As part of the Congress elections in the USA, three states plus the District of Columbia (i.e. the federal capital of Washington and its suburbs), all voted the same way on cannabis. Voters in Alaska, Oregon and Washington D.C. decided to legalise cannabis for recreational purposes, while in Florida, the vote regarding incorporating medicinal cannabis in the Constitution only narrowly failed with 57 percent of the votes. Sensi Seeds reported on the results in a breaking newsflash. While all four referendums related to the legal status of cannabis, if you consider the details, they are all vastly different.
Given that cannabis has been virtually prohibited for almost one hundred years, this illegal plant is now enmeshed in a host of myths. Some of them centre around its cultivation, some around how it is further processed and many of them around its use. While decades of discussion mean that cannabis has been relatively well researched, the black market in particular (dealers and users) cannot rely on state certificates or even contracts - it's the spoken word that counts here. But it's like children playing Chinese whispers, resulting in many fantastical ideas being taken at face value in pothead circles. Some of these myths have been circulating for years or even decades, while others are more recent.
If you live in Los Angeles and possess a prescription for medicinal cannabis, it is now possible to obtain your weed via a genuine pizza dealer. 'Stoned Oven' supplies numerous medical dispensaries, i.e. hemp flower pharmacies, with its cannabis-infused pizza.
In Germany, the birthplace of the DIN standard and the German Technical Supervisory Association (TÜV), everything must be precisely regulated. Even when growing a few cannabis plants for patients, legislators and courts are crying out for a comprehensive body of legislation that dictates every little detail in relation to handling patients' own medication. Given that the body responsible, the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte, BfArM), had already suffered a whole host of defeats in court without ever permitting the proposed self- growing, it can be assumed that in the case of Günther Weiglein and the two other complainants, the authority responsible for granting permission will appeal against this too.
When the hemp plant, in spite of a ban, celebrated its renaissance at the end of the 1960s and in the 1970s with the emergence of the hippie culture, there were very few parents – let alone grandparents – who were aware of cannabis or who had state-manipulated information in their possession.
Cannabis patients and consumers arriving in Europe from overseas are often at a complete loss. Weed and hash mixed with tobacco for consumption? In Canada, the USA and many other parts of the world that is a complete no go. Even tobacco smokers from the other side of the pond would not think of inhaling a 'mix'. Great care is taken to separate the consumption of cigarettes and joints. In Germany and the Netherlands, meanwhile, many patients smoke the cannabis prescribed by their doctor in fat tobacco joints, that would probably turn the stomach of customers of an American hemp pharmacy.
Five years ago, when the Czech Republic's liberal management of cannabis consumption and cannabis growing manifested itself in the form of one of the most liberal cannabis laws in the European Union, in many places it was believed that Prague was becoming the new Amsterdam of Europe. However, the police made it clear right from the start that growing cannabis for commercial objectives would be persecuted, and that the opening of coffee shops operating under a different guise would not be tolerated. While the possession of 15 grams of weed or five grams of pot and the growing of up to five hemp plants is no longer a prosecutable offence, but rather subject to a fine, Prague isn't becoming the new Amsterdam.
I have known Andreas for almost 20 years and since then I have visited him at irregular intervals in the context of my work. We most recently met at the beginning of 2014. Andreas is in his early fifties and has had AIDS since 1994, which was two years after he became infected with HIV in 1992. Even back then, Andreas noticed that consuming a hash joint brought back his otherwise very poor appetite and relieved the side-effects of the antiviral medication. The medication in those days was allegedly much more intolerable than it is today and without hash he may have starved to death.
Until a few years ago, Cannabis was all but legal in Switzerland. From 2009-2013, up until the revision of the Narcotics Act, cultivation of cannabis was permitted without limits imposed on the THC content and only the preparation, distribution and consumption of the parts of the plant containing THC was prohibited, unless special authorisation had been granted to the farmer, which was granted for supply to cannabis breweries or for the production of extracts for aromatherapy.
Thanks to the pioneering role in the heroin distribution programme, Frankfurt's politicians, drug support services, public prosecutor's office, judiciary and police have got together around one table for the first time in 25 years and discussed pragmatic approaches in drug policy. This round-table discussion group known as the "Montagstisch" [Monday table] has created an atmosphere of trust and now can look back on the most successful pilot project for the distribution of heroin to severe addicts.
More than a decade ago, the first Cannabis Social Club (CSC) was founded in the Basque country. Over the last decade, the rest of Spain has followed suit, resulting in an almost nationwide network of CSCs today. As no such network exists in Germany yet, I decided - admittedly also partially motivated by the frosty Berlin climate in January - to visit a few of these clubs myself and take a little look over the shoulder of these cannabis growers.
All of Europe is straining under the crisis. Well... maybe not all of Europe. An idea developed by some indomitable friends of hemp friends is flying straight in the face of the crisis. The first cannabis social clubs were established more than 10 years ago in Spain and today, every medium or large Spanish city centre has one. Even in Belgium, a legal cannabis social club by the name of "Trekt uw Plant" is in operation and in Uruguay, where cannabis has been made legal once again, this type of club is able to manoeuvre operate freely.