UK Decriminalizes Possession

This week, the UK gears up for relaxing marijuana possession laws starting in January; Canadian medical marijuana patients call the new government provided marijuana "disgusting" and ineffective; and the Patriot Act is criticized for being used in a wide range of non-terror related crimes.

September 13 -- The UK Mirror reports: Smoking cannabis will no longer be against the law under new Government plans. From January, recreational users of the drug will be free from prosecution, unless they are pushers, it emerged yesterday. Cannabis will be downgraded to a Class C drug -- although people smoking near schools and playgrounds will face arrest and have the cannabis confiscated.

Home Secretary David Blunkett's plans follow a campaign by recreational users who argue the drug is less harmful than alcohol,
and many doctors claim the use of cannabis helps relieve the suffering or those with diseases like multiple sclerosis.

September 15 -- Canadian Press reports: Some of the first patients to smoke Health Canada's government-approved marijuana say it's "disgusting" and want their money back.

"It's totally unsuitable for human consumption," said Jim Wakeford, 58, an AIDS patient in Gibsons, B.C. "It gave me a slight buzziness for about three to five minutes, and that was it. I got no other effect from it." Barrie Dalley, a 52-year-old Toronto man who uses marijuana to combat the nausea associated with AIDS, said the Health Canada dope actually made him sick to his stomach. "I threw up," Dalley said Monday. "It made me nauseous because I had to use so much of it. It was so weak in potency that I really threw up."

Both men are returning their 30-gram bags, and Dalley is demanding his money back -- $150 plus taxes. Wakeford is returning his unpaid bill for two of the bags with a letter of complaint. A third AIDS patient says he's also unhappy with the product, which is supposed to contain 10.2 per cent THC, the main active ingredient. "I'm still smoking it -- I would prefer better, but it's all I've got," said Jari Dvorak, 62, in Toronto. "I think Health Canada certainly should do better with the quality."

All three are among 10 patients who have registered with Health Canada to buy dope directly from the government to alleviate their medical symptoms. Another 39 applications are pending. No patients have complained directly to Health Canada so far, said Krista Apse, a spokeswoman for Health Canada, and the department will not accept returns or provide refunds.

The department was compelled to begin direct distribution in July, following an Ontario court order this year that said needy patients should not be forced to get their cannabis on the streets or from authorized growers, who themselves obtain seeds or cuttings illegally. Health Minister Anne McLellan has said she opposes the direct distribution of government cannabis to patients and that the program will end if the department wins its appeal of the Ontario court decision.

September 15 -- Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader reports: In the two years since law enforcement agencies gained fresh powers to help them track down and punish terrorists, police and prosecutors have increasingly turned the force of the new laws not on al-Qaida cells but on people charged with common crimes.

The Justice Department said it has used authority given to it by the USA Patriot Act to crack down on currency smugglers and seize money hidden overseas by alleged bookies, con artists and drug dealers.

Federal prosecutors used the act in June to file a charge of "terrorism using a weapon of mass destruction" against a California man after a pipe bomb exploded in his lap, wounding him as he sat in his car.

A North Carolina county prosecutor charged a man accused of running a methamphetamine lab with breaking a new state law barring the manufacture of chemical weapons. If convicted, the man could get 12 years to life in prison for a crime that usually brings about six months.

Prosecutor Jerry Wilson says he isn't abusing the law, which defines chemical weapons of mass destruction as "any substance that is designed or has the capability to cause death or serious injury" and contains toxic chemicals.

Civil liberties and legal defense groups are bothered by the string of cases and say the government soon will be routinely using harsh anti-terrorism laws against run-of-the-mill lawbreakers.

"Within six months of passing the Patriot Act, the Justice Department was conducting seminars on how to stretch the new wiretapping provisions to extend them beyond terror cases," said Dan Dodson, a spokesman for the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys.

More than 150 local governments have passed resolutions opposing the law as an overly broad threat to constitutional rights.

Send comments to Kevin Nelson.

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