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September 1996 Cannabis News

1st September DUTCH TOWN COUNCIL OPENS COFFEESHOP
13th September NEW SAN FRANCISCO MEDICAL DISTRIBUTION SET UP
16th September LOS ANGELES BUYERS CLUB BUSTED
30th September 18 DRUG-USING SCOTTISH SOLDIERS FACE SACK


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Sunday 1st September

DUTCH TOWN COUNCIL OPENS COFFEESHOP

A soft drugs shop with a difference, has opened in the northern harbour town of Delfzijil. The £ 200 000 café has been opened by the town council itself, modelled on a similar project in the town of Bussum, outside Amsterdam. Profits from the store will fund education campaigns on drug use, and the store will be staffed with counselors and youth workers offering free health information on drug use.
The café is called Paradox, a reference to the contradictory Dutch drug policy, where trafficking is illegal, but small-scale sales of cannabis are tolerated. A special foundation is running the municipal marijuana outlet.
"Of course we don't want people to use drugs, but that's not realistic ... this is a healthier solution," city spokeswoman Marjon Edzes told the Associated Press. She wouldn't say where the drugs will be supplied from, except to say they will be supplied "behind closed doors."
Dutch authorities have long maintained that their permissive policy has successfully discouraged use of hard drugs. Separating soft and hard drugs has lead to Holland having the lowest hard drug addiction rates in Europe.
Recently neighbouring European countries, especially hard-line prohibitionist France, have put pressure on the Dutch to change their drugs policy, despite its success. The Dutch announced a crackdown on coffee shops to satisfy their European partners. The amount of cannabis that people can buy has been reduced to five grams, and cafes will not be allowed to sell both alcohol and cannabis. The situation will only change gradually however as shop’s licenses come up for renewal over the next year.
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Friday 13th September

NEW SAN FRANCISCO MEDICAL DISTRIBUTION SET UP

Bay Area patients have access to medical cannabis once more, as the Healing Alternatives Foundation (HAF) decided to take over from the busted and closed down buyers club. HAF will distribute cannabis from the Metropolitan Community Church on a weekly basis, and at least three other churches are expected to join the program. Checks on eligibility will be more rigorous however to discourage recreational users from obtaining cannabis. San Francisco’s leaders are firmly behind the plan.
HAF, founded in the early 1980s, specialises in providing non-traditional herbal remedies and non-FDA approved drugs to AIDS sufferers world-wide. The foundation makes no therapeutic claims about its products and urges buyers to discuss therapies with a doctor. "This was not an easy decision," said Curtis Ponzi of the HAF responsible for the distribution. "It was very stormy, very emotional. But we're filling a void."
Patients purchasing marijuana from the foundation must provide a note from their doctor stating that they have a legitimate medical need for cannabis. The foundation then double checks with the physician, a process that takes about a week. The verification process is thorough enough to discourage recreational users from attempting to purchase marijuana, stated Ponzi. The pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, Jim Mitulski said he is allowing his church to be used because medical cannabis is essential to the well-being of many of his congregation’s members. "We are not distributing it -- the foundation is," Mitulski said.
Community reaction to the program was positive. "Both Mayor Brown and I think this is a sound program," said Dean Goodwin, an aide to the San Francisco mayor. "They're concentrating on the people who really need it" The San Francisco Police Department will ignore the program: "we would only be interested in this if it became obvious that they were selling it to people who weren't sick," said narcotics division Sgt. Kurt Bruneman.
State Attorney General Dan Lungren ordered the raid of the buyers club amid allegations that cannabis was sold to people without a good medical reason. His press secretary Steve Telliano, said that they were aware of the program, and that they will watch and wait. "We're just keeping an eye on the situation to see what's happening."
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16th September

LOS ANGELES BUYERS CLUB BUSTED

The West Hollywood Buyers' Club which supplied cannabis to around 1,000 seriously ill people, has become the third to be raided this summer. Los Angeles county sheriffs raided the premises without the knowledge of city officials, who were reportedly outraged by the sheriffs' action. West Hollywood is one of several California communities to have adopted a resolution urging police to refrain from medical marijuana arrests.
During the raid, four employees, including two cancer patients and an AIDS patient, were arrested and later released. Officers confiscated about one pound of marijuana, pills, some brownies, and liquid believed to contain THC, said L.A. County Sheriff's Sgt. Robert Stoneman. Witnesses to the raid said that items relating to Proposition 215, the upcoming ballot on legalising medical cannabis, were also seized.
Both the San Francisco Buyer’s Club and Key West Buyer’s club were busted in August. Cannabis campaigners speculate that the busts are an attempt to discredit medical cannabis in the run-up to the election. After the San Francisco bust it was alleged that cannabis was sold to people without a good medical reason and that children were exposed to passive cannabis smoke. However in West Hollywood smoking was not permitted in the building, and members were screened by club staffers and were only accepted if they were referred by local AIDS treatment organisations.
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Monday 30th September

18 DRUG-USING SCOTTISH SOLDIERS FACE SACK

Eighteen soldiers face dismissal from the Army after being caught in random drugs tests. Twelve men from the Black Watch and six Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders tested positive for cannabis and other illegal soft drugs.
Last month 800 soldiers were tested at Fort George, Inverness and Redford Barracks, Edinburgh. The soldiers were informed of the positive results today, and will now face disciplinary hearings. An army spokesman told the Scottish Daily Mail that this "usually leads to an administrative discharge from the Army but each case is looked at individually and if there are special circumstances then there may be a second chance given."
Under the random compulsary tests, every regiment can be targetted with little or no notice. More than 18 000 officers and men have been tested since January '95 when the tests were introduced. Just over a 100 have tested positive, and most of them have been sacked. From the Scottish regiments, 22 Argylls, 18 Royal Highland Fusiliers, 7 King's Own Scottish Borderers and 3 Royal Scots have been sacked for taking Ecstasy, amphetamine and cannabis.
The Army is finding it hard to attract enough recruits, and is being forced to relax its rules on who can join. Last year it relaxed its ban on convicted drug users joining up. If present rates of soft drug use among young males increase then the Army may be forced to stop sacking soldiers caught using drugs. A military expert told the Scottish Daily Mail that "the Army has far greater problems with alcohol and tobacco."
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