Jamaica to Legalize?

This week, Time magazine reports on the relaxation of marijuana laws around the world, an influential Jamaican commission calls for marijuana legalization, as a U.S. woman sues over an invasive strip search after returning from the island, the 10th Annual Seattle Hempfest draws over 100,000, and a California man gets 174 medical marijuana plants returned from a police station.

August 14 -- Time magazine reports about the liberalization of cannabis laws throughout the European Union and Canada: It used to be that Holland was Western Europe's only tokers' paradise, courtesy of 900 cannabis cafes where adults can legally buy five grams of marijuana or hashish.

But now, all over the Continent, the weed has won a new level of social acceptance. And where voters lead, politicians are following, as they ease up on criminality. A European Union drug-monitoring report says at least 45 million of its citizens--18% of those ages 15 to 64--have tried marijuana at least once, and about 15 million have done so in the past 12 months.

When 45 million people have broken the law, the law may not be an ass but it is certainly an endangered species. [Note: An estimated 76 million Americans have tried marijuana, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.]

August 14 -- The Chicago Sun-Times reports: U.S. customs agents had no cause to strip-search a former Chicago woman for
drugs when she returned to O'Hare Airport after a Jamaican vacation, and they covered up what they had done by lying and altering documents, the woman's attorneys argued Monday in federal court at the start of the latest court fight over searches at O'Hare. The agents found no drugs on Kathryn "Kate" Kaniff, 36.

On Dec. 28, 1997, a dog trained to sniff out drugs alerted its handler that Kaniff might be carrying drugs. Agents performed a pat-down search, then a strip-search, then took Kaniff to Resurrection Hospital, where she was forced to relieve herself in front of inspectors and was X-rayed (for which she was later billed).

August 18 -- The Orange County Register reports: A Jamaican government commission recommended Thursday that marijuana be legalized for personal use by adults - a move the government likely will endorse despite opposition from the United States, which has spent millions to eradicate the crop on the Caribbean island.

"(Marijuana's) reputation among the people as a panacea and a spiritually enhancing substance is so strong that it must be regarded as culturally entrenched," the commission report said. The National Commission on Ganja - as marijuana is known here - also said Jamaica should allow the use of marijuana for religious purposes.

This is important to the Rastafarian minority, who worship deceased Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie as a prophet and use marijuana as a sacrament.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson last year appointed the commission, which included academics and doctors. So far, he and elected officials have not commented publicly on the report. But Ralston Smith, an aide to Patterson, said Friday: "My gut feeling is that the commission's recommendations will be followed."

August 18 & 19 -- Over 100,000 people gather in Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle, WA, for the 10th annual Hempfest, calling for legalization of industrial hemp, and marijuana for personal and medical uses. The event is the largest of its kind in the nation.

August 19 -- The (Stockton) Record reports: Manteca police gave David Willson's pot plants back Thursday, about 18 months after officers raided his home, seizing marijuana and other property. Law enforcement officials in the south San Joaquin County city expressed disappointment and vowed to continue to bust residents possessing drugs deemed illegal.

Thursday, Willson picked up 5 pounds of marijuana, including dried buds and 174 plants, from the police station. "It's been the law since November 1996 that medical marijuana is not contraband," said William Logan, Willson's lawyer.

Manteca narcotics detective Steve Harris said the decision was a hard pill to swallow, but it doesn't change the department's responsibility to uphold the law. "We are still going to do our job arresting bad guys and throwing them in jail," Harris said.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson at kcnelson@premier1.net.

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