fact a cesspool of impropriety, particularly among its high-ranking officers. 10 Generals and 22 other officers were placed under investigation for alleged ties to drug traffickers and their organizations.

Latin Trade Magazine reports that the drug profits which are being laundered back into the legitimate Mexican economy amount to an astounding 5% of Mexico's GDP. Once laundered, the money is being put into the real estate market, the Mexican stock market as well as into many businesses throughout the country. The article states that if this flow of cash were to suddenly dry up, it would have a devastating impact on the economy as a whole.

The United Nations now estimates that the international drug trade is a $500 billion per year business. That surpasses the value of the petroleum trade and equals the gargantuan telecommunications trade.

300 senior and mid-ranking officials from seven countries discussed plans for an intergovernmental agency, akin to Europe's Interpol police agency, for the purpose of "fighting drugs" in the Americas. The discussions, which took place during a ten day conference at the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base, included representatives from Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Venezuela and the U.S.

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DRCNet Activist Guide 8/97

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