ENCOD BULLETIN ON DRUG POLICIES IN EUROPE
Cannabis policy snapshot of Uruguay and Italy
One and a half years after the adoption of the law that legalised the production and sale of cannabis in Uruguay, consumers and patients are still arrested by police officers who don’t seem to recognize this reality.
As a result, there have been meetings between cannabis activist groups and the Minister of Home Affairs where the latter promised to send a directive to all Head Quarters and Sections of Police in the country indicating that all those holding a permit issued by the state control agency for cannabis (IRCCA) are authorized to possess up to “six plants of psychoactive cannabis…” and that cannabis clubs can stock a maximum of 99 flowering plants.
So the police gave back all confiscated plants, or almost all…
What are psychoactive cannabis plants ? Plants that show female flowers. It requires quite some knowledge to distinguish them. Therefore, one can imagine that the Uruguayan police at the beginning had difficulties in distinguishing female plants from male plants, or plants in vegetative phase from flowering plants and so on.
Theoretically those who hold a permit to grow in Uruguay, be it a private home-grower (autocultivador) or a club, can keep many plants in the vegetative phase, as long as they have a maximum of 6 flowering female plants. According to the law, clubs can possess up to 6 flowering female plants per member and the maximum number of members may not exceed 45, but a maximum number of flowering females has been established at 99.
So most of the clubs do not have much more than 16 members.
The only legal activity that a cannabis club is allowed to develop is to grow cannabis for its members. There is hope that this will soon change for the better, so that clubs can have more members and organize social activities such as sports, carnival, musical events etc.
Numerous cannabis clubs have opened, and more than 2000 persons have registered to be allowed to buy cannabis in the pharmacies. During the Expocannabis Fair in December 2014, the Uruguayan Post Office had a stand for those who would like to register for buying in the pharmacies. Next to it was the stand of the IRCCA where people could obtain information.
Many thefts of cannabis plants have been reported during the past winter in Uruguay. The so called « Cogolleros » take the crop away just before or even well in advance of the harvest….causing much grief to the growers that have put so much care into their plants. They hope that there will soon be cannabis available in the pharmacies at 1 to 1,24 US$ per gram so that it will not be worthwhile any more to steal cannabis from anyone in order to put it on the market.
One gram of Uruguayan grown « cogollo »( flowers) today costs some 5 U$S. There were reports of prices as high as $15 U.S. per gram in the middle of the winter in the tourist town of Maldonado. Meanwhile the cannabis imported from Paraguay, which may have be fermented and pressed when still green, is offered between 1 and 1,25 U$S per gram.
Since the end of 2014 people are waiting for the decision of the IRCCA about the enterprises that will be allowed to produce recreational cannabis to be sold in the pharmacies. About 10 companies showed up and between 2 and 5 among them will be chosen.
If this part of the Uruguayan model will be carried out as planned by IRCCA, soon cannabis can be sold in the pharmacies with both high and low content of THC, CBD, CBDA and other cannabinoids.
Milton Romani, the Secretary General of the National Drugs Control Board (JND), recently announced that if there will not be legal cannabis in the pharmacies before Christmas, it is certain that this will be the case on Epiphany Day (the 6th of January 2016). The decision about this is expected in the next few days, as the process should start soon. Enterprises have to be able to plant in August if enough cannabis will be available in the pharmacies in January 2016.
The IRCCA project seems to be thought through quite well. Apparently, after the take-over by the new president Tabaré Vázquez on March 1st 2015, the process slowed down a bit, mostly out of control motivations by the new government. Until now everyone involved is confident that it will work out because preparations have been done very well.
The expectation is that the Uruguayan example will open the doors to a new world drug policy where the consumer will not be on the loosing side; a policy that will reduce the input to the money laundering system of hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
In 2016 there will be a world review on drug policy at the UNGASS meeting in New York. It is expected that several countries will distance themselves from the UN Conventions as far as cannabis is concerned. Bolivia has already completely renounced the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and rejoined it with the exception of the coca leaf. Similarly other governments could renounce and join again with the exception of the cannabis plant, considered sacred by many of the old world religions.
Today it is impossible to continue lying to the world. Everybody knows it now. Everybody knows how CBDA, CBD, THC, THCA and other cannabinoids work. How the endocannabinoid system is present in all vertebrates that live on this planet. Even if these substances will be declared legal exclusively for medical use, people will not give up self-administering cannabis. The control of this plant is crumbling.
Trying to control or prohibit the only plant that stimulates the endocannabinoid system, the situation until now, is like “Trying to Catch the Wind”.
Meanwhile in Italy, 218 politicians have joined the parliamentary intergroup led by Benedetto Della Vedova, the current vice-minister of Foreign Affairs who in 1995 was arrested for distributing free hashish in Rome, together with other members of the Radical Party. Their proposal of cannabis regulation has received some support even from conservative politicians, while most conservative MP’s and the racist party Lega Nord whose symbol seems to be a thwarted cannabis leaf, are against. The proposal will be discussed in a governmental drug policy conference in February 2016.
The influence of the group should make a difference in the commissions and possibly in the plenary session of the Parliament. Some members of the intergroup want to have strict rules and attempt to establish law and order in the grow room and concerning the petty distribution among friends. There will be pressure on the parliament to design efficient and safe cannabis policies that would make private and non profit cultivation possible and the private market accountable for its profits.
A controversial point is the proposal of an anonymous control of home-growers and cannabis clubs. Mr. Della Vedova himself explained in an interview that this is a measure to help consumers in case they would get in trouble with the authorities. Police would not be allowed access to these sensitive personal data. Some politicians who are closer to the social movement suggested to the consumers insist on their rights and interact in critical terms with some of these proposals. It depends largely on us.
NEWS FROM THE SECRETARIAT
On August 8th, Encod will participate at the Hanfparade in Berlin