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Tuesday, Jun 03, 2003
"Canada's move to decriminalize is part of a shift in international attitudes toward pot, away from the "reefer madness" legacy. Spain and Italy decriminalized marijuana in the 1990's. Portugal decriminalized it in 2001, Luxembourg and Belgium the next year. In the Netherlands — where pot has been available since 1976 — "pharmaceutical grade" cannabis is provided, free of charge, through the national health service. Britain plans to reduce penalties for possession this summer, a policy supported by the nation's leading medical journal, The Lancet. It concluded, "moderate indulgence in cannabis has little ill effect on health."
Meanwhile, the United States has escalated its war on pot. The number of marijuana arrests now approaches three-quarters of a million annually, largely for simple possession. More people are in prison for marijuana crimes today than ever before. Dozens, if not hundreds, are serving life sentences for nonviolent pot offenses. Attorney General John Ashcroft has called for full enforcement of the pot laws and spearheaded a crackdown on medicinal marijuana providers in California, though their efforts are legal under state law."