by Cecilia Rodriguez, Contributor
Right there, on the front page of one of our daily newspapers in Luxembourg, is a full-page photo of the Health minister smoking a big, fat joint.
Ok, it was just a photoshopped ad for the paper, with a caption that promised: “When the government legalizes cannabis, you’ll hear about it from us.”
Although unusual and clearly out there, the ad triggered no outcry from readers, the government, or the minister himself. It was just another ad, no different, really, than seeing people smoking marijuana in movies or in television series. Weed seems to be the new cigarette in popular culture. The use of marijuana as an adult pastime is becoming mainstream.
It’s not only the more realistic media depiction of marijuana usage, or the recent laws decriminalizing recreational use in different countries including, remarkably, the United States (well, several states).
It’s also that the swelling wave of openness to the idea of legalizing pot is also opening doors to efforts that until now had been kept well below the radar due to the “illegal” nature of the practice, despite its widesepread trafficking and use on a global scale.
France offers the most recent sign of changing attitudes. While consumption and production of pot for personal use are not criminal offenses in France, growing and selling for other than personal use is illegal. So 150 to 200 “clubs” of growers operating quietly, and their umbrella association called Cannabis Social Clubs, have decided to come out of the dark to lobby openly for legalization. Their main argument? Cannabis cultivated and sold legally and under regulations is the best way to fight crime.
Or, rather, “to protect our society from the perverse activities of the mafias that not only sell doubtful products at exorbitant prices but also sell to our kids,” according to one of the founders of the Social Clubs.
Unlike the Netherlands where selling and using marijuana is legal in the infamous “coffeshops,” the French social clubs follow the model set across the border in Spain, where the law allows the cultivation of marijuana in small amounts and for private use. As a result, numerous cannabis clubs have sprung up across Spain, arguing that relatively small plantations providing marijuana offer the most effective way to keep control of the market, the quality of the product, the prices and to ensure that minors can’t get their hands on it.
The French Cannabis Social Clubs, campaigning to attract more members among private growers, have announced their intention to apply for legal permits at their local police stations starting in February. The permits don’t exist yet – this is an act of civic disobedience aimed at pressing the Socialist government to move to decriminalization.
Another impact of the global wave of openness and public debate around pot is the publication of scientific research that in many cases has been done secretly – like the government-approved experimental farms in Israel that recently earned international headlines.
Although the use and possession of marijuana is still illegal in Israel and has not been regulated for medicinal purposes as in 18 American states, those farms located in a secret place are on ”the cutting edge of the debate on the legality, benefits and risks of cannabis,” according to the New York Times.
Fitted with state-of-the-art equipment to control light, humidity, heat, and composition of the soil, they experiment producing cannabis of different strengths and proprieties and have become a “thriving commercial enterprise.”
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