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Legality of cannabis

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Legality of cannabis

World laws governing the recreational, spiritual use of cannabis and medical cannabis legality.

The legality of cannabis varies from country to country. Possession of cannabis is illegal in most countries and has been since the beginning of widespread cannabis prohibition in the late 1930s.[1] However, possession of the drug in small quantities has been decriminalized in many countries and sub-national entities in several parts of the world. Furthermore, possession is legal or effectively legal in the Netherlands, Uruguay,[2] and in the US states of Colorado (Colorado Amendment 64), Oregon (Oregon Ballot Measure 91 (2014)), Alaska and Washington (Washington Initiative 502) as the federal government has indicated that it will not attempt to block enactment of legalization in those states.[3] The federal district of Washington D.C. legalized cannabis for possession and use in 2015, but was blocked by a Congressional rider from instituting commercial sales and taxation.[4][5] Cannabis is also legal in some U.S cities such as Portland and South Portland, both of which are in Maine.[6] The United States Department of Justice is allowing all recognized Native American Reservations to regulate the legalization of cannabis, and the laws are allowed to be different from Federal and state law. On 10 December 2013, Uruguay became the first nation in the world to legalize the sale, cultivation, and distribution of cannabis.[7]

The medicinal use of cannabis is legal in a number of countries, including Canada, the Czech Republic and Israel. The federal law in the United States no longer has a ban on the use of medical marijuana. States that allow medical marijuana and the sale of it can now do so without having to deal with the federal government.[8]

Some countries have laws which are not as vigorously prosecuted as others, but apart from the countries which offer access to medical marijuana, most countries have various penalties ranging from lenient to very severe. Some infractions are taken more seriously in some countries than others in regard to the cultivation, use, possession or transfer of cannabis for recreational use. A few jurisdictions have lessened penalties for possession of small quantities of cannabis, making it punishable by confiscation and a fine, rather than imprisonment. Some jurisdictions/drug courts use mandatory treatment programs for young or frequent users, with freedom from narcotic drugs as the goal and a few jurisdictions permit cannabis use for medicinal purposes. Drug tests to detect cannabis are increasingly common in many countries and have resulted in jail sentences and loss of employment.[9] However, simple possession can carry long jail sentences in some countries, particularly in parts of East Asia and Southeast Asia, where the sale of cannabis may lead to life imprisonment or even execution.

As of 2015, Argentina, Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Jamaica, Peru, Spain,[10] Uruguay, the Netherlands, North Korea,[11] some U.S. states and cities as well as some territories of Australia and some Canadian cities have the least restrictive cannabis laws while China, Egypt, France, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam have the strictest cannabis laws.[12][13]


  • History 1
  • Alcohol and marijuana prohibition correlation 2
  • Attitudes regarding legalization 3
  • Sharia law 4
  • Human rights 5
  • Advertising 6
  • Use of capital punishment against the cannabis trade 7
  • Non-drug purposes 8
  • International reform 9
    • Barriers 9.1
      • Bureaucratic 9.1.1
      • Political 9.1.2
  • See also 10
  • References 11
  • Further reading 12
  • External links 13


Cannabis has been in use for thousands of years. In India and Nepal cannabis has long been used in religious rituals.[14] Under the name cannabis, nineteenth century medical practitioners sold the drug (usually as a tincture), popularizing the word among English-speakers. In 1894, the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission, commissioned by the UK Secretary of State and the government of India, was instrumental in a decision not to criminalize the drug in those countries (See Shamir and Hacker (2001) in 'further readings' below.[15] From the year 1860, different states in the US started to implement regulations for sales of Cannabis sativa.[16] A 1905 Bulletin from the US Department of Agriculture lists twenty-nine states with laws mentioning cannabis.[17] In 1925, a change of the International Opium Convention[18] banned exportation of Indian hemp to countries that have prohibited its use. Importing countries were required to issue certificates approving the importation, stating that the shipment was to be used "exclusively for medical or scientific purposes".

Around 1840, doctors had realized that marijuana had a medical value, therefore it was freely sold for over a century in pharmacies.[19] Marijuana used to be freely grown, sold, bought, and smoked in the United States up until it was criminalized in 1937.[19]

The Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 was the first US national law making cannabis possession illegal, with the exception of industrial or medical purposes. Growers of hemp products were required to purchase an annual tax stamp, priced at $24, and retailers were required to purchase stamps priced at $1 per annum.[20]

The name marijuana (Mexican Spanish marihuana, mariguana) is associated almost exclusively with the plant's psychoactive use. The term is now well known in English largely due to the efforts of American drug prohibitionists during the 1920s and 1930s. Mexico officially adopted prohibition in 1925, following the International Opium Convention.[21]

The use of cannabis became widespread in the

  • European laws on possession of cannabis for personal use from EMCDDA
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
  • Australian laws on possession of cannabis for personal use

External links

  • Reefer Madness, a 2003 book by Eric Schlosser, detailing the history of marijuana laws in the United States.
  • The Emperor Wears No Clothes, a 1985 book by Jack Herer, the Authoritative Historical Record of Cannabis and the Conspiracy Against Marijuana.
  • Fazey, Cindy: The UN Drug Policies and the Prospect for Change, April 2003.
  • Feeney, Susan: Bush backs states' rights on marijuana, The Dallas Morning News, October 20, 1999.
  • Monthly Status of Treaty Adherence, January 1, 2005.
  • Shamir, Ronen and Hacker Daphna: (2001 article on legalization debate in late 19th century colonial India) Colonialism's Civilizing Mission: The Case of the Indian Hemp Drug Commission, in: Law & Social Inquiry 26, 2, 435-461 (;jsessionid=E245E9A3601C114657253DE43A283B37.f02t01)
  • Wolfe, Daniel: Condemned to Death, Agence Global, April 8, 2004.
  • Bush, Bill: An anniversary to regret: 40 years of failure of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

Further reading

  1. ^ "Why is Marijuana Illegal?". Retrieved 17 January 2011. 
  2. ^ "Uruguay es portada en el mundo por marihuana". Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Feds won’t challenge Washington’s pot law".  
  4. ^ Lopez, German (26 February 2015). "Marijuana is now legal in Washington, DC. Here's what you need to know". Vox. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  5. ^ "Washington DC legalises marijuana possession and use". BBC News. 26 February 2015. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  6. ^ Llambias, Felipe (15 December 2013). "".  
  7. ^ a b Llambias, Felipe (11 December 2013). "Uruguay becomes first country to legalize marijuana trade".  
  8. ^ Halper, Evan (December 16, 2014). "Congress quietly ends federal government's ban on medical marijuana". Los Angeles Times Nation. Austin Beutner. Retrieved April 4, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Walmart fires Michigan man for using medical marijuana". 2010-03-12. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  10. ^ Is cannabis legal in Spain?
  11. ^ Taylor, Adam (January 15, 2013). "North Korea Has a Surprising Attitude to Marijuana".  
  12. ^ "seven countries you dont want to get caught with drugs in". thegooddrugsguide. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  13. ^ "seven countries you dont want to get caught with drugs in". theweedblog. Retrieved 2014-07-01. 
  14. ^ MIA TOUW. The Religious and Medicinal Uses of Cannabis in China, India and Tibet (PDF).  
  15. ^ J. Kaplan(1969) "Introduction" of the Report of the Indian Hemp Drugs Commission edited by The Honorable W. Mackworth Young, et al. (Simla: Government Central Printing Office, 1894) LCCN 74-84211, pp. v-vi.
  16. ^ "Senate". New York Times (New York City). February 15, 1860. 
  17. ^ United States. Bureau of Chemistry (1905). Bulletin, Issues 96-99. Washington, DC: G.P.O. 
  18. ^ "W.W. Willoughby: Opium as an International Problem, Baltimore, The Johns Hopkins Press, 1925". Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  19. ^ a b Rich, Alex K., and Alexander Stingl. "Legalization Of Marijuana: An Overview." Points Of View: Legalization Of Marijuana (2015): 1. Points of View Reference Center. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
  20. ^ Dir. Ron Mann. Grass: The History of Marijuana. Narrated by Woody Harrelson. Sphinx Productions, 1999. Film.
  21. ^ "MEXICO BANS MARIHUANA.; To Stamp Out Drug Plant Which Crazes Its Addicts". New York Times (New York City). December 29, 1925. 
  22. ^ David M. Fahey; Jon S. Miller (27 August 2013). Alcohol and Drugs in North America: A Historical Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 124–.  
  23. ^ "Maastricht bans cannabis coffee-shop tourists". BBC News. 2011-10-01. 
  24. ^ a b c "Toleration policy regarding soft drugs and coffee shops". Government of the Netherlands. Government of the Netherlands. 28 October 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2014. 
  25. ^ David Knowles (28 May 2013). "Colorado becomes world’s first legal, fully regulated market for recreational marijuana as it anticipates millions in tax revenues". New York Daily News. Retrieved 29 May 2013. 
  26. ^ Jack Davies and Jan De Deken (15 December 2013). "The Architect of Uruguay's Marijuana Legalization Speaks Out". Reason Foundation. Retrieved 15 December 2013. 
  27. ^ Miroff, Nick (10 December 2013). "Uruguay votes to legalize marijuana".  
  28. ^ "Uruguay marijuana sales delayed until 2015: president - AMERICAS". 
  29. ^ ABC News. "Uruguayan Pot Marketplace May Go up in Smoke, Associated Press". Retrieved Aug 1, 2014. 
  30. ^ "ROOSEVELT ASKS NARCOTIC WAR AID, 1935". Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  31. ^ [Bureau of Narcotics, U.S. Treasury Department, Traffic in Opium and Other Dangerous Drugs for the Year Ended December 31, 1935 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1936), p. 30.],
  32. ^ Miron, Jeffrey A [2] "The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition" 2010
  33. ^ "Who supports cannabis legalization?". Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  34. ^ Grim, Ryan (2009-05-06). "Majority of Americans Want Pot Legalized". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-31. 
  35. ^ Ghosh, Palash R. "The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization in the U.S.". International Business Times. Retrieved 10 October 2012. 
  36. ^ "Americans Want Federal Gov't Out of State Marijuana Laws". Retrieved 2013-04-04. 
  37. ^ Salley, Mark. News: New survey documents youth marijuana use, need for prevention. 7 August 2014. Web. 20 November 2014. .
  38. ^ Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Retail marijuana technical assistance. 2013. Web. 22 November 2014.
  39. ^ "Majority Now Supports Legalizing Marijuana". Retrieved 2013-04-04. 
  40. ^ "America’s New Drug Policy Landscape". Pew Research Center. Pew Research Center. 2 April 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  41. ^  
  42. ^ M. Levey (1986), "ḤASHĪSH",  
  43. ^ a b c d e Yasmin Hanani Mohd Safian (September 2013), "An analysis on Islamic rules on drugs" (PDF), International Journal of Education and Research 1 (9): 1–16,  
  44. ^ Ernest L. Abel (1980), Marihuana, the first twelve thousand years, Springer, p. 41 
  45. ^ M. Rodinson (1991), "GHIDHĀ",  
  46. ^ A. Rippin (2004), "AL-ZARKASHĪ",  
  47. ^ Charlotte Walsh (2010), "Drugs and human rights: private palliatives, sacramental freedoms and cognitive liberty", The International Journal of Human Rights 14 (3): 425–441,  
  48. ^ a b c "Medical Marijuana Ad Ban in Denver is 'Appropriate,' Medical Marijuana Industry Group Says". The Huffington Post. 
  49. ^ a b c "Medical Marijuana Ad Ban Gets Final Approval In Denver". The Huffington Post. 
  50. ^ "Magazines sue Colorado over marijuana advertising restrictions". 
  51. ^ Jacob Sullum (28 August 2014). Fights Colorado's Restrictions On Marijuana-Related Speech - Forbes"High Times"Legalize It, But Don't Advertise It: . Forbes. 
  52. ^ Dan Frosch (6 October 2014). "Colorado ‘Lab Rat’ Campaign Warns Teens of Pot Use". WSJ. 
  53. ^ Kristen Skovira. "Boulder Valley School District says 'no' to 'Don't Be a Lab Rat' campaign". 7NEWS. 
  54. ^ "Boulder rejects 'Don't Be a Lab Rat' cage after BVSD balks at teen pot campaign's prop". 
  55. ^ """Congressman Jared Polis says Lab Rat campaign "ill-fated. 
  56. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Pakistani and Iraqi Beheaded in Saudi Arabia". 2005-01-02. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  57. ^ "Death for pot in Indonesia". 2009-06-20. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  58. ^ "Amnesty International Deplores Recent Executions" (Press release). Amnesty International. 1996-01-17. Archived from the original on 2005-04-08. 
  59. ^ Toms, Saah (2006-06-24). "Philippines stops death penalty". BBC. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  60. ^ "Philippines Enacts Death Penalty for Drug Dealing, Possession of a Pound of Marijuana or Tens Grams of Ecstasy". Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  61. ^ "Philippine minors in Jail: report 6 September 2002". Preda Foundation, Inc. Archived from the original on 2006-02-14. 
  62. ^ David Blair (2012-06-29). "Briton on death row in Abu Dhabi is company director's son". Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  63. ^ Schreck, Adam (2012-06-26). "UAE: Death Sentence Handed Down To Briton Convicted On Drug Charges". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  64. ^ "Briton facing UAE death penalty". BBC. 2012-06-25. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  65. ^ "British man sentenced to death for attempting to sell drugs to UAE officer" (Text article). Fox News. Associated Press. 2012-06-26. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  66. ^ "portland imc - 2003.05.07 - Is this the future of our own "War on Drugs"?". Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  67. ^ "China Celebrates UN Anti-Drug Day With 59 Executions". Retrieved 2011-02-17. 
  68. ^ Russ Bellville. "Thirteen states have marijuana per se DUID statutes". Retrieved March 21, 2012. 
  69. ^ Hearings of the Standing Sentate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs Retrieved on 21 September 2014.
  70. ^ "Crime and community safety - The decision to downgrade cannabis from a class B drug to class C drug.". The National Archives. 16 February 2006. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  71. ^ May, Duffy, Warburton, Hough (21 January 2007). "POLICING CANNABIS AS A CLASS C DRUG". Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Joseph Rowntree Foundation. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  72. ^ Home office (15 January 2009). "Corporate report - Controlled drugs: reclassification of cannabis". Crown. Retrieved 27 October 2014. 
  73. ^ "WFAD Members - World Federation Against Drugs". 
  74. ^ - aprile 2003 Retrieved on 21 September 2014.
  75. ^ DEA: Letter to Coalition for rescheduling Cannabis, June 21 2011
  76. ^ United Nations News Centre Retrieved on 21 September 2014.


See also

On March 5, 2013, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) urged the United States government to challenge the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Colorado and Washington. INCB President, Raymond Yans stated that these state laws violate international drug treaties, namely the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961. The Office of the US Attorney General said in December 2012 that regardless of any changes in state law, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remained illegal under federal law. Raymond Yans called the statement "good but insufficient" and said he hoped that the issue would soon be addressed by the US Government in line with the international drug control treaties.[76]

The U.S Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied in June 2011 a petition that proposed rescheduling of cannabis and enclosed a long explanation for the denial.[75]

"Whenever the Secretary of State receives information that the Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations proposes to decide whether to add a drug or other substance to one of the schedules of the Convention, transfer a drug or substance from one schedule to another, or delete it from the schedules, the Secretary of State shall transmit timely notice to the Secretary of Health and Human Services of such information who shall publish a summary of such information in the Federal Register and provide opportunity to interested persons to submit to him comments respecting the recommendation which he is to furnish, pursuant to this subparagraph, respecting such proposal. The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall evaluate the proposal and furnish a recommendation to the Secretary of State which shall be binding on the representative of the United States in discussions and negotiations relating to the proposal."

In reference to situations where the Commission on Narcotic Drugs proposes changing the scheduling of any drug, 21 U.S.C. § 811(d)(2)(B) of The U.S. Controlled Substances Act gives the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to issue recommendations that are binding on the U.S. representative in international discussions and negotiations:


To modify cannabis regulations at the international level, a conference to adopt amendments in accordance with Article 47 of the Single Convention would be needed. This has been done once, with the 1972 Protocol Amending the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs; as Fazey notes, this process is fraught with bureaucratic obstacles.

"Theoretically, the conventions can be changed by modification, such as moving a drug from one schedule to another or simply by removing it from the schedules. However, this cannot be done with cannabis because it is embedded in the text of the 1961 Convention. Also, modification would need a majority of the Commissions’ 53 members to vote for it. Amendment to the conventions, that is changing an article or part of an article, does not offer a more promising route for the same reason. Even if a majority were gained, then only one state need ask for the decision to go to the Economic and Social Council for further consideration, and demand a vote. The 1971 and 1988 Conventions need a two-thirds majority for change, not just a simple majority."

The international drug control system is overseen by the United Nations General Assembly and UN Economic and Social Council. The Single Convention grants the Commission on Narcotic Drugs the power to reschedule controlled substances. Cindy Fazey, the former Chief of Demand Reduction for the United Nations Drug Control Programme, said:[74]


Some barriers to cannabis reform are the result of the international drug control structure, while others are related to political circumstances. A number of non-government organizations support the prohibition of cannabis as a recreational drug. In 2013, 97 NGOs in 37 countries joined the World Federation Against Drugs.[73]


As of January 2009, "cannabis, cannabis resin, cannabinol and its derivatives" are categorized as Class B drugs, in accordance with "(Amendment) Order 2008" of the United Kingdom's Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Following a proposal by UK politician David Blunkett "to seek the reclassification of cannabis from a Class B drug to a Class C drug" in 2001,[70] the classification was moved to the less stringent Class C in January 2004,[71] but was returned to Class B in January 2009.[72]

The Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances requires its Parties to establish criminal penalties for possession of drugs prohibited under the Single Convention for recreational use. A nation wanting to legalize marijuana would have to withdraw from the treaties; every signatory has a right to do this.[69]

The parties shall take such legislative and administrative measures as may be necessary . . . Subject to the provisions of this Convention, to limit exclusively to medical and scientific purposes the production, manufacture, export, import, distribution of, trade in, use and possession of drugs.

The Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs makes a distinction between recreational, medical and scientific uses of drugs; nations are allowed to permit medical use of drugs, but recreational use is prohibited by Article 4:

Cannabis reform at the international level refers to efforts to ease restrictions on cannabis use under international treaties. Internationally, the drug is in Schedule IV, the most restrictive category, of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. As of January 1, 2005, 180 nations belonged to the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.[68]

International reform

Industrial strains intended for legal use within the EU are bred to comply with regulations limiting THC content to 0.2%. (THC content is a measure of the herb's drug potential and can reach 25% or more in drug strains).

In the UK hemp seed and fibre have always been perfectly legal products. Cultivation for non drug purposes was, however, completely prohibited from 1928 until circa 1998, when Home Office industrial-purpose licenses became available under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971.

Hemp seed may be used as food. Though the UK's Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) will not issue cultivation licenses for this purpose, treating it as a non-food crop, the seed appears on the UK market as a food product.

Hemp is the common name for cannabis and is the English term used when this annual herb is grown for non-drug purposes. These include industrial purposes for which cultivation licenses may be issued in the European Union (EU). When grown for industrial purposes hemp is often called industrial hemp, and a common product is fibre for use in a variety of different ways. Fuel is often a by-product of hemp cultivation.

Cannabis sativa (left), Cannabis indica (center) and Cannabis ruderalis (right)

Non-drug purposes

Country Status Notes
Saudi Arabia Has been used An Iraqi man named Mattar bin Bakhit al-Khazaali was convicted of smuggling hashish in the northern town of Arar, close to the Iraqi border and was executed in 2005.[56]
Indonesia Has been used In 1997, the Indonesian government added the death penalty as a punishment for those convicted of drugs in their country. The law has yet to be enforced on any significant, well-established drug dealers. The former Indonesian President, Megawati Sukarnoputri announced Indonesia's intent to implement a fierce war on drugs in 2002. She called for the execution of all drug dealers. "For those who distribute drugs, life sentences and other prison sentences are no longer sufficient," she said. "No sentence is sufficient other than the death sentence." Indonesia's new president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, also proudly supports executions for drug dealers.[57]
Malaysia Has been used Mustaffa Kamal Abdul Aziz, 38 years old, and Mohd Radi Abdul Majid, 53 years old, were executed at dawn on January 17, 1996, for the trafficking of 1.2 kilograms of cannabis.[58]
Philippines No longer imposed The Philippines abolished the death penalty on June 24, 2006.[59] Previously, the Philippines had introduced stronger anti-drug laws, including the death penalty, in 2002.[60] Possession of over 500 grams of marijuana usually earned execution in the Philippines, as did possessing over ten grams of opium, morphine, heroin, ecstasy, or cocaine. Angeles City is often a vatican for Filipino cannabis users and cultivators, although enforcement has been inconsistent.[61]
United Arab Emirates Sentenced In the United Arab Emirates city of Fujairah, a woman named Lisa Tray was sentenced to death in December 2004, after being found guilty of possessing and dealing hashish. Undercover officers in Fujairah claim they caught Tray with 149 grams of hashish. Her lawyers have appealed the sentence.

In July 2012, a 23-year-old British man Nathaniel Lees,[62] and an unnamed 19-year-old Syrian citizen were sentenced to death for attempting to sell 20 grams (about 3/4 of an ounce) of marijuana to an undercover officer in Dubai. [63] [64] [65]

Thailand Frequently used Death penalty is possible for drug offenses under Thai law. Extrajudicial killings also alleged.[66]
Singapore Frequently used Death penalty has been carried out many times for cannabis trafficking. (July 20, 2004) A convicted drug trafficker, Raman Selvam Renganathan who stored 2.7 kilograms of cannabis or marijuana in a Singapore flat was hanged in Changi Prison. He was sentenced to death on September 1, 2003 after an eight-day trial. (The Straits Times, July 20, 2004).
People's Republic of China Frequently used Death penalty is exercised regularly for drug tradings under Chinese law, often in an annual frenzy corresponding to the United Nations' International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug trafficking.[67] The government does not make precise records public, however Amnesty International estimates that around 500 people are executed there each year for drug offenses. Those executed have typically been convicted of smuggling or trafficking in anything from cannabis to methamphetamine.
United States Never imposed While current US federal law allows for the death penalty for those who have extraordinary amounts of the drug (60,000 kilograms or 60,000 plants) or are part of a continuing criminal enterprise in smuggling contraband which nets over $20 million, the Kennedy v. Louisiana)

Several countries have either carried out or legislated capital punishment for cannabis trafficking.

Use of capital punishment against the cannabis trade

In response to this campaign, U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D-Colo.) has been quoting saying: "It's a bizarre, ill-fated campaign...I think they need to go back to the drawing board on that one." Polis went on to say that "Most people who saw [the advertisements] thought they had something to do with PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), like they are trying to free laboratory rats from the University of Colorado...And also, kids are playing in the cages." While Rep. Polis has been critical, Dr. Wolk says "We are pleased that the Don't Be a Lab Rat campaign has served as a catalyst to start a much-needed conversation among teens, parents and influencers about the potential negative effects of marijuana on developing brains...Critique and criticism of the creative elements of the campaign were to be expected and have helped further the conversation." [55]

On the other hand, Dr. Larry Wolk, the executive director and chief medical officer at the state health department and one of the driving forces behind "Don’t Be a Lab Rat", stated that the entire intent of the campaign was to get kids to start talking amongst themselves and with adults about the possible effects of marijuana. Although the campaign was shut down in the schools within Boulder, it has been, according to Dr. Wolk, very successful in other locations. For example, the campaigns that were in Denver’s public library and downtown skate park had received much positive feedback.[54]

Later that August in 2014, the city of Boulder, Colorado’s superintendent, Bruce Messinger, announced that the "Don’t Be a Lab Rat" campaign would not be appropriate for the community. Messinger stated that his objection to the campaign was the fact that inviting pre-teen to teenage students into massive rat cages was not the most effective way to get their message across. Messinger was quoted saying "scare tactics don’t work". He then went on in the interview to question the validity of some of the studies referred to in the "Don’t Be a Lab Rat" campaign.[53]

In August of 2014, Colorado public health officials started an advertising campaign targeted at teenagers warning them of the dangers of smoking marijuana during adolescence. The campaign, which is called "Don't Be a Lab Rat", is displaying human-sized cages across Colorado that display provocative messages about harm the drug can cause while the teenage body is maturing. This campaign, which also includes television commercials, has been criticized by Colorado's legal pot industry and has been called a scare tactic. The campaign has been funded with $2 million from the state attorney generals office, as well as the city of Denver, and foundations across the state. Mike Sukle's advertising agency was hired by the state and designed the campaign and has called the job "a monumental task".[52]

Despite the rules against allowing dispensaries to advertise in the public space, the magazine High Times has sued the state of Colorado in order to gain advertising in print press. The law states that stores providing recreational marijuana can advertise in publications that have "reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the publication's readership is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21". This lawsuit argues that the inability to advertise in magazines, as well as any kind of medium, is as restriction on the freedom of speech article in the Constitution. However, none of these policies apply to the medical marijuana business. Also accompanying the High Times magazine in this lawsuit is a local publication called Westwood.[50] David Lane, the attorney representing High Times, states that these rules "irrationally single out Retail Marijuana Establishments for more stringent advertising restrictions than those regulating the alcohol industry, although the Colorado Constitution calls for the regulation of marijuana ‘in a manner similar to alcohol.’" [51] This lawsuit, commencing in February, still has not come to any conclusion.

The Associated Press reports that Colorado attorney Lenny Frieling, an outspoken marijuana legalization advocate, didn't want marijuana singled out like this saying, "I don't think any medicines should be advertised, period, end of story. Whether it's medical marijuana or something that will give me an erection for eight hours, I find it all inappropriate," Frieling said. "Ban it all or don't ban any of it." However most of Denver's city council members disagreed with Frieling and do want to give medical marijuana businesses the ability to advertise—just not in the over-the-top way that some have been. "We are still allowing advertising," Councilman Herndon, one of the backers of the ad ban said. "We just don't want it in your face." [49]

On the other side of the debate is the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), a trade association that advocates for responsible medical marijuana regulation at the local, state, and national level, who actively pushed for the ad ban that passed, and says the ban is ultimately positive for the industry. Michael Elliott, the executive director of MMIG explained in a Huffington Post article why he and his group supported the article: "The Denver City Council recently passed an ordinance which will eliminate certain troublesome advertising practices utilized by some participants in the medical marijuana industry. My organization, the Medical Marijuana Industry Group (MMIG), supported this ordinance because we believe it finds the right balance between protecting the interests of the medical marijuana community and the citizens of Denver [...] Under the new ordinance, medical marijuana businesses will still have access to a comprehensive range of affordable venues in which to advertise. These include but are not limited to: the print media, merchandising, and web-based solutions including social media. In addition, business signage will still be allowed. But most importantly, patients can be assured that they will have the necessary tools to easily locate and procure their medication. Put simply, this ordinance addresses those concerns most often voiced by Denver’s citizenry, while maintaining the rights of industry participants to market their businesses in an efficient, fair, and cost-effective manner." [48]

Kush Magazine reported in June that the often loud, over-the-top advertising by medical marijuana dispensaries in Denver has to do with trying to stand out in an overcrowded marketplace—there are approximately 200 dispensaries in Denver alone competing for more than 50,000 valid patients. Pot industry magazine The Medical Marijuana Business Daily says that the ban could force dispensaries to market themselves in more traditional ways making it harder to stand out and much harder to attract local passersby with a showy billboard or sign twirler. But perhaps that's not all bad when the signage the proposed ban addresses has created some backlash.[49]

The medical marijuana community in Denver remains divided on this issue. The Cannabis Business Alliance, one advocacy group that fought against the full ad ban, was disappointed by the outcome. They claim that although they supported the original proposal to ban ads within 1,000 feet of schools and parks, the terms of this full ban are not clear enough in regards to outside marketing that falls outside of billboards, bus benches, and sign twirlers like festivals and merchandise. Kush Magazine went as far as saying that the ban is a violation of the First Amendment.[48]

In 2012, Denver City Council voted unanimously to ban all outdoor medical marijuana ads in the state of Colorado, where marijuana is legal to purchase for people 21 years of age or older. This ban includes billboards, posters, bus benches, and sign twirlers. Marijuana businesses are still able to advertise on television, radio, online, and on print but must use a disclaimer indicating the products being advertised are for registered Colorado medical marijuana patients only.[48] The council's Debbie Ortega and Christopher Herndon are behind the proposal which is an expansion of a May plan by Ortega that called for a ban on medical marijuana ads within 1,000 feet of schools, daycares and parks after she received complaints from constituents, Westword reports.[49]


It has been put forth that drug prohibition laws are incompatible with the protections afforded by the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The scope for the ECHR to be co-opted to evolve drug policy is far from exhausted. Involved are article 8 (right to private and family life), article 9 (freedom of thought), and article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).[47]

Human rights

The medicinal use of narcotics is permitted by the Shafiites, Malikites and Hanafites.[43]

The 13th century Maliki jurist al-Qarafi held that hashish is less harmful than wine. He agreed with most Shafi jurists that the illegal consumption of narcotics such as hashish and opium should only be punished by taʿzir (discretionary punishment, usually in the form of corporal chastisement), not by the harsher penal category of ḥadd, which would entail a fixed punishment of 80 or 40 lashes.[43]

The 13th century Hanbali jurist Ibn Taymiyya insisted that narcotic drugs like hashish carry the same prohibition as wine (khamr), and should be punished as hadd by whipping with 40 or 80 lashes. Some modern jurists, for instance, the Egyptian Board of Fatwa, have accepted the strict view of Ibn Taymiyya.[43]

The 14th century Shafi jurist al-Zarkashi has written a book on hashish, Zahr al-ʿarish fi taḥrīm al-ḥashīsh, which details the physical hazards of hashish consumption and the moral effects the substance has, which are deemed to be parallel to those associated with wine and intoxication. Al-Zarkashi did, however, admit to some of hashish's positive (and legal) anaesthetising abilities. It was the use of hashish for enjoyment and pleasure that raised the ire of al-Zarkashi, as it did for almost every Muslim jurist.[46] The 16th century Shafi jurist Ibn Hadjar al-Haytami includes a serious legal discussion of drugs in his collection of fatwas on fiqh (al-Fatawa al-kubra al-fikhiyya).[43]

The 11th century Sufi jurist al-Ghazali, in his greatest work, Iḥyāʾ ʿulūm al-dīn ("The Revival of the Religious Sciences"), has put forth that suicide being forbidden, man has a duty to keep himself alive and in good health. From this is deduced the prohibition of injurious substances, notably intoxicants such as bandj (henbane); in the Mughal Empire, non-Muslims as well as Muslims were, from social and humanitarian motives, forbidden to use it. Nowadays this prohibition is stressed especially with regard to opium, hashish, cocaine, etc.[45]

In the medieval Arab world, hashish use was associated with Sufism, a counterculture within the Arab community in the same way that the hippies of the 1960s represented a counterculture within American society. Their religious stance and non-conformist attitudes to conservative Islamic rules combined to make the Sufis pariahs in the Arab world. Islamic leaders used the Sufi's hashish culture as a pretext for oppressing dissent within the societies they controlled. While the efforts to eliminate hashish were often quite dramatic, all attempts ultimately proved futile.[44]

The medieval jurists, especially the Hanafis, had a lenient view towards some narcotic drugs such as hashish. However, some Hanafi authorities such as al-Muzani (9th century) and al-Tahawi (10th century) started to outlaw narcotic drugs. As the recreational use of hashish became widespread, the prohibitions followed suit.[43]

The Quran explicitly prohibits wine. Sura V, 92: "O true believers! Surely wine and maysir (gambling) and stone pillars and divining arrows, are an abomination of the work of Satan; therefore avoid them, that ye may prosper". As to the question, whether alcoholic spirits had to be considered as wine or not, all the Sunni madhāhib (schools of Islamic law), except the Hanafis, have answered the question in the affirmative sense. The prohibition of wine and spirits (according to three of the four madhhabs) is one of the distinctive marks of the Muslim world.[41] In contrast, hashish use is widespread in India, Asia Minor, Morocco, Egypt, Algeria, Syria, and other parts of Africa.[42]

Sharia law

In the Pew Research Center poll released on April 4, 2013, 52 percent of Americans support legalizing the drug and only 45 percent oppose legalization. While support has generally tracked upward over time, it has spiked 11 percentage points since 2010.[39] Research conducted by the Pew Research Center in February 2014 shows an increase in the percentage of legalization supporters, from 52% to 54%,[40]

In 2014, Colorado invested $2 million generated from marijuana sales tax revenue on campaigns aimed at anti-marijuana education of minors and the state has plans to spend double that amount, $4 million in 2015 (out of a total projected marijuana sales tax revenue of $125 million). The current campaigns provide information on the laws of marijuana and impacts on youth use, the dangers of driving under the influence of all drugs and the harmful side effects of using marijuana.[38] With strict laws on possession and use, the state is working to deter underage and unsafe use. By redirecting Colorado’s tax revenues to educational programs for youth and adults the state is showing a commitment to fully inform the public and that may be making strides in keeping youth pot use to a minimum, or at least helping to keep teen uses from increasing.

The marijuana industry has grown significantly since 2000 and federal officials maintain that the legalization of marijuana will contribute to the increase of youth and adolescent use because it will be easier to obtain, the perception of risk would be reduced and more adult role models will be using. However, studies in Colorado have shown that there has been no connection between legalized marijuana laws and youth marijuana use because Colorado teen use is lower than the national average, fewer teens are reporting they use marijuana than compared to reported use prior to legalization laws and underage use will continue to decrease with strict age limits and implementation of risk awareness programs.[37]

Attitudes regarding marijuana regulation have also changed as some states (Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska) have passed their own laws legalizing marijuana for recreational use. According to a Gallup Poll published in December 2012, 64% of Americans believe the federal government should not intervene in these states. The survey also found a difference in age groups for those that think marijuana should be legal and those that still support prohibition: 60% of 18-29 year-olds favor legalization while only 48% of those age 30-64 and 36% of those older than 65 feel this way.[36]

Many advocate legalization of cannabis, believing that it will eliminate the illegal trade and associated crime, yield a valuable tax-source and reduce policing costs.[32] Cannabis is now available as a palliative agent, in Canada, with a medical prescription. In 1969, only 16% percent of voters in the USA supported legalization, according to a poll by Gallup. According to the same source, that number had risen to 36% by 2005.[33] More recent polling indicates that the number has risen even further; in 2009, between 46% and 56% of US voters would support legalization.[34] According to press reports, supporters of the California initiative estimate that about $15 billion worth of marijuana is sold every year in the state. Thus, an excise tax on the retail sales of marijuana could raise at least $1.3 billion a year in revenue.[35]

Attitudes regarding legalization

Franklin D. Roosevelt promised in the 1932 presidential election to end the prohibition for alcohol and fulfilled that promise in 1933. However, Roosevelt supported more restrictive laws from 1935 for cannabis.[30] The U.S Treasury Department created a new department in 1930 named the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. Harry J. Anslinger - who previously held the position of Assistant Prohibition Commissioner - became the Commissioner of Narcotics in 1930. Commissioner Anslinger's report in 1935 noted: "In the absence of Federal legislation on the subject, the States and cities should rightfully assume the responsibility for providing vigorous measures for the extinction of this lethal weed, and it is therefore hoped that all public-spirited citizens will earnestly enlist in the movement urged by the Treasury Department to adjure intensified enforcement of marijuana laws."[31] By 1937, 46 out of 48 states had officially classified cannabis as a narcotic along the lines of morphine, heroin, and cocaine. Anslinger’s campaign supported the passing of the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. The bill originated in the Harrison Narcotic Act of 1914, but that law didn’t actually ban marijuana outright.

Alcohol and marijuana prohibition correlation

The Dutch Public Prosecution Service does not prosecute members of the public for "possession of small quantities of soft drugs," which are defined as: "no more than 5 grams of cannabis (marijuana or hash); no more than 5 cannabis plants." It is illegal to grow cannabis plants in the Netherlands, but in cases in which a maximum of five plants is grown for "personal consumption," the authorities will most likely seize the plants, without taking any further action. If more than five plants are seized, the police may also seek prosecution.[24]

As of October 2014, the Government of Netherlands website explains that coffee shops are permitted to sell cannabis under certain strict conditions: venues cannot sell alcoholic drinks; the consumption of alcohol on the premises is not permitted; the venues must not create any form of public nuisance; "hard drugs" cannot be sold; cannabis cannot be sold to minors; drugs cannot be advertised; and "large quantities" of cannabis (more than five grams) cannot be sold in a single transaction. Individual municipalities are responsible for permitting the establishment of cannabis coffee shops within their boundaries, and are also allowed to introduce additional rules.[24]

In July 2014, president Calzada announced that the implementation of the law is postponed to 2015, as "there are practical difficulties," and explained that authorities will grow all the cannabis that can be sold legally. The concentration of THC shall be 15% or lower.[28] An opposition presidential candidate claimed that the new law is never going to be applied, because of a perception that it is not practicable.[29]

Under the new law, people are allowed to buy up to 40 grams (1.4 oz) of cannabis from the Uruguayan government each month. Users have to be 18 or older and be registered in a national database to track their consumption. Cultivators are allowed to grow up to 6 crops at their homes each year and shall not surpass 480 grams (17 oz). Registered smoking clubs are allowed to grow 99 plants annually. Buying cannabis is prohibited to foreigners and it is illegal to move it across international borders.[27]

Uruguay then became the world's first nation to legalize the production, sale, and consumption of cannabis in December 2013 after a 16–13 vote in the Senate.[7] Julio Calzada, Secretary-General of Uruguay’s National Drug Council, said in a December 2013 interview that the government will be responsible for regulating the production side of the process: "Companies can get a license to cultivate if they meet all the criteria. However, this won’t be a free market. The government will control the entire production and determine the price, quality, and maximum production volume."[26]

In a historical event with global significance, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed two bills on May 28, 2013 that made Colorado the world's first fully regulated recreational cannabis market for adults. Hickenlooper said to the media: "Certainly, this industry will create jobs. Whether it’s good for the brand of our state is still up in the air. But the voters passed Amendment 64 by a clear majority. That’s why we’re going to implement it as effectively as we possibly can." In its independent analysis, the Colorado Center on Law and Policy found that the state could expect a to see "$60 million in total combined savings and additional revenue for Colorado’s budget with a potential for this number to double after 2017."[25]

On January 1, 2013, an amendment to the Netherlands' cannabis policy was introduced to "combat drug-related crime and nuisance." The new rule requires cannabis coffee shop owners to monitor the identities of their customers to ensure that only residents of the Netherlands purchase cannabis. Owners are expected to maintain adherence through procedures such as asking customers to produce valid documents to prove their status.[24]

On November 6, 2012, Colorado Amendment 64 and Washington Initiative 502 were passed by popular initiative, thereby becoming the first American states to legalize the recreational use of cannabis under state law. However cannabis is still classified as a schedule I controlled substance under federal law and is subject to federal prosecution under the doctrine of dual sovereignty and Supremacy Clause.

A BBC article, published in October 2011, reported on the actions of local authorities in the border town of Maastricht in the Netherlands. According to the article, the authorities were primarily concerned with those cannabis customers who had traveled from other European countries, such as Belgium and Germany. At the time, broader restrictions, which would apply to the entire nation, were being discussed in the Dutch parliament. From October 1, 2011, only Dutch, Belgian and German residents would be prohibited from purchasing cannabis from venues in Maastricht.[23]


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