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Nobel Peace Prize: Santos Calls for ‘Rethink’ of War on Drugs

By BBC Europe | December 11th, 2016

Nobel peace prize winner says the war on drugs is causing extreme suffering

The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to “rethink” the war on drugs.

 “From my own experience… it is much harder to make peace than to wage war,” president Santos said.

He said the zero-tolerance policy might be “even more harmful” than all the other wars being fought worldwide.

Mr Santos’s government and the country’s biggest rebel group, the Farc, signed a peace deal last month.

Bob Dylan, the first songwriter ever to receive the Nobel literature prize, did not collect his award in person.

He received a standing ovation nevertheless.

The conflict with the Farc rebels in Colombia has killed more than 260,000 people and left millions internally displaced.


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Can the war on drugs every be won?


Accepting the prize for his efforts in the peace process, Mr Santos paid tribute to the families of victims of the conflict.

He said the “great paradox” of peacemaking was that “the victims are the ones who are most willing to forgive, to reconcile and to face the future with a heart free of hate”.

In a deviation from his prepared remarks, he asked the representatives of the victims present to stand and be recognized for their own efforts in the peace process, to much applause.

He previously pledged to donate the prize money – eight million Swedish krona ($925,000) – to help the conflict’s victims.

“I have served as a leader in times of war – to defend the freedom and the rights of the Colombian people – and I have served as a leader in times of making peace,” he said. “Allow me to tell you, from my own experience, that it is much harder to make peace than to wage war.”

No war on drugs

Mr Santos said it was “time to change our strategy” on drugs, and that Colombia had “paid the highest cost in deaths and sacrifices” in the so-called war on drugs.

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The term, coined by US President Richard Nixon more than four decades ago, refers to US-led efforts to stop drug production at its source. In Latin America this has included on-the-ground policing, and fumigation of coca fields from the air.

“We have moral authority to state that, after decades of fighting against drug trafficking, the world has still been unable to control this scourge that fuels violence and corruption throughout our global community,” he said.

“It makes no sense to imprison a peasant who grows marijuana, when nowadays, for example, its cultivation and use are legal in eight states of the United States.

“The manner in which this war against drugs is being waged is equally or perhaps even more harmful than all the wars the world is fighting today, combined.”

Other laureates

Nobel prizes in the sciences, economics and literature were awarded at a separate ceremony in Stockholm.

Dylan had said in advance that he was unable to attend the ceremony due to previous commitments.

In a statement read out at the awards dinner by the US ambassador, he said: “I have been doing what I set out to do for a long time now. I’ve made dozens of records and played thousands of concerts all around the world.

“But it’s my songs that are the vital centre of almost everything I do. They seem to have found a place in the lives of many people throughout many different cultures, and I am grateful for that.”

The Nobel Committee praised the poetry of his song-writing as “worthy of a place beside the Romantic visionaries”.

The singer-songwriter Patti Smith performed Dylan’s song A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, but forgot the lyrics part way through and apologised to the audience, saying she was nervous.

The other Nobel prizes given out by the Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf were:

  • Physics: David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz
  • Chemistry: Jean-Pierre Sauvage, Fraser Stoddart and Bernard Feringa
  • Medicine: Yoshinori Ohsumi
  • Economics: Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmstrom
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Santos (left) and Farc leader Timochenko (right) signed the original agreement in June

The Colombian government’s peace deal with the Farc was struck after many years of negotiations.


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It hit a surprise hurdle in October this year when 50.2% of voters rejected it in a referendum.

Just four days after the unexpected referendum result, it was announced that Mr Santos would receive the prize. In his speech, he said the nomination was “equally surprising” and “came as if it were a gift from heaven”.

Working alongside the no campaigners, the government wrote a new deal which was approved by Congress last month.

There were many armed groups involved in decades of conflict in Colombia, including left-wing rebel groups and right-wing paramilitaries. In October the government announced it would start peace talks with the second-largest rebel group, the ELN.


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Cannabis museum opens in pot-friendly Uruguay

AFP | December 9th, 2016

Smoke it up! Cannabis museum opens in pot-friendly Uruguay

MONTEVIDEO: Smoke it, eat it, weave it, heal with it: a museum devoted to spreading the good word about pot opened on Friday in marijuana-friendly Uruguay.

The South American country is a global pioneer when it comes to cannabis: under a 2013 law, the government supervises its production as part of a plan to undermine drug traffickers.

Now, a museum in central Montevideo will help people learn more about one of the world’s oldest crops, according to its director, Eduard Blasina.


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“Cannabis has historically had so many different benefits,” he said. “It has been used as food, as a textile, to make fishing nets and paper, and today it is providing us with novel types of medicine,” he said.

Amsterdam, which also has a hash and marijuana museum, is contributing items for display, Blasina said.

One of the curiosities on show is a medical prescription for cannabis — written in California in 1915.

Montevideo’s first hemp plantation, according to the museum records, dates back to 1782, before Uruguay’s independence from colonial rule.

Under Uruguayan law, the government allows users of marijuana to grow it if they register as members of state-regulated smoking clubs.

Pot-smokers are also supposed to register if they want to purchase it from a pharmacy.

The government will oversee the pharmacy sales. This was already supposed to have happened under the law but the policy has seen its implementation delayed. It is now scheduled for next year.

The law lets users buy up to 40 grams (1.4 ounces) a month. Authorized buyers will be identified by their fingerprints.

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Cannabis museum opens in pot-friendly Uruguay

By – Dec , 2016

Smoke it, eat it, weave it, heal with it: a museum devoted to spreading the good word about pot opened on Friday in marijuana-friendly Uruguay.

The South American country is a global pioneer when it comes to cannabis: under a 2013 law, the government supervises its production as part of a plan to undermine drug traffickers.

Now, a museum in central Montevideo will help people learn more about one of the world’s oldest crops, according to its director, Eduardo Blasina.

“Cannabis has historically had so many different benefits,” he said. “It has been used as food, as a textile, to make fishing nets and paper, and today it is providing us with novel types of medicine,” he said.

Amsterdam, which also has a hash and marijuana museum, is contributing items for display, Blasina said.

-Read the entire article here



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Colombia’s clandestine cannabis farmers keen to come out of the shadows

By Sibylla Brodzinsky, September 16th, 2016


Columbia’s hardworking cannabis farmers want to be treated like other farmers after years of marijuana persecution.

Farmers in northern Cauca province, the centre of the country’s marijuana cultivation, have formed a co-op to capitalize on legalization of the pot trade When night falls on this south-central Colombian town, the hills above light up like a Christmas tree. Clusters of white lights glow in the darkness, marking the crops that have made Corinto synonymous with Colombian marijuana.

Half of all Colombia’s cannabis production is concentrated in the northern part of Cauca province, and 50% of that is grown in Corinto alone. Police estimate 100 hectares of land in the municipality are dedicated to growing weed; local farmers reckon the real number could be twice that. So when Colombia recently legalized marijuana for medical and scientific purposes, farmers in Corinto figured they had a corner on the cultivation market. A group of farmers came together in July to create Caucannabis, a cooperative that aims to be a prime supplier to companies hoping to cash in on Colombia’s new legal marijuana business.

“In this region we have been deeply affected by illegal drugs and terrorism. This is an opportunity for us to make a change,” says cooperative leader Héctor Fabio Sánchez, one of 52 members of the cooperative, most of whom have or have had marijuana crops.

Betania Rodríguez, a cooperative member who asked that her real name not be used, says that marijuana and coca – the raw material for cocaine – are just about the only options for farmers to make a living in this isolated area. Her husband tends the bushes next to their home made of thick bamboo and wooden planks, while she works as a day labourer for other growers trimming the buds to prepare them for sale.


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“It’s illegal but it’s all we’ve got,” she says, wiping the sticky resin the buds leave on her hands with a cloth dipped in alcohol.

Since late June, the government has issued licences to three companies to process cannabis-based medicinal products that can be used to treat ailments such as cancer, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.




Through the licences the government hopes to cash in on the new but growing medical marijuana industry. “Colombia could be the winner of this emerging global market,” said Alejandro Gaviria, the health minister who spearheaded efforts to legalize it in Colombia.

But the industry has not kicked off yet. The licences granted so far are solely to extract the oils and resin from the marijuana, not to grow it. The three companies who have won the licences plan to grow their own marijuana but farmers in Corinto say that for the new industry to have any real impact in the country, traditional marijuana growers should be the suppliers.

“We are the ones who know the most about growing marijuana in Colombia, so we want to be involved,” says Edward García, mayor of Corinto, who encouraged the growers in his municipality and four other nearby towns to form the cannabis cooperative.

The government has yet to grant anyone a licence to grow marijuana legally and Caucannabis wants to be the first. Companies from Canada and Germany have expressed an interest in possibly building an extraction plant in or near Corinto to buy up local production and produce the resin for export.


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García says the legal marijuana project is the perfect example of the alternative development programs that form part of the recently finalized peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), ending more than 50 years of war. “This fits in perfectly with the historic moment Colombia is living. This project would do away with the illegal economies that have been the fuel of the conflict,” he says.

The Farc, who here and across Colombia financed their war by taxing the drug trade, have promised to help wean Colombian farmers off of illegal drug crops – both marijuana and coca.

“In this case it wouldn’t be about crop substitution but about substituting the use of the crops,” García says.
Researchers find lab rats on marijuana just can’t be bothered, but growers here may have to substitute marijuana varieties. A variety known as “kripi”, which has led to the boom in Cauca, is valued by recreational users, but its high level of THC – the chemical responsible for psychoactive effects – is a problem for medicinal use, according to Luc Lapointe, director of a Colombian startup called Kannabicol looking to grow legal marijuana in Colombia to meet Canadian import requirements.

The medical marijuana market looks for a product lower in THC and higher in CDB, the chemical responsible for cannabis’s analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety properties, he said. Other varieties of cannabis also have higher yields than the “kripi” bush. But there is potential to insert these currently illegal growers into the legal marijuana business. “There is a genuine interest to do something with these farmers,” Lapointe says.




Sánchez, the leader of the cooperative, says more than 500 other marijuana farmers from the region have expressed interest in joining the legal pot project but under current regulation no one with a police record can become a legal producer.

“That eliminates a huge number of current growers,” he says, adding that Caucannabis has urged the government to reconsider the restrictions to give illegal growers a chance to come clean.

“We are eager to change the use from illegal recreational marijuana to legal medical,” says Sánchez. “But things need to move quickly. If it takes two years to get going people will just say, ‘Oh, it was all a lie.'”


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Colombia’s New, Legal Drug Barons Focus on Medical Marijuana

Like many drug barons in Colombia, Federico Cock-Correa wants to sell his product globally. Just 15 miles outside Medellín, Mr. Cock-Correa is looking to replace vast acres of flowers with marijuana plants, with plans to export the harvest.

But unlike the brutal heroin and cocaine trade that once flourished nearby, his operation has the government’s stamp of approval.


Last year, President Juan Manuel Santos spearheaded an overhaul of Colombia’s 30-year-old drug laws, which formally legalized medical marijuana for domestic use. Crucially, the new law also allowed the commercial cultivation, processing and export of medical marijuana products — like oils and creams — although not the flower, the part of the plant normally rolled into a joint.

– Read the entire article at New York Times.

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Uruguay Marijuana Growers Compete in Cannabis Cup

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Uruguay is home to the world’s first government-regulated national marketplace for pot, so it’s not surprising that growers have a competition for best marijuana.

At the Cannabis Cup over the weekend, a panel of regional experts judged entries for aroma, flavor, effects and strength before picking the winners of the best indoor and outdoor crops.

Silver cups were awarded to the winners, such as Guillermo Amandola, who won in the self-grown outdoor crop category, and Eduardo Bandera, for self-grown indoor pot.

– Read the entire article at Global News.

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Auditor urges Veterans Affairs to rein in medical marijuana use, costs

By Murray Brewster May 3rd 2016

The latest report from the federal auditor general urges Veterans Affairs to get a grip on its medical marijuana program for injured ex-soldiers, which is expected to cost taxpayers a startling $25 million this year.

Michael Ferguson says it’s just one of the programs where the federal government has critical data available to it that’s either not usable, not used or not acted upon at all.


The report tabled Tuesday in the House of Commons also looked at the dire condition of the army reserves, the federal government’s inability to detect and prevent refugee fraud, and the uncertain impact of the former Conservative government’s $400-million venture capital action plan.

But with medical marijuana for veterans, Ferguson paints a picture of program out of control.

He says the federal department long ago recognized the need to contain the prescribed pot program by imposing a limit on how much the government is willing to pay per gram, but usage levels and costs continue to climb.

Veterans Affairs has covered medical marijuana costs since 2008, but more vets have applied since the regulations were overhauled three years ago, sending the cost through the roof — Ferguson says it will soon account for almost one-third of all federal drug coverage for ex-soldiers.

Tuesday’s report finds that officials saw the tidal wave of higher medicinal pot expenses coming, but did little to prevent it.

“We found that before these new regulations were passed, department officials had identified that they would likely cause an increase in the number of veterans requesting marijuana for medical purposes, increasing the department’s expenditures,” said the audit.

Officials had documented that commercial suppliers were charging up to $14 per gram, almost triple the federal government’s estimate, it notes.

“Despite acknowledging this in advance, it did not establish a dollar limit for covering marijuana for medical purposes.”

In 2013-14, there were 112 veterans taking prescribed pot at a cost of $408,000, but by the end of December 2015 some 1,320 ex-soldiers were enrolled at a cost of $12.1 million. That adds up to an average of $9,600 per veteran.

The audit also found the department does not effectively monitor high-risk drug utilization among veterans, nor does it effectively manage its drug benefits list.

Veterans Affairs says it’s willing to pay for up to 10 grams of marijuana a day, per veteran — twice the threshold recommended by Health Canada. Ferguson questioned whether the department was doing the right thing and warned the policy could lead to some ex-soldiers getting hooked.

Read entire article here

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