Legal and medical status of cannabis
- A Party shall, if in its opinion the prevailing conditions in its country render it the most appropriate means of protecting the public health and welfare, prohibit the production, manufacture, export and import of, trade in, possession or use of any such drug except for amounts which may be necessary for medical and scientific research only, including clinical trials therewith to be conducted under or subject to the direct supervision and control of the Party.
This provision, while apparently providing for the limitation of cannabis to research purposes only, also seems to allow some latitude for nations to make their own judgments. The official Commentary on the Single Convention indicates that Parties are expected to make that judgment in good faith.
In spite of laws prohibiting growing and possessing cannabis, enforcement has been virtually none. There have been fewer than ten arrests in five years.
After politicians in the Australian Capital Territory voted to allow doctors to determine when cannabis was appropriate for their patients, intense lobbying by the federal government resulted in the legislation being overturned.
In May 2003 the then Premier of New South Wales, Mr Bob Carr, promised patients a four-year trial into the medical uses of cannabis - but little to no action was taken.
Northern Territory, ACT use of Cannabis is criminalized. South Australia on the other hand has decriminalized personal use of cannabis, although this is a very undefined law.
As of 2003, Western Australia has decriminalized possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis.If a person is caught with up to 15 grams of cannabis they will be issued a Cannabis Infringement Notice (CIN). If a person receives a CIN and pays the financial penalty or attends a Cannabis Education Session (CES), the person will not be required to appear in court and will not incur a criminal record.
Both Δ9-THC and pharmaceutical preparations containing Δ9-THC are listed in annex IV of the Austrian Narcotics Decree (Suchtgiftverordnung). Compendial formulations are manufactured upon prescription according to the German Neues Rezeptur-Formularium.
On July 9, 2008 the Austrian Parliament approved cannabis cultivation for scientific and medical uses. Cannabis cultivation is controlled by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (Österreichische Agentur für Gesundheit und Ernährungssicherheit, AGES).
Though the drug is still illegal, the Belgian government has recently initiated trials to determine the effectiveness of medical cannabis. There have been changes in laws in the past 10–15 years that create a stage of 'tolerance' toward the possession of small amounts of cannabis. This means police officers are not doing something unlawful when not punishing cannabis users for possession of a small amount of cannabis (up to 3 grams) or one female plant. It still being illegal, it is then ultimately the police-officer in question who may decide to give the cannabis back to the user and let him go (probably with a verbal warning).
In Hitzig v. Canada (2003), a court again declared Canada's Marijuana Medical Access Regulations unconstitutional "in not allowing seriously ill Canadians to use marijuana because there is no legal source of supply of the drug." In effect, this means that Canadians cannot be prosecuted for using marijuana medically because the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations gives patients the right to do so, but does not set up any legal apparatus for obtaining cannabis.
Back in July 2000, in the "Parker" (epileptic Terry Parker) decision, another judge had made a declaration of invalidity of Canada's drug laws as they relate to the "simple possession" of marijuana due to the lack of a reasonable exemption from the law for medicinal use. The Canadian government was given one year (a suspension of the declaration of invalidity) to remedy the situation, and created the Marijuana Medical Access Regulations. These regulations have been repeatedly deemed unconstitutional in a series of court decisions including "Hitzig."
In a similar case based upon these decisions, lawyer Brian McAllister argued on behalf of a sixteen-year-old that because the Canadian government, after setting up the MMAR, never reenacted the relevant section of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Canada effectively has no prosecutable laws prohibiting the "simple possession" of any amount of cannabis.
Representatives of the United States federal government have claimed that decriminalizing cannabis in Canada may disrupt border trade and relations between the two countries; many Canadians believe that this remains the primary obstacle to decriminalization in Canada.
Canada produces about 400 kg of medical cannabis annually. From 2002 until 2009 the marijuana was produced in an abandoned mine in Flin Flon, Manitoba. On April 19, 2005, the Canadian government additionally licensed the prescription sale of a natural marijuana extract - effectively liquid marijuana - called Sativex.
The federal department Health Canada now provides detailed advice (for its own citizens), including not only the medical information needed to make an informed choice, but the law enforcement aspects, and how to apply for authorization to possess marijuana for medical purposes. There is also information that may be of help to the patient's health professional.
Illegal to possess, buy or sell any amount of cannabis. Criminal punishment, and if a person is found guilty, can be jailed up to three years. Also, a person will parallelly be charged for infraction with fines up to € 700. In practice, a person won't be charged for criminal activity if the amount is less than 1 g, but the infraction charge will occur.
Consumption is legal, possession of small amounts is treated differently between federal states. In many cases possession of less than 5 g Cannabis herb or resin is not prosecuted.
Dronabinol was rescheduled 1994 from annex I to annex II of the German Narcotics Law (Betäubungsmittelgesetz) in order to ease research; in 1998 dronabinol was rescheduled from annex II to annex III and since then has been available by prescription, whereas Δ9-THC is still listed in annex I. Manufacturing instructions for dronabinol containing compendial formulations are described in the Neues Rezeptur-Formularium.
Use is illegal for both medical and recreational use and severe punishments are predicted in the law. Despite this however, enforcement for consumption is lax.
Under Irish law cannabis is not recognised as having any medical benefits. The most recent Misuse of Drugs (Designation) Order (S.I. No. 69/1998) lists cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol and its derivatives as schedule 1 drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Acts of 1977 and 1984. As a consequence manufacture, production, preparation, sale, supply, distribution and possession of cannabis is unlawful for any purpose, except under licence from the Minister for Health. A licence can be granted under section 13 of the 1977 act for the purpose of research, forensic analysis, or in respect of the use of the drug as an essential intermediate or starting material in an industrial manufacturing process. As recently as 2003 the Irish Medicines Board (under the Control of Clinical Trials Acts 1987 and 1990) granted permission to GW Pharmaceuticals for trials in Irish medical institutions for the use of a cannabis-based medicinal extract in controlling cancer and multiple sclerosis related pain. The licences were granted by the Department of Health to allow trials in a county Cork hospice and Waterford Regional Hospital.
The gardaí (Irish police) have a level of discretion when dealing with recreational cannabis users. To procure a conviction any cannabis seized has to be sent for analysis to the Garda Forensic Science Laboratory. This, along with the time needed to process the arrest, means that individual gardaí may decide not to arrest for small amounts, but the drug will be seized and the name of the individual will be taken. Possession of cannabis is an arrestable offence and in 2003, 53 per cent of all drug seizures and 70 per cent of all drug-related prosecutions were for cannabis. Trafficking or possession with intent to supply are serious offences under Irish law.
On being brought to court, the penalties for possession are outlined as follows: First offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €381, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €635. Second offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €508, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €1,269. Third or subsequent offence: On summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €1,269 or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twelve months, or to both the fine and the imprisonment, or on conviction on indictment, to a fine of such amount as the court considers appropriate or, at the discretion of the court, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years, or to both the fine and the imprisonment. There is no law against possession or sale of cannabis seeds, however, the growing cannabis, even for its medicinal benefits by genuine sufferers is often treated harshly by the courts.
A small number of people have been granted special permission to use cannabis for medical uses by the Health Ministry.
Cannabis possession remains illegal, though enforcement is scarce. A recent panel recommended legalizing possession for adults for medical use.
In Luxembourg the law passed in April 2001 decriminalizes cannabis consumption, as well as its possession for personal use. The law classifies substances into two categories: A (other substances under control) and B (cannabis).
The use of cannabis is illicit but the punishment will not include prison sentences. Thus, a cannabis user may be sentenced to pay a fine (€250 – €2,500). However, prison sentences from eight days to six months can still be applied, if cannabis use happens in front of minors, in schools, or at the workplace. Penalties increase up to two years of imprisonment in case of adults using cannabis with minors, and up to five years in case of medical doctors or pharmacists using cannabis in specific settings (e.g. prison, school, social services). Additionally, use or possession, acquisition, and transport for personal use of illicit substance(s) other than cannabis incurs between eight days to six months imprisonment and/or a fine of €250 – €2,500; Nevertheless, between one and five years imprisonment and/or a fine of €500 – €1,250,000 are foreseen in case of illicit cultivation, production, fabrication, extract, import, export, sale, and offer of type A and B drugs.
Cannabis is widely grown and tolerated. Possession is technically illegal but possession of small amounts can lead to a small fine in the worst case when a user is smoking in public, but most often the user is warned to use cannabis in a private area.
Cannabis has been available for recreational use in coffee shops since 1976. Thus it has also been available without a prescription for medical uses. In addition, since 2003 it is a legal prescription drug known as "Mediwiet", available at the pharmacy. There it costs more than in the coffee shop: ca. €9 per gram. It is important to note that laws remain on the books classifying possession and sale as illegal, but due to a non-enforcement policy, it has been de facto legalized.
Former Health Minister Annette King has stated that she is not "unsympathetic to using cannabis in a medicinal form, but that's different to saying we should let everybody smoke it." Her official position is that more conclusive studies are needed, and a method of regulating dosage is necessary before she support medical access to cannabis.
Scott David Findlay, a paraplegic, was convicted of cannabis charges. The judge, Robert Spear (Dunedin District Court) offered to allow community service instead of imprisonment, but Findlay does not recognize the validity of New Zealand's cannabis laws and would not perform community service. Judge Spear claimed this was a "hollow protest" that he was nonetheless allowed to make, and sentenced him to three months imprisonment.
Possession and cultivation of any THC substance is illegal and even small amounts can lead to heavy fines or jail. There is, of course, a black market, and even some semi-organized pot rings for medicinal purposes.
Since 2001, possession of any drug for personal use has been decriminalized, though sale and trafficking are still criminal offenses. One can still be arrested and fined for using cannabis in public, or be accused of drug trafficking if in possession of more than 25 grams.
Possession of up to 6 grams (dry weight) of cannabis or 2 grams of hashish is punishable by fine. Possession of more than this amount is punishable by prison term.
In October 2005, the autonomous government in the region of Catalonia launched a program of therapeutical use of Sativex for 600 patients of a wide set of illnesses, from multiple sclerosis to cancer, in order to avoid nauseas or to relax tense muscles. The project involves six hospitals, forty researchers and sixty drugstores. The product is presented as an atomizer to be taken orally, and it will be delivered at drugstores inside some hospitals. The full text of the research initiative can be seen here, in Catalan, from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.
Prof. Frances Ames completed her research in 1958(a rather outdated study). The full text of the study can be seen here. Further medical research is currently being performed by the University of the Western Cape by Dr John Thomas.
Cannabis has no officially recognized medical usage and medical use is not seen as an extenuating circumstance. Rather the opposite, in a case that draw some attention in the national press involving a multiple sclerosis patient, the disease and that she stated that cannabis helped her where rather seen as an aggravated circumstance by the court. The court argued in the verdict that she lacked motivation to stop using the drug and therefore gave her an unconditioned jail sentence, although she as a first-time offender regularly would have been given a suspended sentence or a fine.
Though all possession and cultivation remains illegal in all parts of the country, coffee shops can still be found in Bienne and Interlaken. On the whole, people possessing small doses are very rarely prosecuted (see Legality of cannabis in Switzerland).
Cannabis is illegal in Thailand. Even so, large numbers of cannabis consumers continue to be reported, probably due to the ease of growing marijuana.
In 1999, a House of Lords inquiry recommended that cannabis be made available with a doctor's prescription. Though the government of the U.K. has not accepted the recommendations, new long-term clinical trials have been authorized. Sometimes juries have returned verdicts of "not guilty" for people charged with marijuana possession for medical use though there are many people in jail for the offence of possession, cultivation or supplying medical marijuana.
In 2003, the U.K. company GW Pharmaceuticals, which has been granted the exclusive licence to cultivate cannabis for medicinal trials, had hopes of obtaining regulatory approval for the manufacture and sale of a cannabis-based medicine in the United Kingdom starting in 2004. Such approval has not yet been forthcoming. In April 2005, however, its Sativex marijuana extract, which is produced in the United Kingdom, was licensed for prescription sale in Canada. Although it is not similarly licensed in the United Kingdom, it can be imported, back to the United Kingdom from Canada, for named-patient prescription use. (Named-patient prescription is a prescription process which registers the patient's name with the Home Office.)
House of Commons have confirmed that if you are a UK resident then you are not allowed to bring it into the country, not even for personal medical use under the Schengen Agreement. - see UKCIA.
As a Schedule I drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970, marijuana (cannabis) is considered to have "no accepted medical use" and is illegal for any reason, with the exception of FDA-approved research programs. The Act allows mis-controlled substances to be reclassified by petition by any member of the public, but federal agencies have so far delayed for many years each such petition on behalf of cannabis, and then denied it. (See removal of cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act.)
A successful "medical necessity" defense by patient Robert Randall led the FDA to create a "Compassionate Investigational New Drug program", which provides medical cannabis grown under a NIDA contract at the Research Institute for Pharmaceutical Science at the University of Mississippi to a small number of patients since 1978. The program was closed to new patients in 1992 when many AIDS patients applied.
Four living patients continue to receive federal marijuana, including, since 1983, Irvin Rosenfeld  (for bone spurs), a 52-year-old stockbroker who has been featured in numerous print articles and on the Penn & Teller: Bullshit! cable television series; Elvy Musikka (for glaucoma); and George McMahon (who authored Prescription Pot, a book detailing the federal program, which contains the only existing medical study performed on legal patients). The marijuana is grown on a farm at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and each person receives 300 doses a month. These patients are required by the U. S. Government to smoke the marijuana through a "rolled paper tube" (not ingesting or using pipes or vaporizers). Patients and their doctors report significant medical benefits from their use of marijuana.
There is a split between the U. S. federal and many state governments over medical marijuana policy. On June 6, 2005, the Supreme Court, in Gonzales v. Raich, ruled in a 6-3 decision that Congress has the right to outlaw medicinal cannabis, thus subjecting all patients to federal prosecution even in states where the treatment is legalized. Currently, there are at least sixteen states with medical marijuana laws in effect on the books: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey and Washington, plus the District of Columbia. Maryland's law does not legalize possession of medical cannabis, but rather makes it a non-incarcerable offense with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. The case brought into tension two themes of the Rehnquist court: the limits it has imposed on the federal government and the latitude it has afforded law enforcement officers. Joining Justice John Paul Stevens's majority decision were Justices Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Stephen Breyer. Justice Antonin Scalia wrote separately to say he agreed with the result, though not the majority's reasoning. Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Clarence Thomas dissented.
DEA and NIDA opposition prevented any scientific studies of medical marijuana for more than a decade, but in the 1990s, activists and doctors were energized by seeing marijuana help dying AIDS patients. A study of smoked marijuana at the University of California, San Francisco, under Dr. Donald Abrams was approved after five years. Further research followed, particularly due to a ten million dollar research appropriation by the California legislature. The University of California coordinates this research. However, there are still significant barriers, unique among Schedule I substances, to conducting medical marijuana research in the US. Many years of work would remain before sufficient research could be approved and conducted to meet the FDA's standards for approving marijuana as a new prescription medicine.
Public opinion surveys find most Americans support legalization of medical marijuana, even as they reject broader legalization of the drug. A November 2003 Gallup survey found 75% said they would favor use of marijuana under a doctor's prescription, but nearly two-thirds rejected full legalization. While Congress has consistently rejected legislation to allow medical use of marijuana, 33 states and the District of Columbia have authorized it in some form. Most require that it be "prescribed", which is problematic when federal agencies control doctors' power to prescribe. Many states (listed above) have made laws which permit doctors to instead "recommend" marijuana, starting with California Proposition 215 (1996). In 2004, Montana legalized medical marijuana by a statewide referendum. Hawaii, Maine and Maryland have legalized medical marijuana by legislative action, and the California legislature expanded patient protections in 2003. District of Columbia voters also passed several medical marijuana initiatives, but Congress first denied the funds to count the vote, then when that was declared unconstitutional, voted to overturn the initiative, led by Rep. Bob Barr. Only years after Barr lost his election was the federal prohibition on DC medical marijuana allowed to lapse. Even where medical marijuana is legal, some law enforcement agencies and individual officers continue to harass or arrest patients, or steal their medicine. For example, the official position of the California Narcotics Officers Association is that medical marijuana activists "misled" the public which voted to change the law. Legal and social support groups such as Americans for Safe Access  have sprung up in defense.
Sale of medical marijuana is illegal or barely legal, even in states where patients have the right to grow or use it, due to public confusion between dispensaries and "drug dealers". However, medical marijuana dispensaries have been established in many locations, particularly in California, where they work openly with local government officials to resolve difficulties. Many offer social services, medical consultations, and support groups as well as medicine. The first such dispensary, known as the Cannabis Buyer's Club (CBC), was opened by Dennis Peron in February, 1994. The club operated openly in San Francisco for years, even before medical marijuana was legalized. Local police and politicians did not want to be seen arresting suffering AIDS patients, or denying them any medicine that could help them. This gay community activism led directly to the "Compassionate Use Act" medical marijuana initiative, California Proposition 215 (1996), which voters approved.
Washington state Initiative 692, passed by the voters in 1998, also authorizes the medical use of marijuana. On November 2, 2004, the voters of Ann Arbor, Michigan passed a similar resolution with 74% approval. In early 2005, Rhode Island was the first state to effectively legalize medical marijuana by a vote of the legislature rather than of the citizens.
In NYC, in 2001, well known local activist Kenny Toglia, known by some as "The Dog," achieved a significant victory for medical cannabis when charges against him were dropped in the infamous "marijuana cookie case". He was arrested at "University of the Streets", a locally owned black community center on the corner of Tompkins Square at East 7th Street, with more than a pound of marijuana. Ultimately, all charges against him were dismissed following his complaint that the arresting officers had consumed a number of oatmeal cookies laced with marijuana which had been intended for use by patients with AIDS suffering from wasting syndrome. The events following his arrest led to the issue becoming important in the New York state gubernatorial campaign, and subsequently turned the statewide political tide in favor of the issue.
Although the DEA states that they "don't target sick and dying people", federal arrests of medical marijuana users and suppliers continue. Close to thirty federal criminal cases about medical marijuana are pending. Several jurisdictions, including Oakland, California and San Mateo County, California have announced plans to distribute medical marijuana to patients. Ed Rosenthal, author of dozens of books on marijuana cultivation, grew small "starter" plants for patients on behalf of the city government of Oakland. He was convicted in federal court of manufacturing marijuana, by a jury which was never told that his marijuana was for medical patients. Shortly after the trial, eight of the fourteen jurors (and alternates) who convicted him called a press conference and denounced their verdict, arguing that the trial was not fair because the evidence that Rosenthal was growing marijuana for medical use, working on behalf of the city, and was told by DEA agents and city officials that he was immune to prosecution, was all suppressed by the judge as "irrelevant under federal law". The jury discovered the real facts by reading newspapers, within hours after delivering their verdict. As a result of the intense public scrutiny, Rosenthal was given the most lenient possible sentence - a few days of time already served - since they had already found him guilty and could not change their verdict. He is appealing his felony conviction, and the federal government is appealing the short sentence.
The late Peter McWilliams, a vocal supporter of medical cannabis who was terminally ill with AIDS and cancer, was arrested by the DEA and convicted for violating federal marijuana laws. Even as he vomited repeatedly during court proceedings, McWilliams was not allowed by the federal judge to explain his condition or its connection to the charges against him. His mother's house had been used to collateralize the bond on which he was allowed to remain free pending sentencing, a condition of which was that he refrain from using cannabis. Prior to his death, McWilliams stated
The federal prosecutor personally called my mother to tell her that if I was found with even a trace of medical marijuana, her house would be taken away. 
Richard Cowan and many other critics of U. S. drug policies have described his death as murder by the federal government, insofar as they denied him the use of the medical cannabis which might have prevented his death.
The federal government of the United States continues to argue that smoked cannabis has no recognized medical purpose (pointing to a definition of "medical purpose" published by the DEA, not the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, or the office of the U. S. Surgeon General and the U. S. Public Health Service) -- many officials point to the difficulty of regulating dosage (a problem for treatment as well as research) despite the availability (in Canada and the U. K.) of dosage-controlled Sativex. The United States has also pressured other governments (especially Canada and Mexico, with which it shares long borders) to retain restrictions on marijuana.
On November 4, 2008, Massachusetts Ballot question #2 decriminalized possession of an ounce or less for personal use. It passed at almost a 2:1 ratio.
Consumption of Cannabis is legal and not criminalized. It is illegal to possess more than 25 grams of cannabis. Planting and dealing are considered crimes. Recently the Frente Amplio Party has shown certain tendencies towards legalization and assuming a policy similar to that of the Netherlands. The previous government of Jorge Batlle (Colorado party) had proposed full legalization of drugs, including traffic, possession and distribution, but the proposal did not receive sufficient political support to be carried through, recently the new president "El pepe Mujica" has shown certain acceptance towards the legalization of growth of cannabis for personal use only.
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