Since the 20th century, most countries have enacted laws affecting the legality of cannabis regarding the cultivation, use, possession, or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. Many jurisdictions have lessened the penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, so that it is punished by confiscation or a fine, rather than imprisonment. Punishment focuses more on those who traffic and sell the drug on the black market. Some jurisdictions/drug courts use mandatory treatment programs for young or frequent users with freedom from "narcotic" drugs as goal. A few jurisdictions permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. There are also changes in a more restrictive direction as in Canada, Denmark, Netherlands or United Kingdom and drug tests, more or less mandatory, are more common than before in many countries. Some countries allow the sale through drug companies. However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in East Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to a sentence of life in prison or even execution.
Under the name cannabis, 19th century medical practitioners sold the drug, (usually as a tincture) popularizing the word amongst English-speakers. It was rumored that Queen Victoria's menstrual pains were treated with cannabis, because her personal physician, Sir John Russell Reynolds, wrote an article in the first edition of the medical journal The Lancet about the benefits of cannabis. Cannabis users included nineteenth century literary figures Robert Louis Stevenson, and Le Club des Hashishins members Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas Eli Lilly and Company and others sold cannabis tinctures over the counter for a variety of maladies. By the end of the 19th century, its medicinal use began to fall as other drugs like aspirin took over its use as a pain reliever.
In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in the decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries. From 1906 different states in the United States started to implement regulations for sales of Cannabis indica. In 1925 a change of the International Opium Convention banned exportation of Indian hemp to countries that have prohibited its use, and requiring importing countries to issue certificates approving the importation and stating that the shipment was required "exclusively for medical or scientific purposes."
In 1937 the F.D. Roosevelt administration crafted 1937 Marihuana Tax Act the first national US law making cannabis possession illegal in the US via an unpayable tax on the drug. Hollywood supported that effort with the release of "misinformation documentaries" such as the iconical "Reefer Madness" (1937) and Nathanael West wrote about it in his Hollywood novel, The Day of the Locust.
The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s, which deliberately used a Mexican name for cannabis in order to turn the populace against the idea that it should be legal, playing upon attitudes towards the nationality. (See 1937 Marihuana Tax Act). Those who demonized the drug by calling it marihuana omitted the fact that the "deadly marihuana" was identical to cannabis indica, which had at the time a reputation for pharmaceutical safety. It must however be noted that cannabis indica in the 1930s had lost most of its former popularity as a medical drug.,
Although cannabis has been used for its psychoactive effects since ancient times, it first became well known in the United States during the jazz music scene of the late 1920s and 1930s. Louis Armstrong became a prominent and life-long devotee. Bing Crosby, Gene Krupa, Anita O'Day, and other jazz stars were "vipers", as written about by Mezz Mezzrow in Really the Blues. It was popular in the blues scene as well. In 1948 film star Robert Mitchum was arrested for marijuana and served time in jail. Embraced by Beat generation writers like Alan Ginsberg, it eventually became a prominent part of the 1960s counterculture and human rights movements, used by Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and even John Denver. Anthropologist Margaret Mead testified before Congress advocating marijuana legalization in 1969 and admitted she'd tried it herself.
Some advocate legalization of marijuana, believing that it will reduce illegal trade & associated crime and yield a valuable tax-source. Marijuana is now available as a palliative agent, in Canada, with a medical prescription. Yet 86% of Canadians with HIV/AIDS, eligible for a prescription, continue to obtain marijuana illegally (AIDS Care. 2007 Apr;19(4):500-6.)
In October 2007, Prime Minister Harper announced a new National Anti-Drug Strategy. A proposed Bill would have dealers facing one-year mandatory prison sentences if they’re operating for organized crime purposes, or if violence is involved. Dealers would also face a two-year mandatory jail sentence if they’re selling to youth, or dealing drugs near a school or an area normally frequented by youth. Additionally, people in Canada who run a large marijuana grow operation of at least 500 plants would risk facing a mandatory two-year jail term. Maximum penalties for producing cannabis would increase from 7 to 14 years.
Perhaps the biggest proposed policy change is mandatory six-month sentencing for those growing as little as one marijuana plant for the purposes of trafficking. If the Bill passes, this is certain to be felt by small-time distributors who are not linked to the ring of organized crime, and who usually face no more than a fine if caught.
Currently the Conservative Government holds a minority in Parliament, so the Bill would require support of at least one other political party before it can become law. Previous attempts by past Liberal Governments in the late 1990s and early 2000s to decriminalize marijuana for personal use have failed to become law - this is a distinct policy contrast from the current minority Conservatives who aspire to a more US-style 'War on Drugs'.
Young people are the most frequent users of marijuana: a research from 2007 estimated that almost 30% of Czechs under 24 tried it. In 2007 the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic decided a case where it stated that mere cultivation of hemp should not be punishable unless production of drug is proven; a police officer from anti-drug unit said this decision is irrelevant for their work. As of 2007 several initiatives demand either decriminalization of marijuana or creating a more tolerated category of soft drugs.
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. 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 and address 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.
Upon being brought to court, the penalties for possession are outlined as follows:
There is no law against possession or sale of cannabis seeds. However, the growing of cannabis, even for medicinal benefits by genuine sufferers, is often treated harshly by the courts. Various movements have been founded to legalize the drug, including an attempt at starting a cannabis legalization political party.
The possession/purchase of Cannabis is "tolerated" in small amounts. One can purchase cannabis in special shops (called "coffee shops") if one is age eighteen and over. Sale and purchase of cannabis anywhere else is illegal. Outdoor use is forbidden as well. Cultivation and wholesale of cannabis is likewise "tolerated" in small amounts (guidelines here are no more than five plants at home or the possession of 5 grams per adult max.). The tolerance guidelines appear in appendix of the Opium Act. The Opium Act states very clearly that every part of the hemp plant is banned except for the seeds -- this is in accordance with many of the international treaties which the Netherlands have signed. It is for this reason Cannabis cannot be legalised in the Netherlands. Thus, it remains illegal but it is "tolerated." A recent court decision allowed a medical cannabis user to avoid legal prosecution for possession of a small number of cannabis plants; however, the state is appealing the decision.
By 2009, 27 coffee shops selling cannabis in Rotterdam, Netherlands, all within 200 meters from schools, must close down. This is nearly half of the coffeeshops that currently operate within its municipality. This is due to a new policy of city mayor Ivo Opstelten and the town council as a result of increased use of soft drugs among pupils.
Consumption and possession of up to 6 grams (dry weight) of cannabis is punishable by fine or arrest for up to 15 days (KoAP 6.9). Growing in any amount is punishable by prison term (UK 231). Possession of more than 6 grams is punishable by prison term (UK 228).
Two political parties have a clear stance on the liberalisation of cannabis use. The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand has a policy that calls for a legal age limit on usage of 18 years of age, no penalty on its use for those over 18 years of age, a limit defined in law on growing cannabis for personal use and a ban on commercial cultivation. The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party advocate legalisation of "cannabis for recreational, spiritual, medicinal and industrial purposes".
The penalty for sale of cannabis is imprisonment, from 6 months to 10 years, 18 years in exceptional cases. In spite of this, Sweden has few citizens in prison for drug offenses or other offenses; the total is 1 in 1400, compare with 1 in 100 in the USA. Many prisons have internal drug treatment programs for prisoners, often inspired by cognitive behavioral therapy. Sweden has fewer users of cannabis and other drugs than many other comparable countries and is reported as a positive example by UNODC.
The enforcement of the prohibition on cannabis is spotty, because around 500,000 Swiss people (or 7% of young people from 15 to 39) are believed to regularly use cannabis. Also, in 1998, some 250 hectares of land were used in Switzerland to grow cannabis, yielding more than 100 tons of narcotics per year. The produce is sold mostly on the street and (in "scent bags" or covertly) through "cannabis shops" clustered in the urban centers. These shops, of which there were about 135 in 1999 and which authorities believe earn about 85-95% of their income with illegal narcotics, are the target of irregular police crackdowns in some cities, while in others they are tolerated to some degree. Overall, enforcement varies substantially depending on the canton. Some tolerate limited public consumption while others periodically attempt to limit it. Nationwide, police registered some 27,000 cannabis-related infractions in 1999.
The penalties imposed in practice also vary among cantons to a certain degree. The 2007 penalty guidelines adopted by the Bernese Judges' Association provide as follows:
|Consumption of soft drugs such as cannabis in particularly light cases (taking into account factors such as quantity consumed, frequency of consumption, addiction, prior convictions, etc.)||No penalty. However, as with any infraction, procedural fees and costs may be imposed, and any illegal drugs and associated equipment will be confiscated.|
|Consumption of soft drugs in normal cases (first infraction, or minor quantity, or brief period of consumption)||Fine of CHF 100 or more, depending on the accused's financial circumstances.|
|Consumption of soft drugs, repeated infractions||Increasing fine or monetary penalty, depending on the severity of the infraction and the accused's financial circumstances.|
|Trade in soft drugs, up to 100 g||Monetary penalty of 1–5 daily rates. The daily rate is set by the court and usually amounts to roughly one thirtieth of the accused's monthly income.|
|Trade in soft drugs, 100 g to 1 kg||Monetary penalty of 5–30 daily rates.|
|Trade in soft drugs, 1 kg or more||Monetary penalty of more than 30 daily rates.|
An attempt to decriminalize possession and consumption of cannabis failed narrowly in Parliament in 2004. As a reaction, a popular initiative that would amend the constitution to decriminalize cannabis has been introduced; it is scheduled for a national referendum in November 2008.
It is very common in Portugal to see young people smoking in concerts and other party areas. There has also been, in the last decade, a increase of cafés where it is possible to smoke, although it is never an "open" experience, because there is still a lot of intolerance to public consumption of cannabis as a day to day practise.
The 2006 Global Marijuana March (Marcha Global da Marijuana) was celebrated for the first time in Lisbon and in 2007 both Lisbon and Porto celebrated it.
Cultivation of cannabis is strictly controlled by government in Turkey. Non-drug usage of cannabis is a common practice in Aegean region of Turkey. Cannabis seeds are processed to remove the psychoactive effects, and used as a spice in many different foods, especially in different breads and other bakery. Usage of cannabis as a drug is forbidden in Turkey, but carrying small amounts of cannabis is fined, while drug trafficking is punished in long term prisonment.
Cultivation and use of cannabis were generally outlawed in 1928. By the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971, in its original form, the plant or herb was classed as a class B drug, but was downgraded to a class C drug in January 2004.
On May 7th 2008, and against the advice of the government's own commissioned report, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, announced the government’s intention to reclassify cannabis as a class B drug.
A new statutory instrument is expected such that cannabis will be reclassified as a class B drug from early next year, about five years after it was downgraded to class C.
Under federal law, it is illegal to possess, use, buy, sell, or cultivate marijuana, since the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug, claiming it has a high potential for abuse and has no acceptable medical use. Under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Federal law in the United States preempts conflicting state and local laws. Nevertheless, some states and local governments have established laws attempting to decriminalize cannabis, which has reduced the number of "simple possession" offenders sent to jail, since federal enforcement agents rarely target individuals directly for such relatively minor offenses. Other state and local governments ask law enforcement agencies to limit enforcement of drug laws with respect to cannabis.
The National Center for Natural Products Research in Oxford, Mississippi is the only facility in the United States that is federally licensed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to cultivate cannabis for scientific research. The Center is part of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi.
The Federal government has criminalized marijuana under the Interstate Commerce Clause, which gives the Federal Government the power to regulate the channels of commerce, the instrumentalities of commerce, and actions that substantially affect interstate commerce. Additionally, under the Supremacy Clause, any state law in conflict with federal law is not valid. These issues were addressed squarely by the United States Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich, 352 F. 3d 1222 in 2005. Twelve US states had passed laws allowing some degree of medical use (9 of the 12 by majority vote of the citizenry), while a further six states had taken steps to decriminalize it to some degree. This movement sought to make simple possession of cannabis punishable by only confiscation or a fine, rather than prison. In the past several years, the movement had started to have some successes. These included Denver, Colorado legalizing possession of up to an ounce of cannabis for adults aged 21 and older, though this age restriction has been criticized as age discrimination, since adults under 21 cannot legally possess it. These laws passed by states and cities to decriminalize marijuana did not result in marijuana being legal, however, and some cities (notably Denver) actually saw an increase in marijuana arrests after passing their decriminalization laws.
In Alaska, cannabis was decidedly legal (under state, but not federal, law) for in-home, personal use under the Ravin vs. State ruling of 1975. This ruling allowed up to two ounces of cannabis and cultivation of fewer than 25 plants for these purposes. A 1991 voter ballot initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska courts upheld the Ravin ruling, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution. In response to former Governor Frank Murkowski's successive attempt to re-criminalize cannabis, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the state. On July 17, 2006, Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins awarded the Case Summary judgment to the ACLU. In her ruling, she said "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than 1 ounce of cannabis, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than 1 ounce of cannabis in their homes." This does not mean that the legal possession threshold has been reduced to one ounce, as this was a mere case summary review filed by the ACLU, not a full case. Reinforcing Ravin, Collins wrote "A lower court cannot reverse the State Supreme Court's 1975 decision in Ravin v. State" and "Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law". The law regarding possession of cannabis has not changed in Alaska, and the Supreme Court has declined to review the case, therefore the law still stands at 4 ounces. However, federal prosecutions under the CSA can be brought in Federal Court, and federal courts applying federal law are not bound by state court precedent. As such, federal courts in Alaska will recognize that possession of any quantity of marijuana remains illegal in Alaska under federal law.
In 2002, Nevada voters defeated a ballot question which would legalize up to 3 ounces for adults 21 and older by 39% to 61%. In 2006, a similar Nevada ballot initiative, which would have legalized and regulated the cultivation, distribution, and possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and older, was defeated by 44% to 56%.
In 2006, South Dakota voters defeated Measure 4, voting 48% for and 52% against. Measure 4 was to allow the use of medical marijuana by patients deemed by their physicians to benefit from its use, and was to be regulated by state-issued ID cards and protection of legitimate medical distributors.
Large-scale marijuana growing operations are frequently targeted by police in raids to attack the supply side and discourage the spread and marketing of the drug, though the great majority of those in prison for cannabis are either there for simple possession or small scale dealing.
|Has been used||An Iraqi man named Mattar bin Bakhit al-Khazaali was convicted of smuggling hashish and was executed in the northern town of Arar, close to the Iraqi border.|
|Has been used||In 1997, the Indonesian government under international pressure added the death penalty as a punishment for those convicted of drugs in their country. The law has yet to be enforced on any significant, well-established drug dealers. Rather, the trend has been to execute unknown, first time and clueless, alleged drug traffickers, who don't have the cunning, resources, and contacts to persuade the authorities to set them free. The former Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri announced Indonesia's intent to implement a fierce war on drugs in 2002. She called for the execution of all drug dealers. "For those who distribute drugs, life sentences and other prison sentences are no longer sufficient," she said. "No sentence is sufficient other than the death sentence." Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also proudly supports executions for drug dealers.|
|Has been used||Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 years old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 years old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.2 kilograms of cannabis.|
|No Longer Used||The Philippines abolished the death penalty on June 24, 2006. The Philippines introduced stronger anti-drug laws, including the death penalty, in 2002. Possession of over 500 grams of marijuana usually earned execution in the Philippines, as did possessing over ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine. Angeles City is often a mecca for Filipino cannabis users and cultivators, although enforcement has been inconsistent..|
|Sentenced||In the United Arab Emirates city of Fujairah, a woman named Lisa Tray was sentenced to death in December 2004, after being found guilty of possessing and dealing hashish. Undercover officers in Fujairah claim they caught Tray with 149 grams of hashish. Tray claims that her stepfather had given her the bag of hashish to deliver to someone, but didn't know its contents. Her lawyers have appealed the sentence.|
|Frequently Used||Death penalty is possible for drug offenses under Thai law. Extra-judicial killings also alleged.|
|Frequently Used||Death penalty carried out many times for cannabis trafficking. (July 20 2004) A convicted drug trafficker, Raman Selvam Renganathan, 39, who stored 2.7 kilograms of cannabis or marijuana in a Singapore flat was hanged in Changi Prison. He was sentenced to death September 1 2003 after an eight-day trial. (The Straits Times, July 20 2004).|
|Frequently Used||Death penalty is exercised regularly for drug offenses under Chinese law, often in an annual frenzy corresponding to the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking The government does not make precise records public, however Amnesty International estimates that around 500 people are executed there each year for drug offenses. Those executed have typically been convicted of smuggling or trafficking in anything from cannabis to methamphetamine.|
|Never Imposed / Constitutionality Untested||Former Speaker Newt Gingrich, in 1996, proposed to introduce a mandatory death penalty for a second offense of smuggling 50 grams of marijuana into the United States, in the proposed law H.R. 4170. This proposal failed. Current Federal law (1994 Crime Act) sets the threshold for a possible death sentence for marijuana offenses at 60,000 kilograms or 60,000 plants (including seedlings) regardless of weight. The death penalty is also possible for running a continuing criminal enterprise that distributes marijuana and receives more than $20 million in proceeds in one year, regardless of the weight of marijuana involved.|
Hemp is the common name for cannabis and the name most used (in English) when this annual herb is grown for non-drug purposes. These include the industrial purposes for which cultivation licences may be issued in the European Union (EU). When grown for industrial purposes hemp is often called industrial hemp, and a common product is fibre for use in a variety of different ways. Fuel is often a by-product of hemp cultivation.
Hemp may be grown also for food (the seed) but in the UK at least (and probably in other EU countries) cultivation licences are not available for this purpose. Within Defra (the UK's Department for the Environment, Food and the Rural Affairs) hemp is treated as purely a non-food crop, despite the fact that seed can and does appear on the UK market as a perfectly legal food product.
In the UK, at least, the seed and fibre have been always perfectly legal products. Cultivation for non drug purposes was however completely prohibited from 1928 until circa 1998, when Home Office industrial-purpose licenses became available under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.
If industrial strains of the herb are intended for legal use within the EU then they are bred to be compliant with regulations which limit potential THC content to 0.2%. (THC content is a measure of the herb's drug potential and can reach 20% or more in drug strains). In Canada the THC limit is 1%.
Millennia of selective breeding have resulted in varieties that look quite different. Also, breeding since circa 1930 has focused quite specifically on producing strains which would perform very poorly as sources of drug material.
Hemp grown for fibre is planted closely, resulting in tall, slender plants with long fibers. Ideally, according to Defra in 2004, the herb should be harvested before it flowers. This early cropping is because fibre quality begins to decline as flowering starts and, incidentally, this cropping also pre-empts the herb’s maturity as potentially a source of drug material. UK licence conditions actually oblige farmers, however, to allow some flowering so that flower material can be tested for its drug potential.