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Can Zambia save its environment with marijuana?

Green party’s presidential candidate Peter Sinkamba is promising voters to cut country’s dependency on mining – by growing and exporting marijuana

Peter Sinkamba on campaign trail in Chingola city, part of Zambia’s copperbelt. Photograph: Courtesy of The Independent Observer

For decades, Zambia has staked its economic fortunes on copper mining. But when voters in this southern African nation go to the polls in January to select a new president, at least one candidate will be looking to send that tradition up in smoke.

On Friday, Peter Sinkamba will announce his candidacy on the Green party ticket to replace the late President Michael Sata, who died on 29 October from an undisclosed illness. Sinkamba, regarded as Zambia’s leading environmentalist for his battles against the country’s big copper mines, is running on an unlikely platform, especially in this socially conservative nation: legalising marijuana.

His plan, first announced in April, calls for cannabis’ legalisation for medicinal use in Zambia, which would be a first in Africa. The surplus crop would be exported abroad, earning Zambia what Sinkamba claims could be billions of dollars.

At stake is an opportunity to diversify Zambia’s economy while beginning to clean up the environmental degradation left by close to a century of intensive opencast mining.

Copper has long been Zambia’s national treasure, having fired the country to middle-income status in the 1960s and 70s. But by the late 1990s, tumbling copper prices sent the country’s mining income to its lowest levels since independence from the UK in 1964.

Mining has since rebounded. In 2012, copper exports amounted to $6.3bn (£4bn), or nearly 70% of Zambia’s total export market. But many Zambians now find their country’s dependency on copper stifling. Local communities suffer from environmental impacts like toxic sulphur dioxide emissions from refineries.

In an interview with the Guardian in his hometown of Kitwe, the Copperbelt’s largest city, Sinkamba said his marijuana proposal would wean Zambia off its addiction to mining by prioritising its fledgling agricultural sector.

“Historically, we’ve been the kind of people that have consumed a lot of marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “It is massively cultivated across the whole country [for the black market] … So what we’re saying is, look, let’s come out of it and legalise it.”

Sinkamba reckons that Zambia could capture up to 10% of a global marijuana market – estimated at $140bn by the UN in 2005 – which would make it more lucrative than copper mining. In a shadow budget released earlier this year, the Green party claimed marijuana exports would boost GDP by over 68% by 2021.

Experts on the international drug trade, however, caution that Sinkamba’s scheme might be half-baked. According to John Collins, an international drug policy researcher at the London School of Economics, the export of marijuana for recreational use would run afoul of the 1961 UN single convention on international narcotics control.

Nor would marijuana exports necessarily be all that profitable, added Jon Caulkins, a cannabis expert at Carnegie Mellon University, who pointed out that it would take less than 10,000 acres to grow all the THC (the main constituent in marijuana) consumed in the US. Zambia has about 87.4m arable acres.

However, Collins called Sinkamba’s plan “entirely doable” if he can take advantage of loopholes that exist in international drug law for medicinal drugs. Israel, for example, last year considered a plan to export medicinal marijuana to the Czech Republic, but shied away out of concern that becoming an international drug dealer would look bad politically.

“I think the key for Zambia is that they may view the economic returns from the industry as outweighing political concerns which would limit countries like Israel going too far down this route at the moment,” he said.

In any case, Sinkamba is a dark horse in the election. But he insists that his proposal has struck a chord with a disillusioned, and very young, electorate.

On the streets of Kitwe, Sinkamba is greeted by young people with cries of “Legalise!” belted with the same vigour as anti-apartheid activists in South Africa once chanted “Amandla! [power].”

“When we look at the trends, the world is going in the direction of legalising marijuana,” said Sinkamba. “But we don’t want to be the last ones. We want to be the first ones.”

Source: TheGuardian

The Pot Pot Rots

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The great marijuana (Cannabis sativa) debate.

Marijuana has had a potted history, controlled in 1906 as a medicine, until it was banned outright in  the 1930s.

“Several scholars argue that the goal was to destroy the hemp industry, largely as an effort of Hearst, Andrew Mellon and the Du Pont family. They argue that with the invention of the decorticator hemp became a very cheap substitute for the paper pulp that was used in the newspaper industry.They also believe that Hearst felt that this was a threat to his extensive timber holdings. Mellon was Secretary of the Treasury and the wealthiest man in America and had invested heavily in nylon, DuPont’s new synthetic fiber, and considered its success to depend on its replacement of the traditional resource, hemp.” – Wikipedia

FBN public service announcement used in the late 1930s and 1940s – image: Wikipedia

A campaign to justify the banning by smearing the reputation of cannabis was waged, and the moneybags won; cannabis became illegal.

Since this time the laws have made millions of criminals, made cannabis a source of income for the drug cartels and dealers as the world waged a war on it.

The war has been totally ineffective, it has not decreased usage; quite the opposite it increased usage. Billions of dollars have been spent in this futility.

Some countries began to question the effectiveness of the ban; with places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal timidly making inroads to normality. Meanwhile a few Latin American countries have begun to question the situation too.

Now we come to an unassuming man, a humble man, one José Mujica, he is the president of Uruguay. José Mujica is the antithesis of nearly every president in the world, he is the president that we all deserve instead of the arrogant power hungry bastards that we are saddled with. Previous post on The World’s Poorest President

Uruguay MPs back marijuana legalisation bill

Those supporting the bill want it passed quickly

Members of Uruguay’s House of Representatives have passed a bill to legalise marijuana.

If it goes on to be approved by the Senate, Uruguay will become the first country to regulate the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

The measure is backed by the government of President Jose Mujica, who says it will remove profits from drug dealers and divert users from harder drugs.

Under the bill, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana.

The state would assume “the control and regulation of the importation, exportation, plantation, cultivation, the harvest, the production, the acquisition, the storage, the commercialisation and the distribution of cannabis and its by-products”.

Buyers would have to be registered on a database and be over the age of 18. They would be able to buy up to 40g (1.4oz) per month in specially licensed pharmacies or grow up to six plants at home.

Foreigners would be excluded from the measure.

Political tussle

The bill was approved by 50 of the 96 MPs present in the lower house following a fierce 13-hour debate in the capital, Montevideo.

The supporters of the measure argued that the fight against drugs and drug trafficking had failed, and the country needed “new alternatives”.

“The regulation is not to promote consumption; consumption already exists,” said Sebastian Sabini of the governing centre-left Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition, which has a majority of one in the lower house.

Marijuana use has reportedly doubled in Uruguay over the past year. An estimated 22 tonnes of marijuana are being sold in the country annually, according to Uruguay’s National Drugs Committee.

But Gerardo Amarilla of the opposition National Party said the government was “playing with fire” given the health risks he said were linked to marijuana use.

All eyes were on Dario Perez, a member of the governing coalition but a strong opponent of the bill, whose vote could have scuppered the bill.

During his 20-minute speech, Mr Perez reiterated his belief that the issue should be put to a referendum and not have been “imposed” by the government.

But to applause by supporters of the bill in the public gallery, he finally concluded that as long as he was a member of the coalition, he would vote with it, despite his personal misgivings.

The bill is now expected to be approved by the Senate, where the left-wing government has a bigger majority.

But opposition politicians said that even if the law made it through the senate, they would launch a petition to have it overturned.

A survey carried out before the vote by polling organisation Cifra suggested 63% of Uruguayans opposed the bill.

Papal opposition

The progress of the bill is being watched closely across the region, says BBC Mundo correspondent in the region Ignacio de los Reyes.

President Jose Mujica says he has never tried marijuana but believes it should be legalised

For decades, drug trafficking has caused tens of thousands of deaths throughout Latin America.

Uruguay may have not experienced the bloodshed caused by drug trafficking, but the proposal could be seen as a test for violence-torn nations looking for an end to their drug wars, our correspondent adds.

The vote also comes just days after Pope Francis criticised drug legalisation plans during a visit to neighbouring Brazil.

The pontiff said it was “necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future”.

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The Great Marijuana Debate

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First of all, we need to look at why cannabis is illegal.

“Many people assume that marijuana was made illegal through some kind of process involving scientific, medical, and government hearings; that it was to protect the citizens from what was determined to be a dangerous drug.

The actual story shows a much different picture. Those who voted on the legal fate of this plant never had the facts, but were dependent on information supplied by those who had a specific agenda to deceive lawmakers. You’ll see below that the very first federal vote to prohibit marijuana was based entirely on a documented lie on the floor of the Senate.

You’ll also see that the history of marijuana’s criminalization is filled with:

  • Racism
  • Fear
  • Protection of Corporate Profits
  • Yellow Journalism
  • Ignorant, Incompetent, and/or Corrupt Legislators
  • Personal Career Advancement and Greed

These are the actual reasons marijuana is illegal.

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Background

For most of human history, marijuana has been completely legal. It’s not a recently discovered plant, nor is it a long-standing law. Marijuana has been illegal for less than 1% of the time that it’s been in use. Its known uses go back further than 7,000 B.C. and it was legal as recently as when Ronald Reagan was a boy.

The marijuana (hemp) plant, of course, has an incredible number of uses. The earliest known woven fabric was apparently of hemp, and over the centuries the plant was used for food, incense, cloth, rope, and much more. This adds to some of the confusion over its introduction in the United States, as the plant was well known from the early 1600′s, but did not reach public awareness as a recreational drug until the early 1900′s.”DrugWarRant.com

Most Americans have no idea why cannabis (marijuana) is illegal.

The truth is that the move was politically motivated, and not beyond corporate interference.

Check this:

Is a major reason that cannabis is illegal today.

“DuPont’s involvment in the anti-hemp campaign can also be explained with great ease. At this time, DuPont was patenting a new sulfuric acid process for producing wood-pulp paper. “According to the company’s own records, wood-pulp products ultimately accounted for more than 80% of all DuPont’s railroad car loadings for the next 50 years” (ibid). Indeed it should be noted that “two years before the prohibitive hemp tax in 1937, DuPont developed a new synthetic fiber, nylon, which was an ideal substitute for hemp rope” (Hartsell). The year after the tax was passed DuPont came out with rayon, which would have been unable to compete with the strength of hemp fiber or its economical process of manufacturing. “DuPont’s point man was none other than Harry Anslinger…who was appointed to the FBN by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who was also chairman of the Mellon Bank, DuPont’s chief financial backer. Anslinger’s relationship to Mellon wasn’t just political, he was also married to Mellon’s niece” (Hartsell). It doesn’t take much to draw a connection between DuPont, Anslinger, and Mellon, and it’s obvious that all of these groups, including Hearst, had strong motivation to prevent the growth of the hemp industry.”The Vaults of Erowid

Cannabis was made illegal at the behest of a corporate giant.

Nothing to do with being a drug, nothing to do with madness nor jazz music. Everything to do with corporate profits.

Of course the USA pushed the world into the same thinking, dragging the rest of the world into its own cesspool.

Now other countries are starting to think for themselves, and the American government doesn’t like it.

Uruguay, Guatemala, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and now Chile are beginning to question the logic and search for better ways to manage the issue. Places like Holland, Belgium and Portugal have already made inroads into the issue.

Chilean senator’s confession heats debate on legalising marijuana

Marijuana remains an illegal substance in Chile, but there are a growing number of shops in the country which sell cannabis products.

A recent admission by Senator Fulvio Rossi that he occasionally smokes the drug has heated the debate over whether the drug should be legalised.

Check the BBC video clip.

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