Bill Weinberg's blog

Europe's 'last dictatorship' finally bans cannabis cultivation

Posted on January 12th, 2017 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

EuropeFrom Russian state media outlet Sputnik comes the surprising news that Belarus has banned cannabis cultivation with a Dec. 31 decree from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. The surprise isn't that growing was banned—but that it hadn't been banned already. The former Soviet republic's best claim to fame is as "Europe's last dictatorship." Strongman Alexander Lukashenko has been in power for over 20 years now, resorting to probable fraud and definite repression to hold on to the presidency. After Lukashenko was accused of stealing the 2010 elections, there was a popular protest movement, put down wth mass arrests—with the opposition candidate himself sentenced to prison for inciting riots! No surprise that Lukashenko was "re-elected" with virtually no opposition in 2015. In last September's parliamentary elections, a few opposition candidates were for the first time allowed to take seats, leading some Belarus-watchers to hope for a "thaw." But Lukashenko is still running a very tight ship. Not exactly the kind of place you'd expect to be cannabis-friendly.

Sessions testimony on cannabis: strategic ambiguity?

Posted on January 11th, 2017 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

Shadow WatchAfter the first day of Senate confirmation hearings for Jeff Sessions, president-elect Trump's choice to lead the US Justice Department, cannabis advocates are parsing his testimony for clues as to what the incoming administration's stance will be on whether to continue to give breathing room to state-level legalization and medical marijuana laws. The Los Angeles Times takes an ominous view, writing in a headline: "Sessions leaves door open to reviving federal war on pot."

'Synthetic marijuana' scare in New York

Posted on January 6th, 2017 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

New York A rather sensationalistic piece in the New York Times last month luridly headlined: "Drug 85 Times as Potent as Marijuana Caused a 'Zombielike' State in Brooklyn." Apparently, emergency medical technicians called to a "mass casualty event" in Brooklyn's Bushwick neighborhood reported multiple people at the scene, "all of whom had a degree of altered mental status that was described by bystanders as 'zombielike,'" according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Blood and urine samples drawn from eight of the 18 men hospitalized that day revealed they had taken a synthetic cannabinoid called AMB-FUBINACA, originally developed by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, with the street names "AK-47" or "24 Karat Gold." It is said to be 85 times as potent as the main agent in natural cannabis, THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol.

Flogged for cannabis in Saudi Arabia

Posted on January 2nd, 2017 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

Middle EastSaudi Arabia, already under scrutiny for its draconian punishments for drug offenses and other victimless crimes, just registered yet another medieval barbarism. Bahrain's Gulf Digital News reported Dec. 27 that a man convicted of possession of 59 kilograms of cannabis (about 130 pounds) was sentenced to 10 years in prison—and 1,200 lashes. The Criminal Court in Mecca also fined the presumed trafficker 100,000 riyals (about $25,000) and banned him from travelling abroad for 10 years on serving his term. He was arrested by a police patrol after a search of his vehicle found the stash hidden inside the spare wheel.

Bolivia: mass prisoner pardon to relieve overcrowding

Posted on December 27th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , .
BoliviaBolivian President Evo Morales on Christmas Eve pardoned 1,800 prisoners held in facilities across the country—part of his ongoing effort to curtail overcrowding in the Andean nation's penal system. "The present decree's aim is to give amnesty and total or partial pardons to people who have been deprived of their liberty," Morales told a news conference in the central region of Cochabamba.

Philippines: Duterte makes good on threat to kill journalists?

Posted on December 23rd, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

South East AsiaThe Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte has openly threatened to kill human rights activists and journalists who report on his draconian anti-drug crackdown. Now it looks like he may be starting to follow through. Press freedom groups in the Philippines are protesting what they say is the first murder of a journalist in the country since Duterte took office in June. On Dec. 19, Larry Que, publisher and chief correspondent for Catadunanes News Now, a local newspaper in Luzon region (apparently with no website), was shot in the head as he was entering his office, in Virac township. The assailants escaped. Que died from his injuries the next morning.

Philippines: Duterte boasts of personally killing drug suspects

Posted on December 14th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , .

South East AsiaThe Philippines' ultra-hardline President Rodrigo Duterte—facing international outrage for his bloody anti-drug crackdown—boasted to a group of business leaders he hosted at the presidential palace in Manila Dec. 12 that he "personally" killed drug suspects when he was mayor of Davao City. Bizarrely, this boast came as he argued that the thousands of victims of his drug war have been killed in legitimate police operations. The quote (apparently cleaned up from his choppy verbatim) is reported in the Philippines Inquirer: "I know because...I used to do it personally. Just to show to the [police officers] that if I can do it, why can't you? ...I go around in Davao [on] a big bike and I would just patrol the streets and looking for trouble. [Sic] I was really looking for an encounter to kill."

Cannabis at issue in latest police shooting —yet again

Posted on December 10th, 2016 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

BlackLivesMatterAs so many times before, cannabis again plays a key role in the latest police shooting of an African American citizen to spark outrage across the country. The prosecutor for Iowa's Linn County on Dec. 8 announced that a white police officer will not be charged in the shooting that left an unarmed Black motorist paralyzed and sparked protests in Cedar Rapids, the county seat.

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