14-Year Sentence for Passing a Joint?

This week, the Bush Administration plans to resume anti-drug air-interdiction flights over Peru that were halted when an American missionary family was shot down in 2001; the British government plans new hardline laws against marijuana use that include sentences of 14 years in prison for having a private pot party, and allow for the seizure of the homes of cannabis users.

June 12 -- The Detroit Free Press reports: Alarmed by evidence that drug trafficking is on the rise in Peru, the Bush administration expects controversial anti-narcotics air-interdiction flights to resume in the Andean nation by the end of this year.

U.S.-backed air surveillance and interdiction of traffickers ended abruptly in Peru and Colombia on April 20, 2001, when the Peruvian air force and a CIA contractor downed a floatplane and killed Veronica Bowers, 35, a missionary from Muskegon, and her infant daughter.

Her husband, Jim Bowers, also a missionary, and their son, Cory, 7, were also on board but were uninjured. The pilot, Kevin Donaldson, of Geigertown, Pa., was shot in both legs but survived. Their return home had been mistaken for a drug flight.

Before that, Peru, with CIA help, had made sharp gains against drug trafficking by blowing small planes ferrying drugs to Colombia out of the sky.

June 22 -- The (UK) Observer reports: People who allow cannabis to be smoked at parties at their homes could face a 14-year jail sentence under new laws designed to show that the Government is not going soft on drugs.
Ministers have delayed the controversial reclassification of cannabis from Class B to Class C until the end of the year to coincide with the introduction of the harsh new penalties. The move was originally planned for next month, but was postponed after lobbying by police and anti-drug groups, who feared that the Government was sending out the wrong message.

The tougher sentences will also affect universities which fail to stop students supplying each other with drugs at halls of residence, voluntary organisations working with drug users and even parents who tolerate the casual use of soft drugs by their children and friends.

The measure to increase the maximum sentence for production, supply and possession with intent to supply from five to 14 years is contained in the new Criminal Justice Bill, which is expected to receive the royal assent in November. The legislation will apply to all property owners and tenants. The crime of 'supply' need not involve money changing hands so, in theory, householders who allow a joint of cannabis to be handed over at a dinner party face the new sentence.

The controversial penalties are primarily aimed at crack houses, which have become a police priority, but could equally be applied to domestic homes and other private premises.

June 22 -- The (UK) Times reports: The home secretary has sparked a row with fellow ministers by proposing to allow police to seize the homes of cannabis users if they are deemed to be a "serious nuisance".

Leaked cabinet papers reveal David Blunkett's plans to amend his Anti-social Behaviour Bill so that police could close and seal premises associated with soft drugs for up to three months.

Under the original plans the police would have power only over "crack houses" or sites linked with class A hard drugs.

In a letter to cabinet colleagues, the home secretary says he has been "convinced" of the need to extend the powers to class B and C drugs, which include amphetamines, barbiturates, anabolic steroids and some tranquilizers.

The documents reveal that his plans have encountered opposition from the health and housing departments. They have warned that the plans would send out "confusing messages" to youngsters, alienate black people and mean having to find new accommodation for those whose homes have been seized.

Blunkett's move also appears to fly in the face of his pledge to downgrade cannabis from class B to C, which some have interpreted as an easing of the law on "recreational" use.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson.

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