Last Week in Weed Issue 39

In this week’s Last Week in Weed, Missouri activists file ‘legalisation’ ballot, UK and Albanian ‘Prisoner transfer agreement’ and UK cannabis ‘entrepreneur jailed.

Last Week in Weed

(30/8/21)

Last Week in Weed: A weekly blog written by Simpa

In this week’s issue of Last Week in Weed, We’ll be looking at the US state of Missouri filing ‘legalisation’ ballot, a new ‘prisoner transfer agreement’ begins between UK and Albania, and a UK cannabis ‘entrepreneur’ jailed for selling own branded ‘flavours’

Missouri cannabis ‘legalisation’ initiative filed

The ‘Legal Missouri 2022’ a coalition of cannabis activists, patients, reform advocates, and entrepreneurs recently filed a ‘citizens ballot initiative’ in the Midwestern US state of Missouri. The aim of the campaigners is to give tens of thousands of Missourians the chance to start life over without a criminal record.

The new ballot measure would allow anyone over the age of 21 to purchase, possess, cultivate, and consume cannabis in the state. Campaigners are hoping to create a robust well-regulated industry that will prioritise criminal and social justice over corporate profit.

This would be achieved through an automatic expungement provision included in the ballot. Missouri would be only the eighth state to champion this approach despite there now being 19 ‘legal’ and 37 ‘medical’ cannabis states.

Missouri shouldn’t legalize marijuana without automatically expunging thousands of criminal records for marijuana offenses that will soon be legal,” “We enthusiastically support this ballot initiative, which will be the single largest criminal justice reform undertaken in Missouri and long overdue” – John Bowman, president of the St. Louis County NAACP 

Cannabis was ‘decriminalised’ in Missouri in 2014 after the passing of Senate Bill 491. ‘Medical cannabis’ was ‘legalised’ in 2018 through a similar citizens ballot measure, although the first sales didn’t officially begin until October 2020.

This new initiative is expected to gain more support than the previous 66% that approved ‘medical cannabis’ in 2018. Some of the campaigners from that initiative have been involved in the drafting of this new measure.

There’s widespread support among Missouri voters to regulate, tax and legalize marijuana. The status quo has allowed an unsafe, illegal market to thrive in Missouri while preventing law enforcement from truly prioritizing the fight against violent crime” 

Now is the time for Missouri to join the 19 other states to have successfully regulated and taxed adult-use marijuana, bringing millions in new funding for vital state services” – John Payne, Legal Missouri 2022 campaign manager.

The ‘Legal Missouri 2022’ initiative is designed to broaden participation in the juvenile industry. It seeks to include provisions to prioritises small businesses and provide a space for members of ‘historically disadvantaged communities and ‘residents of high-poverty communities to enter the industry.

We are very proud of the strong patient, consumer, and community protections included in the petition. Cannabis reform is about more than establishing a safe and legal market. It is about righting the many wrongs prohibition has caused to our communities, especially to communities of color” – Jamie Kacz, NORML KC

Campaigners must now collect at least 175,000 signatures by Autumn for the initiative to qualify to be on the 2022 state election ballot. Given the ease at which its ‘medical marijuana program passed, I think it is fair to say this is likely to exceed the required signatories and cruise onto the 20202 ballot.

The UK and Albanian justice Ministers, Chris Philp and Etilda Gjonaj pose after signing ‘Prisoner Transfer Agreement’

‘Prisoner transfer agreement’ begins between UK and Albania

The first Albanian nationals caught cultivating cannabis in the UK have been deported back to Albania under a controversial new ‘Prisoner transfer agreement.’ Earlier this year the UK and Albanian governments agreed on a scheme to repatriate Albanian citizens caught unlawfully cultivating and dealing cannabis in the UK. 

Under the deal formally agreed by the UK and Albanian justice Ministers, Chris Philp and Etilda Gjonaj, nationals of both countries can be sent without their consent to serve their prison sentence in their home country if arrested and jailed in the other country. The agreement also includes a lifetime ban from entering the UK.

We are committed to removing foreign criminals who have abused our hospitality and inflicted misery on our communities. Someone who commits a serious crime in the UK should be barred from returning so that the taxpayer no longer has to pay for them and victims can be confident justice has been done” – Chris Philp, UK Minister for immigration compliance and justice

Albanian nationals currently represent the largest single group of foreign prisoners in English and Welsh prisons. They make up 10% of all non-British prisoners, with 1,500 currently incarcerated in England and Wales – a large percentage of those is likely to be cannabis offences. As to how many Brits are locked up in Albanian prisons, the UK doesn’t seem to have specific data on the numbers but has said that ‘The British Government believes very few British citizens are in Albanian prisons.’

Cannabis isn’t really ‘illegal’ in Albania, personal use and possession of a ‘single dose’ are not criminalised. Possession of more than a single dose and dealing are categorised as ‘trafficking’ and can result in some serious prison time. Special allowances are sometimes made if an individual is found to be a consumer, then treatment or house arrest may be recommended over imprisonment.

I find it hard to justify Albanians being handed lengthy sentences in the UK and serving them in a prison back home, when their domestic laws may not have been so heavy-handed. While I acknowledge the need for some kind of intervention, I am just not convinced that deporting individuals that are often a victim of human trafficking is the right action here.

Something must be done to help reduce the damage and disruption that these organised groups are having on local markets. By exploiting indebted trafficked labour, a vast UK-wide network, and industrial-scale grow faculties to produce kilo’s of common cultivars of cannabis like ‘Star Dawg’ and ‘Ammi’ for hundreds of pounds cheaper than local growers.

This is effectively putting them out of business and has the knock-on effect of forcing them into areas they’re not experienced or comfortable with in order to cover bills, feed their children, and generally survive in an inherently and systemically unfair society.

You can read more about cannabis in Albania in this awesome blog by Sensi Seeds.

Image: JokerTheGrower

UK cannabis ‘Entrepreneur’ jailed

A cannabis grower and entrepreneur from Liverpool has been jailed after breaching a suspended sentence given to him after a 2018 raid on his home revealed £27,000 cash, ‘merchandise’ branded as ‘Joker the Grower’ and 84.5g of cannabis flower ‘split into flavours’ as reported by the Liverpool Echo.

The 28-year-old father’s 2018 run-in with police resulted in a conviction for ‘possession with intent to supply Class B drug’ and the judge giving him a 10-month prison sentence that was suspended for two years.

Last year the man was then stopped in a Seat Leon after switched lanes without indicating and forcing another vehicle to brake sharply. The office performing the stop on the vehicle ‘formed the opinion’ that the man was under the influence of cannabis as he appeared lethargic and the car ‘smelt of cannabis.’ 

A roadside swab test revealed that he was over the arbitrarily low ‘legal’ limit set out under the Road Traffic Act and was subsequently arrested. This led to a suspended license and a two-year community order, which he ultimately broke by failing to comply with unpaid work and curfew rules.

Joker The Grower ‘Merch’

Last week Judge Brian Cummings, QC, found the man guilty of ‘the possession with intent to supply cannabis’ ‘possession of criminal property’ and ‘suspended sentence and community order breaches’. Cummings sentenced the man to two years and four months, plus the remaining four months of the previously breached suspended sentence, for a total of two years and eight months in prison. 

‘Joker the Grower’ is another individual criminalised and persecuted for operating a cannabis brand and business in the wrong country. If he had been in the US or Canada then he may well have found himself with a legitimate brand and a future in a burgeoning industry.

Read more about this story in the Liverpool Echo

Written by Simpa for TheSimpaLife.com

 

Simpa Carter
Simpa Carter


Simpa is a passionate lived experience drug consumer and human rights activist, public speaker, published writer, and host of The Simpa Life Podcast.

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