Middle East

Egypt: author faces prison for writing about hashish

Posted on December 16th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

Middle EastEgyptian activist attorney Nasser Amin is challenging a law that calls for writers to be imprisoned for words that violate the country's "morals." The challenge comes in the trial of novelist Ahmed Naji, who could face two years in prison and a fine of nearly $1,300 for his work The Use of Life—because of its explicit sex scene and numerous references to hashish use. Amin argues that the law violates the Egyptian constitution, which only permits such punishment for published materials that are defamatory or encourage violence or discrimination.

Israeli vets see empty promise in medical marijuana program

Posted on December 10th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastAfter years of research into the question, in July of last year Israeli authorities made post-traumatic stress disorder the only psychiatric condition for which the Health Ministry will approve the use of medical marijuana. The decision, backed by the Israel Psychiatric Association, was a cause for optimism among many Israeli veterans suffering from PTSD. But a sobering account in Israeli daily Haaretz Dec. 8 finds that actually getting the stuff has proved difficult for sufferers—starting with the problem of getting the necessary doctor's recommendation, and then bureaucratic obstacles once they do. "We are a very small group of three or four psychiatrists who believe that in some PTSD cases cannabis is helpful," said psychiatrist Dr. Ilya Reznik, an Israeli executive board member of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines. "The pressure on our clinics is impossible. This is partly because people who get a permit and don’t come in every three months for follow-up risk losing their permit."

Saudi Arabia: hashish busts drop under harsh crackdown

Posted on December 7th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle East Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry announced last month that authorities in the desert kingdom have seized more than 28 tons of hashish and some 22 million amphetamine pills over the past eight months, as well as 57 pounds (26 kilograms) of heroin. They also  arrested 1,776 suspected smugglers and seized 1,230 weapons, including 184 automatic rifles. This actually represents a drop in interceptions from the previous year's figures, also announced at the end of Islamic calendar. The Ministry's Maj. Gen. Mansour al-Turki attributed the decline to escalated security along the border and harsh punishments for convicted smugglers. (Saudi Gazette, Nov. 17)

Saudi prince in Beirut airport mega-bust

Posted on October 27th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastWell this is rich. Just one month after a Qatari diplomat was busted for hashish smuggling at Egypt's main airport, AFP news service now reports that Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdel Mohsen bin Walid Bin Abdulaziz and four companions were detained at Beirut International Airport in what Lebanese authorities are calling the biggest bust in the facility's history. The prince was popped while "attempting to smuggle about two tons of Captagon pills and some cocaine," a security source told AFP. The source said the drugs had been packed into cases that were waiting to be loaded onto a private plane headed to Saudi Arabia—a whopping 40 suitcases full of Captagon, according to Lebanese media accounts.

Iran considers cannabis legalization?

Posted on October 27th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , .

Middle EastOxford University scholar Maziyar Ghiabi has a startling piece in Britain's The Conversation website (reprinted in The Independent) asserting that Iran's leaders are considering legalization of cannabis and opium. The Islamic Republic certainly lives up to its rep as a puritanical police state. Ghiabi admits that up to 70% of its inmates are charged with drug-related offenses (out of a total prison population of some 225,000, according to the World Prison Brief website). We've also noted a recent surge in executions in Iran, contributing to a global spike in death penalty use over the past two years. As Ghiabi writes: "Drug traffickers risk harsh punishments that include the death penalty." But he also tells us that Iran is now pursuing the kind of harm reduction policies that actvists have long pressed for in the US, including "distribution of clean needles to injecting drug users, methadone substitution programmes (also in prisons) and a vast system of addiction treatment."

Qatari diplomat busted for hashish smuggling

Posted on August 19th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , .

Middle EastIn a short and little-noted story Aug. 19, the Cairo Post reported that Qatari diplomat Mohammed bin Abdullah al-Hajri was arrested for hashish possession at the airport upon flying into Egypt. Qatar's Ministry of Froeign Affairs issued a formal apology. There's quite an irony here. Qatar is by far the most conservative of the Persian Gulf states. The report notes that relations between Qatar and Egypt have been "frigid" since the ouster of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. When the new regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over, Egypt returned $2 billion that Qatar had given in aid. Since then, Cario has suspected Qatar of backing the Islamist opposition. And while Qatar has joined the US-led coalition agianst ISIS, it has also been accused of supporting the more "moderate" (sic) jihadists in Syria, like the Nusra Front (which the US is also bombing). And of course Qatar's jihadist friends in Syria are avidly burning the country's cannabis fields.

Israel's 'king' of medical marijuana profiled

Posted on August 17th, 2015 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , .

Middle EastIsraeli newspaper Haaretz on Aug. 15 featured an interview with the "King of Israel's Medical Marijuana Industry," Aharon Lutzky—who rose to this position by chance. The fateful moment came when his son was injured in an industrial accident in the cotton gin at Kibbutz  Gvat, the agricultural collective in Israel's north where he was then living with his family. As part of his rehabilitation process, Lutzky's son began volunteering for the company Tikun Olam—Israel's largest producer of medical marijuana. Tikun Olam eventually asked the elder Lutzky to help by giving them business advice. Lutzky so impressed the owners that they offered him the position of CEO, which he still holds today. The profile provides a fascinating look at the evolution of Israel's ground-breaking medical marijuana program.

Medical marijuana backlash in Israel

Posted on June 15th, 2015 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , .

Middle EastIsrael has been a global leader in medical marijuana, but the country's state-run program is now meeting a backlash amid concerns that it is serving as a cover for recreational use. Israeli news site YNet on June 15 reports that the new director of Ichilov Hospital at Tel Aviv's Sourasky Medical Center, former Health Ministry director general Ronni Gamzu, has sent out a memo to his staff instructing that cannabis prescriptions be given only to patients with terminal cancer, and only with approval of the hospital's Oncology Ward. Gamzu's memo also instructs doctors to consider revoking the permits of patients who come to the hospital's pain clinic with cannabis prescriptions.

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