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UK white paper suggests de facto cannabis decriminalisation

A new white paper published by the UK government suggests diverting people caught with cannabis to awareness services rather than face criminal sanctions.

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UK white paper suggests de facto cannabis decriminalisation
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The UK Government has released a new white paper that is aiming to create tough sanctions for drug possession. However, the proposals could be a step in the direction of reform for drug policy.

The white paper, entitled Swift, Certain, Tough: New Consequences for Drug Possession, has put forward a new approach to dealing with drug possession offences. 

It suggests that instead of criminalisation, those involved in a drug possession offence will be diverted to education courses. Additionally, repeat offenders will have passports and driving licenses confiscated.

Publication of the paper follows the announcement of the Government’s new 10 year drug strategy in December 2021, that will see the government approach drug use with an increased focus on rehabilitation instead of criminalisation. The strategy is designed to cut crime and reduce both the supply and demand for drugs by getting more people into treatment.

Read more: Report calls for UK Government to turbocharge cannabinoid innovation

The ten year “crackdown” will see the government invest £15m over three years for drug testing on arrest, £5m toward an innovation fund and £9m towards the new “Tough Consequences” out of court disposals scheme. The scheme will see civil penalties imposed such as fines and curfews.

The new white paper is currently out for consultation, and results from the feedback will inform approaches to reforming the way the criminal justice system deals with adult drug possession offences and to changing drug testing on arrest powers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel states in the paper that the strategy “commits to delivering a generational shift in demand”, aiming to reduce overall drug use towards a historic 30-year low within the life cycle of the government’s new strategy. 

Drug reform organisation, Volteface, has highlighted that although the paper aims to create a “tough but smart” policy, the recommendations included essentially amount in part to the decriminalisation of cannabis possession.

Punishment reforms

The white paper proposes to increase the number offences that warrant drug testing on arrest, and also proposes the creation of a new three-tier framework for low-level drug possession offences.

Tier 1 would see offenders attend a drug awareness course, which they would have to pay for, and failure to attend the course would result in a fine higher than the cost of the course.

Tire 2 would see individuals offered a caution, having to undertake a period of mandatory drug testing and having to attend a more intensive drug awareness course. Failure to do so would result in a prosecution for the first offence.

Tier 3 would see an individual charged for their offence and receive a Drug Reduction Order, which will consist of an exclusion order, drug tagging, passport confiscation or driving licence disqualification, both for a set period. Offenders would also have to attend another drug awareness course.

An exclusion order could see individuals prohibited from attending a defined area for a set period, such as nightclubs or geographical areas.

Speaking to Cannabis Wealth, Head of operations at Volteface, Katya Kowalski, highlighted that the first two tiers of the paper’s reform recommendations demonstrate that the UK Government is beginning to take a health-based approach to drug use rather than a criminal approach.

“When you look at this three-tiered system, the first two tiers are essentially diversion and decriminalisation by letting people off on an easier consequence rather than being criminalised,” said Kowalski.

“The third tier – with passports and driver’s licenses being taken away – I don’t think that’s a good approach. I don’t think there’s any evidence to really back up that something like that would work. I’d be interested to see how they plan to roll that out practically, but, in terms of the first two tears, I think that’s a welcome approach. 

“It’s clear that the UK Government is interested in moving towards more of a health-based approach rather than criminalising people, because when you look at schemes like in Portugal which has decriminalised all drugs – a drug awareness course, or some kind of educational intervention is mandatory.

“If people kind of failed to show up for that they do still risk being criminalised.”

Tiered punishments

A report published in January 2022 by drug reform organisation Release UK highlights that in the UK, over half a million people are subject to police stop and search every year in England and Wales, with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic groups being more than 4.1 times more likely to be searched than White people.

“I am cautiously optimistic,” said Kowalski. “I’d like to see what this actually looks like in practice. I think there are considerations around who this kind of scheme will benefit most.

“There’s a disproportionate representation of BAME communities in the criminal justice system, mostly involving nonviolent drug offences.”

With proposals to step up testing on arrest, which will see every police force given at least £50,000 to boost its drug testing programmes, and with the tiered system requiring payment for education courses, there could be a danger of creating a tiered system whereby some can afford to commit an offence and those who cannot. 

Kowalski added: “There’s a consideration around whether this will just benefit the middle class that can afford to pay for the drug awareness course, but I do think it’s a step in the right direction. 

“I think the UK Government is leaning towards the fact that our current approach isn’t working.”

Politics & policy

Cross-party group established for recreational cannabis in Europe

#LegaliseitEP is focusing on human rights-based cannabis policy – “it is a matter of freedom”.

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Cross-party group established for recreational cannabis in Europe
Home » News » Politics & policy » UK white paper suggests de facto cannabis decriminalisation

The group, made up of MEPs from five different parties, has formed to facilitate discussions around amending policy for the personal use of cannabis in Europe.

As countries such as Malta, Germany and Luxembourg have announced progressive amendments to cannabis policy, the informal interest group is supporting human rights-based policies for the personal use of cannabis.

The group is made up of the MEPs Luke Flanagan of Ireland, The Left; Mikuláš Peksa of the Czech Republic, Greens; Monica Semedo of Luxembourg, Renew; Cyrus Engerer of Malta, S&D; and, Dorian Rookmaker of The Netherlands, ECR.

Read more: Malta officially legalises cannabis in historic first for Europe

In an open letter to 705 members of the European Parliament, the group states that Member States should have the autonomy to create cannabis policy that reflects the needs and specificities of their society. 

As well as encouraging the MEPs to join the group, the open letter also calls for more information sharing between Member States regarding recreational cannabis and for fact-based discussion on cannabis, which the group says has been subject to misinformation for a long time.

The letter states: “Due to outdated and unpredictable patchwork of legislation, citizens across the EU are often finding themselves being forced to turn to the black market or even worse, imprisoned for being in possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use. This does not reflect the level of freedom we have come to expect from living in Europe.

“We cannot deny that with new legislation coming forward within EU Member States, we are likely to find ourselves facing repercussions at an EU level. As MEPs, we want to build on this momentum and create a cross-party interest group within the European Parliament, where we will share best practices, talk to experts, organise hearings and conferences, as well as debate the situation of personal use of cannabis within the Union.”

Monica Semendo, of Luxembourg’s Renew, stated: “I am in favour of the legalisation of cannabis and cannabis products because it is a matter of freedom. 

“It’s a matter of one’s own choice. And if someone decides to consume cannabis, they should have access to a safe product. 

“We have to focus on transparent information, education programmes and risk reduction, especially for young adults.”

Cyrus Engerer of Malta’s S&D, stated: “People should have the right to take autonomous informed decisions about their lives, including whether or not they use cannabis. 

“Let’s talk basics. No one should go to jail over a joint. And now for some real talk – many people still are. 

“Where I come from – Malta – we are the first European country to fully legalise cannabis use Germany, and Luxembourg will soon follow it. It’s time that we talk about cannabis and our personal freedoms and rights.”

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Politics & policy

Greenrise welcomes cannabis policy developments in Germany

The company is preparing for the potential legalisation of adult-use cannabis in Germany.

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Greenrise welcomes cannabis policy developments in Germany
Home » News » Politics & policy » UK white paper suggests de facto cannabis decriminalisation

Greenrise Global Brands has welcomed recent developments in Germany as it awaits guidelines from the German Government in the coming months.

Germany’s “traffic light” coalition made plans to legalise recreational cannabis official in November 2021 with the publication of its agreement. 

The coalition, which includes the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), the Free Democratic Party (FDP) and The Greens, agreed to legalise the controlled distribution of cannabis to adults for “pleasure purposes”. With a focus on health-oriented cannabis policy, the development aims to move consumers away from the black market, control quality of products and ensure the protection of minors.

This year, five hearings are planned throughout to discuss the legislative process on the controlled supply of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes, with the first meeting being held in June, at the Federal Ministry of Health.

The Federal Government is anticipated to submit a draft law to Parliament (Bundestag) by the end of 2022.

Read more: Germany to begins consultations for cannabis legalisation

Greenrise Global, which has a wholly-owned medical cannabis subsidiary, AMP Alternative Medical Products GmbH that imports EU-GMP medical cannabis from within the European Union and elsewhere and has well-established relationships with pharmacies and clinics across Germany, has welcomed the development.

Supporter of the health benefits of cannabis and a keystone shareholder and director of Greenrise, as well as co-founder of CannaCare Health, Frank Otto, commented: “The consultation process shows that Germany is no longer talking about whether to legalise adult-use, but how. 

“We also believe that there will be a domino effect as European countries are watching very closely as Europe’s largest economy joins Canada and California in legalising cannabis for adult use.”

AMP Alternative Medical Products has reported that preliminary unaudited sales for first half year 2022 increased 14 per cent to €268,479 compared to sales of €236,399 during the first half year of 2021.

Greenrise acquired 51 per cent of CannaCare, which sells CBD wellness products through traditional retail channels in Germany and German-speaking markets in Europe, at the beginning of Q2. The company has reported that preliminary Q2 unaudited sales for CannaCare increased 187 per cent to €474,000 compared to Q1 2022 sales of €165,000.

Managing director of AMP and director of Greenrise, Dr Stefan Feuerstein, said: “The exceptional sales growth from CannaCare during the second quarter confirms our strategy of investing in CBD in addition to medical cannabis as we prepare for the potential legalisation of adult-use in Germany. 

“We look forward to the government providing guidelines in the coming months, which will provide certainty on how and when to position our businesses. 

“We expect pharmacies to play a significant role and are preparing our pharmacy customers for the possibility of selling adult-use products as well as soon as legislation is in effect. We also realigned our medical cannabis business by streamlining our medical sales team, offering more pharmaceutical cannabis products to doctors to prescribe and are preparing to import high-THC flowers from several European cultivators.”

CFO of CannaCare, Dr Tilman Spangenberg, commented: “Greenrise’s investment allowed CannaCare to launch its CBD products in three leading German drugstore chains, which dramatically increased sales in a very short period of time. 

“We expect the full impact of this sales channel to unfold in the third as well as fourth quarter. Our priorities for the remainder of this year are to grow CannaCare’s sales and operating cash flow positive by introducing new sales channels and adding additional drugstore chains.”

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Politics & policy

Switzerland’s amendment on medical cannabis comes into force

The Swiss government announced in June that rules for medical cannabis will be simplified.

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Switzerland’s amendment on medical cannabis comes into force
Home » News » Politics & policy » UK white paper suggests de facto cannabis decriminalisation

Today, 1 August 2022, Switzerland’s amendments to its Narcotics Act come into force, which will allow patients in the country easier access to medical cannabis.

Switzerland has now joined a number of countries across Europe that are enabling patient access to cannabis by removing its ban on the medicine. 

Previously, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) required exceptional approval for use of medical cannabis. This reduced patient access to cannabis as administrative processing was unable to keep up with the demand from potential patients.

Read more: Switzerland approves pilot for regulated cannabis sales

The use of medical cannabis will now be subject to regular control measures. The defined limit of at least 1.0% total THC content remains unchanged. 

Under the new amendments, medical prescriptions will no longer require an exceptional permit from the FOPH. Cannabis will be reallocated from Switzerland’s Narcotics List Ordinance list from List d, which is prohibited narcotics, to List a, which is all substances subject to control measures), along with preparations such as extracts, resins, oils and tinctures. 

Read more: Cannabis regulation changes across Switzerland and Luxembourg

Dronabinol and THC will now also be included List a “provided there is an intended medical purpose”.

The new amendment enables doctors to make the decision on whether a patient requires a medical cannabis prescription, speeding up the process of accessing the medicine for patients.  

The medicine will now enter Switzerland’s pharmaceutical system and controlled by the health authority SwissMedic, which will be taking over the role of the country’s Cannabis Agency for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

Under the amendments, there will be a two-stage authorisation procedure, which will require an establishment licence and an individual licence for the cultivation of medical cannabis. 

SwissMedic has stated that the handling of cannabis for non-medical purposes continues to be generally prohibited and will continue to require an exemption from the FOPH. 

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