Europe

Italian military to grow medical marijuana

Posted on September 30th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

ItalyItaly's government announced Sept. 18 plans to cultivate medical marijuana at a secure military lab outside Florence and distribute it through pharmacies. Medical marijuana has been legal in Italy since 2007, but only some 60 patients have signed up with the program overseen by the national healthcare system, the Azienda Sanitaria Locale. The Florence Military Chemical-Pharmaceutical Plant (SCFM) currently produces so-called "orphan drugs" no longer made by large pharmaceutical companies but still needed to treat rare diseases. It is now to grow cannabis under a deal signed between Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti and Health Minister Beatrice Lorenzin. "The institute already produces some medicines," Pinotti told Reuters, addressing the unlikely prospect of entrusting the military with weed cultivation. "And we can guarantee security conditions."

Catalan authorities to rein in Barcelona cannabis clubs

Posted on August 5th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

SpainIn the past few years, Spain's freewheeling Mediterranean port city of Barcelona has come to rival Amsterdam as Europe's premier cannabis scene, with a proliferation of clubs where merry-makers openly light up. Now the Public Health Agency of the Generalitat de Catalunya has proposed tight new measures to regulate the clubs, and discourage the burgeoning cannabis economy.  The Generalitat, the regional government of Catalonia, has broad powers under Spain's decentralized system, although it cannot override Spanish national law. And Spanish law allows private cannabis use—or for users to unite in non-profit associations to smoke together. As Amsterdam has imposed restrictions on cannabis cafés, the number of clubs in Spain has surged from some 40 in 2010 to more than 700 today—more than half in Barcelona, the Catalan capital. But emergence of Spain as the "Holland of the South" has been viewed with dismay by Catalonia's straight-laced business elite.

Medellín kingpin busted in Spain

Posted on July 20th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

SpainSpanish authorities on July 19 announced the arrest of wanted Colombian kingpin Hernán Alonso Villa AKA "El Ratón" (The Mouse), who was apprehended on a highway outside the Mediterranean port of Alicante. Alonso Villa is said to have been a top European operative for the Oficina de Envigado, now Colombia's most powerful criminal organization, and is held responsible for exporting massive amounts of cocaine to Spain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere on the continent. He is also accused of having led the Oficina's paramilitary enforcement wing in Colombia. The Oficina has been linked to nearly 400 murders, according to authorities. Spain's National Police said Alonso Villa has been transfered to Madrid pending extradition to Colombia. (The Guardian, July 20; Latino Post, El Tiempo, July 19)

Albania: security forces battle cannabis growers

Posted on June 20th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , .

AlbaniaHundreds of Albanian police, backed by armored vehicles, stormed the southern village of Lazarat June 16 after cannabis growers apparently fired machine-guns, mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at officers sent in on a drug raid. Four people—a police officer and three villagers—are reported injured so far in the operation that remains underway. Smoke is reported to be rising above the village, with witnesses saying it was caused by locals burning cannabis plants before police closed in. Security forces have seized more than 10 tons of cannabis in the operation thus far. Lazarat is said to produce some 900 tons of cannabis annually, worth 4.5 billion euros ($6.1 billion)—equivalent to nearly half of Albania's gross domestic product. The village of some 5,000 people lives off the proceeds from the cannabis trade. Aerial photos suggest some 60 hectares were cultivated in Lazarat last November, amounting to an estimated half the total production of Albania. Heavily armed villagers have repeatedly fended off security forces sent in to eradicate the crop. 

Crimea: geopolitical flashpoint ...and hippie haven

Posted on March 19th, 2014 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

CrimeaAll eyes are on the Crimean Peninsula, which has just been annexed by Russia after a popular vote to secede from Ukraine. Potential flashpoints for escalation, with grave implications for world peace, include the fate of the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority and the thousands of Ukrainian military troops that remain in the territory. But Crimea, with its agreeable climate (by Russo-Ukrainian standards), has also long been a hippie haven. Since 2007, "Fairy Town" festivals have been held several times each year in different parts of Ukraine, mostly Crimea. These events, on the model of the Rainbow Gatherings and Burning Man in the USA, are organized by a group calling itself the Rainbow Academy, based in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and the local Crimean capital Simferopol. And while Crimea's Black Sea coast is now more famous for the Russian naval fleet based there, it also hosts numerous nude beaches that have long been a magnet for Ukrainian and Russian hippies and self-styled Slavic Rastafarians. It will be interesting to see if these ecstacy-seeking bliss bunnies will continue to have a haven as Crimea is contested by rival powers—or, if some of the more activist-oriented Crimean hippies can play a role as peace-makers, advocating ethnic co-existence. We'd love to hear from any contacts in the Rainbow Academy...

Italy's high court strikes down tough cannabis law

Posted on February 13th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

ItalyItaly's Constitutional Court on Feb. 12 struck down a 2006 drug law that tripled sentences for selling, cultivating or trafficking cannabis, declaring the law to be "illegitimate." The law, passed by the conservative government of now-disgraced prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was blamed for harsh prison overcrowding. An estimated 10,000 people may be released with its repeal.

Calabria connection broken in NYC-Italy cocaine sting?

Posted on February 11th, 2014 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

ItalyA 15-count indictment was unsealed Feb. 11 in a Brooklyn federal court, charging seven defendants with narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and firearms offenses based on what an FBI press release calls their participation in a "transnational heroin and cocaine trafficking conspiracy involving the ‘Ndrangheta, one of Italy's most powerful organized crime syndicates." Italy's Polizia di Stato simultaneously announced the arrest of another 17 in the southern province of Reggio di Calabria by troops of the elite Central Anti-Crime Directorate. The coordinated international operation for two years monitored narco-trafficking networks between Latin America, Italy, Canada and the US. The Italian hub of the ring was identified as the port of Gioia Tauro in Reggio di Calabria. 

Mystery illness strikes Albanian cannabis harvesters

Posted on November 2nd, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

EuropeOK, no pun intended, but this one doesn't pass the smell test. Reuters reports all too credulously Nov. 1 that doctors in Albania say hundreds of people have fallen ill from harvesting cannabis. The hospital in the southern city of Gjirokaster said some 700 have sought treatment since June for the effects of planting, harvesting, pressing and packing the crop. "In the last two months about seven to eight people arrive in the emergency ward each day and many more have come earlier with disorders from hashish," Gjirokaster doctor Hysni Lluka told local Top Channel TV.  Lluka said women and teenagers, who account for some 40% of those working in the notorious cannabis district of Lazarat, had sought help for vomiting, stomach pain, irregular heart beats and high blood pressure. One patient reportedly arrived "in a critical state." Uninitiated readers are left with the clear impression that harvesters were suffering from severe cannabis intoxication.

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