Tag Archive | "cannabis"

Legalization of soft-drugs: views from the U.S. and Italy

Photo Credit: Judith Hartmann

Photo Credit: Judith Hartmann

On June 14, 2017, legal experts from the US and Italy gathered at the Law School of the University of Naples “Federico II” to discuss the challenges and perspectives of soft-drugs legalization, in the context of the inaugural colloquium of the international convention set up between the nearly 800-year old Italian law school and Denver University Sturm College of Law.

The European Drug Report 2017, published just a few days before the colloquium by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, an agency of the European Union tasked with monitoring the supply, marketing, and usage of drugs in Europe, revealed that cannabis is the most widely consumed type of drug in the Old Continent, with as many as one out of five young adults (15-34 years) making use of it over the last twelve months in certain European countries such as Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, and France.

Although the Report confirmed that the health problems associated with cannabis use are significantly lower than those associated with other drugs, cannabis remains the most commonly seized drug in Europe, accounting for over 70 % of seizures and for 57 % of both supply and possession criminal convictions. Following recent changes in the regulatory framework for cannabis in certain parts of the Americas, a lively debate on the legalization of soft-drugs has sparked off in several EU Member States, whose cannabis policies currently range from restrictive models to the tolerance of some forms of personal use.

In this connection, Professor Sam Kamin, Vicente Sederberg Professor of Marijuana Law and Policy at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, provided a detailed examination of the legal status of soft-drugs in the US, where an increasing number of states have legalized marijuana for medical and recreational use, whereas federal law still criminalizes the production, sale, and possession of that substance, in keeping with the international commitments undertaken in the UN framework.

Professor Kamin, who served on Governor John Hickenlooper’s Task Force to Implement Amendment 64 and the ACLU of California’s blue ribbon panel to study marijuana legalization, described the legal status of marijuana in the US as “untenable” and emphasized the uncertainty it gives rise to for firms and users in relation to aspects of federal law ranging from banking regulations to federal benefits. Professor Kamin also expressed the wish that the US would draw inspiration from other countries, such as Uruguay and Canada, which embraced soft-drugs legalization in a more consistent and principled manner.

In this connection, Judge Massimo Perrotti, sitting on the Sixth Criminal Chamber of the Naples Court of Appeal, described the legal status of marijuana under Italian law, swinging from a soft-prohibition model (the Iervolino-Vassalli Law of 1990) to a stricter one (the Fini-Giovanardi Law of 2006, which placed soft and hard drugs on equal footing) and then back to lenient criminalization, as in 2014 the Constitutional Court struck down the Fini-Giovanardi law causing the previous law on controlled substances to come back into force.

Judge Perrotti, who previously served as advisor on legislative affairs to the Italian Ministry of Justice, then examined the challenges that patients face in securing access to marijuana for medical use and the various soft-drugs legalization proposals currently being examined by the Italian lawmakers, notably the Giachetti Bill, which seeks to decriminalize home cultivation up to 5 plants per person and personal possession up to 5 grams (about 0,17 ounces) and to set up a State monopoly for the production and sale of certified-quality cannabis products for recreational use.

In this respect, it is noteworthy that, unlike US federal law, EU Law strongly defers to its Member States‘ marijuana policies. Framework Decision 2004/757/JHA, in particular, only requires EU Member States to criminalize cultivation of cannabis “when committed without right”; also, that item of EU legislation expressly excludes from its scope cultivation for “personal consumption as defined by [Member States’] law”, yet it points out that such a carve-out “does not constitute a Council guideline on how Member States should deal with” the issue. Moreover, in Josemans, the European Court of Justice took the view that combating drug tourism constitutes a legitimate interest enabling Member States to impose restrictions on free movement within the EU internal market, thus upholding the legality of Netherlands municipal rules banning non-residents from coffee-shops where the sale of soft-drugs is tolerated.

In addition to law school students from the University of Naples “Federico II” and the University of Denver’s Study Abroad Program directed by Professor Celia Taylor, several attorneys, academics, and advocacy groups attended the colloquium, which received the patronage of the US-Italy Fulbright Commission, a binational entity funded by the US Department of State and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Amedeo Arena is an Associate Professor of European Union Law at the University of Naples “Federico II” School of Law, where he serves as Coordinator of the academic cooperation agreement with Denver University Sturm College of Law

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Uruguayan president José Mujica

Critical Analysis: Uruguay’s New Law to Legalize Marijuana

by Laura Brodie, Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

November 1, 2014

On December 10, 2013, the country of Uruguay made headlines around the world by passing a law to legalize marijuana throughout the country.  The law is considered a victory for many yet others remain skeptical about its effectiveness as the country continues to wage the war on drugs.  What appears more impressive, however, is the detailed plan and system Uruguay hopes to implement with the passage of the act as it comes into effect (likely) in 2014 and if not, in 2015.  Not only is the new law a tremendously bold step for this South American country, it could potentially have the effect of starting a trend not only in Latin America but other parts of the world.

Uruguay flag marijuana leaf

In December 2013, Uruguay became the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: shutterstock.com

Uruguay’s previous law concerning marijuana use was Law No. 14.294, passed in 1974, and has since then been modified by Law No. 17.016 in 1998 and Law No. 19.172 in December 2013.  Law No. 17.016 added the language “chemical precursors or other chemical products” to be included in drug laws, which before that amendment only discussed psychoactive and narcotic substances.  The fundamental change to the law came through the 2013 legislation, however.  Law No. 19.172 specifically states that with regard to marijuana in particular, the Cannabis Regulation and Control Institute must authorize the growing or cultivation of those plants and those activities will be under the direct control of that Institute.

Additionally, Article 6 of the 2013 law qualifies the previous law to state that anyone who produces marijuana by planting, growing, and harvesting marijuana plants with psychoactive effects in accordance with the provisions in Article 3 of (Law No. 19.172) will not be liable for prosecution, which is a dramatic change from the previous law.  Before, the law imposed penalties of imprisonment ranging from 20 months to 10 years for anyone who, without legal authorization, produced substances capable of producing psychological dependency.  Another interesting change is that Article 31 of Law No. 14.294 decriminalized anyone who possessed a reasonable quantity, exclusively for his or her personal consumption, but Article 7 of the 2013 law sets the quantity of allowable marijuana at 40 grams.

The unique aspect of Uruguay’s law is the elaborate system created to regulate the legal production, sale, and consumption of the drug.  The country is setting the price for legal cannabis at around $0.87 per gram, and the rules mandate that one must be either a Uruguayan citizen or a permanent resident in order to purchase marijuana.  The law allows people to grow up to six plants at home and produce at most 480 grams per year.  Also, marijuana clubs with memberships of 15-45 people will be legal.

Uruguayan president José Mujica

Uruguayan president José Mujica signed legislation making Uruguay the first country in the world to legalize marijuana. Image Source: anarquista.net

It appears that Uruguay initiated this new trend of legalizing marijuana use to achieve several goals.  First, the government wants to undercut the black market by offering marijuana at a low price, making it more readily available, and identifying those who are buying and selling it.  Also, the country realized that there was an increase in consumption when marijuana was prohibited, so this law is an attempt to change that and hopefully take care of those who abuse drugs (money from the taxation of cannabis will partially be used to treat those with addictions).  The country has a stupendous goal of trying to track every gram sold by bar-coding bags and containing the genetic information of plants that are legally produced, but this system will only work if enough resources are used to implement the plan correctly.

Although reportedly the sales of legal cannabis have been delayed and will not commence until 2015, it will be interesting to follow the success of the new law and its implementing program to determine whether or not Uruguay’s bold move will be a trendsetter in Latin America and other areas around the world where legislators are considering whether or not to legalize marijuana.

 

Laura Brodie is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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