Releaf Magazine

Cheers to Portugal!

portugal-1024x661Celebrating 15 Years of Decriminalization In Portugal

Cannabis Now - Janika Takats - 08/18/16

Last month Portugal commemorated the 15th anniversary of its 30/2000 law – the law that decriminalized the use of all drugs in the country. The law dictates that the possession for personal use is no longer considered a crime but a regulatory offense. With this step, the Southern-European country waved goodbye to the War On Drugs that had been dominating Portugal’s drug policy for decades and dared to take a whole new approach.

Instead of prosecuting and convicting drug users and people who suffer from addiction, the Portuguese health system focuses on education and prevention of addiction. Every person can carry up to 25 grams of marijuana buds or five grams of hashish, two grams of cocaine and one gram of heroine, MDMA, amphetamine or methamphetamine without having to fear being arrested.

Portugal suffered from a heroin-epidemic in the mid-1990s before the 30/2000 law came into effect. During this period, roughly 100,000 people were addicted to heroin, which was approximately one percent of the population. The number of people dying from overdoses and HIV transmission via shared needle usage was also increasing. This led the government to form an anti-drug commission to tackle the problem.

One of 11 experts in the commission was Joao Goulão, a family physician from Faro, located on Portugal’s Algarve Coast, who is now chairman of Portugal’s Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction.

“Drug users aren’t criminals, they’re sick” Goulão is convinced.

He has been the chief of Portugal’s national anti-drug program since 1997 and helped to shape the new law significantly. What started as a brave experiment has proved to be an effective approach to combating rising drug addiction rates and infections that arise from drug use. Since 2001, the number of heroin addicts has dropped by more two thirds. The majority of the remaining persons are accommodated in government programs to treat their addiction. Additionally, the number of people dying through drug abuse decreased by 75 percent. Both drug use among adolescents as well as the number of people who tried drugs for the first time in their life dropped.

While addicts are offered the support they need, drug dealer and traffickers still have to fear stiff penalties. This includes people who grow cannabis. Even if growers own just a small number of plants it is often difficult to prove that those are intended for personal use only. Therefore, people are still convicted for cannabis cultivation.

Besides all these positive effects Portugal’s drug policy in not without its flaws. Unlike other European countries such as Czech Republic, Finland, Spain, Germany or Austria, Portugal has no formalized programs for medical marijuana. While drug users are no longer prosecuted as criminals, decriminalization does not offer a solution for the drug trafficking that has continued unabated during the last 15 years. In 2012 the left-wing party Bloco de Esquerda drafted a bill that would have legalized and regulated cannabis in the country. Unfortunately, the proposal has never been discussed by the parliament and the plant remained illegal.

Although Portugal’s drug laws make it one of the most progressive countries to regulate drugs in the world —and for the last few years statistics have shown that Portugal’s decision to decriminalize the use of drugs has been a step in the right direction — there is still much work to be done. While more and more countries debating new laws concerning cannabis regulation, Portugal’s drug laws have not changed over the last 15 years.

Cannabis users, patients and activists still have a long way to go until the legalization and regulation of cannabis will be implemented. Nevertheless, the steps taken by the Portuguese government highlight the fact that there are effective alternatives to criminalization and the prosecution of drug-users that are far less harmful for individuals and society in general.

Do you think Portugal’s decriminalization strategy could be applied elsewhere?


Post to Twitter


“Let’s Make This Work”: The First Weed Commercial Is About to Hit American TV

It was the first thing bought and sold on the Internet. Bill Murray likes it. Veterans like it. Your grandma maybe likes-slash-needs it. Carl Sagan really (really) liked it. Hell, we even took a trip to Colorado to learn about the so-called "green rush" cropping up around it. And now both medicinal and recreational cannabis are legal, taxed economies in parts of the US, there's bound to be television commercials highlighting it.

That time has come. The first weed commercial is slated to air on major networks, including A&E, Fox, CNN, Comedy Central, Food Network, and the History Channel. The minute-long spot is for MarijuanaDoctors, a company that connects medical marijuana patients with local doctors. The company does not “promote the casual or recreational use of marijuana or any other prescription medication,” though, according to their website.

The ad is airing in New Jersey, where medical marijuana has been legal since 2010. "Securing the airtime for our commercial on a major network was extremely difficult and at the same time, extremely satisfying," Jason Draizin, the founder and CEO of MarijuanaDoctors, said in a press release.

It's only slightly hokey. The ad compares buying weed from your run-of-the-mill dealer to buying sushi from a street dealer ("I got that sashimi"), which is clearly the most obvious correlation you could draw (black market tuna, anyone?). The idea seems to be to encourage people to go the legal route, as opposed to breaking the law to obtain weed.

At any rate, New Jersey is a prime test market to air the commercial. You can currently get a medical marijuana card in New Jersey for “cancer, glaucoma, positive HIV/AIDS status, or the treatment of these conditions; a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or its treatment that produces cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms; and other medical conditions that may administratively be added by the department," according to this state senate report.

But the Garden State has been talking about completely legalizing weed for a while now. State senator Nick Scutari recently said—wait for it—it's “high time” the state addresses the issue. If New Jersey does legalize weed, it would of course become the third state to do so, along with Colorado and Washington.

Which is all to say we’ve come a long way, now that pot is making its way onto the television in commercial form. Just in time for your nightly couch lock.


Via Motherboard Vice

Post to Twitter


New Jersey governor to ease medical marijuana access for kids after father begs for daughter’s life

AFP Photo / David McNew
AFP Photo / David McNew
Children in New Jersey may soon have access to medical marijuana after Governor Chris Christie announced that he has agreed to sign, under two stipulations, a bill that will allow families to determine their own health care.

New Jersey constituents have pressed Christie to sign the bill, which would allow medical cannabis dispensaries to grow more than three strains of marijuana and provide edible forms of the drug. Digestible methods are better suited to children because the process maintains the medical properties while removing many of the ‘high-like’ aspects popular among recreational smokers.

Christie said on Friday that he would sign the bill into law only under the conditions that edible forms of marijuana are available only to qualified children, and that a psychiatrist and pediatrician must authorize the child’s prescription. Neither provision would preclude children from gaining access to medical cannabis, but refusing to allow adult patients access to edible marijuana may pose an unnecessary risk to those with respiratory illnesses.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in New Jersey, but the bill would permit growers to produce more strains of the drug, thereby treating a higher number of patients more accurately. Children currently need three doctors’ signatures in order to be prescribed cannabis. With the current bill proposing that only one signature be needed, Christie seems to be splitting the difference.

The state legislature has not yet revealed if it would consider the changes.

Cannabis can help relieve symptoms from cancer, muscular dystrophy, lupus, and over 30 other illnesses. The drug is known to combat insomnia, lack of appetite, general pain, movement disorders, glaucoma, and vomiting, among other maladies.

As I have repeatedly noted, I believe that parents, not government regulators, are best suited to decide how to care for their children,” Christie said in a Friday press conference. “I am making commonsense recommendations to this legislation to ensure sick children receive the treatment their parents prefer, while maintaining appropriate safeguards. I am calling on the legislature to reconvene quickly and address these issues so that children in need can get the treatment they need.”

The governor made headlines earlier this week when Brian Wilson, the father of a two-year-old girl who suffers from a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, approached him asking for help.

Please don’t let my daughter die, Governor,” Wilson said as Christie walked through a New Jersey diner surrounded by cameras. “Don’t let my daughter die.”

These are complicated issues,” Christie said, to which Wilson replied it should actually be quite an easy decision.

I know you think it’s simple and it’s not,” Christie responded.

Wilson told reporters after the scrum that if Christie did not agree to sign the bill on Friday he would be forced to move his family to Colorado, where children with Dravet have been cured of overwhelming seizures by using cannabis.



Post to Twitter