In recent news out of Europe, Journalist Robert
Veverka, director of the Czech-based cannabis magazine Legalizace,
was convicted this week of ‘inciting the abuse of addictive substances’ and
‘spreading drug addiction through his magazine’.
According to the court in Ostrava, the
third largest Czech city, the magazine offered instructions on how to illegally
obtain cannabis, how to grow, process and use the plant. From time to time
there were also seeds inserted in the magazine, since the sale and possession
of cannabis seeds is completely legal in the Czech Republic, and there were disclaimers
attached. The court also didn’t like advertisements of fertiliser companies and
seed banks, although all the goods are normally sold in gardening shops and are
all perfectly legal.
Veverka described the “spreading
toxicomania” (or the ‘promotion of drug addiction’) section cited in the law as
very flexible, sufficiently vague that it can be interpreted in many different
ways so that it suits the prosecution, saying:
“It is a Bolshevik relic and a relic of
totalitarianism. It allows for a loose interpretation of what constitutes
incitement to substance abuse.”
He points out that it applies to all drugs
but one – alcohol. The Czech media are full of adverts glamorising alcohol
consumption, and promoting it even to kids. “But if you tell somebody they may
want to try cannabis ointment on their knee, you can end up in court,” said the
The decision is definitive, his only remaining
option being to appeal to the Supreme and Constitutional Court, which Robert
Veverka intends to do– although nobody knows when (and if) these courts would
take up the case, because they are overwhelmed.
“I will try to take this further to the
highest courts to protect not only myself but any other media outlet that
chooses to write about cannabis,” he said.
For example, minister of regional
development and vice prime minister Ivan Bartoš wrote on his Facebook: “The
Pirate Party will always protect free access to information. In my opinion, in
the case of Robert Veverka, the courts are criminalising the sharing of
information that is completely harmless to society.”
In what has been described as an ‘attack on freedom of information and expression’,
the Czech courts appear to be in contradiction with the country’s recent
progressive approach to cannabis.
Just a month ago, government officials
announced the country’s intention to legalise the adult-use of cannabis.
Veverka had previously appealed a
conviction and sentence handed to him during an initial trial in November 2021.
After more than a year of arm wrestling
with justice, he was again convicted by the Regional Court of Ostrava on
Thursday, 2 March for ‘spreading drug addiction through his magazine’.
The news was announced yesterday by his
friend and business partner Lukas Hurt in a post on LinkedIn.
In other recent news, last week more than a dozen
bipartisan congressional lawmakers sent a letter to top Biden administration
officials, demanding transparency in the ongoing marijuana scheduling review
that the president directed last year.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) recently circulated a draft of the letter
among colleagues, seeking signatories before sending the final version to U.S.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary
The letter states that Biden’s scheduling
directive represents “an opportunity to make an honest assessment of the
origins and implications of federal policy,” adding that “marijuana was
scheduled based on stigma not science,” and it’s “time to address marijuana’s
existing reality as a state-regulated substance.”
“The administrative review of marijuana’s
scheduling should place the burden of evidence on maintaining marijuana’s
status as a scheduled substance. To correct the failed war on drugs and
cannabis prohibition, the assumption must be that, unless evidence undeniably
indicates that marijuana is more prone to drug abuse than unscheduled substances
already regulated at the state level, marijuana should be fully descheduled
from the Controlled Substances Act.”
The lawmakers added that administrative
descheduling would “not negate Congress’ obligation to act on comprehensive
federal cannabis reform,” and that there are a variety of thoughtful
legislative reform proposals that have been introduced in past sessions.
“Each of these proposals works to respect
the leadership states have demonstrated for 50 years in rethinking the failed
and discriminatory war on drugs approach to marijuana,” the letter says. “Given
the scope of the federal government’s failure on marijuana, the Administration
must also take meaningful action to deschedule marijuana and partner with
Congress and the states in the work ahead.”
“To ensure accountability in your
conclusions—which has been absent in so much of the history of federal
marijuana regulation—transparency is key. We urge you to make available for
public review and comment any evidence cited to demonstrate marijuana is more
prone to drug abuse than descheduled substances already regulated at the state
level. With the severe federal restrictions on cannabis research due to
marijuana’s scheduling, it’s important that your departments review the full
scope of research available. It is time to set the federal government on a
better path for marijuana policy and engage transparently with the evidence.”
Lastly, Raphael Mechoulam, a renowned
Israeli scientist often referred to as the "father of cannabis research," has passed
away at the age of 92.
Mechoulam and his team of researchers at
Hebrew University began conducting experiments on cannabinoids in the 1960s and
were the first to isolate delta-9 THC, the psychoactive component of cannabis.
He also designed and synthesised several new cannabinoids with potential as
Mechoulam was nominated for over 25
academic awards, including the Heinrich Wieland Prize in 2004, an honorary
doctorate from Complutense University in Madrid in 2006, and the Israel Prize
in Exact Sciences, Chemistry, in 2000. He was a founding member of the
International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines and the International
Cannabinoid Research Society.
Mechoulam was born in Bulgaria in 1930 and immigrated with his family to Israel in 1949, where he studied chemistry. He later received a Ph.D. from the Weizmann Institute in 1958, focusing on the chemistry of steroids. Mechoulam became a full professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1972 after working as a member of the scientific staff of the Weizmann Institute from 1960 to 1965, where he focused on the isolation, structure elucidation, and synthesis of the main active principles of cannabis. His contributions to the scientific community have been immeasurable, and his groundbreaking studies have paved the way for future research on cannabis.
“I have spent most of my life decoding the
mysteries to be found within this incredible plant,” he said. “I would like to
see my colleagues forge ahead with their investigations, advancing even further
the acceptance and integration of cannabinoids in traditional medicine.”
“Most of the human and scientific knowledge
about cannabis was accumulated thanks to Prof. Mechoulam,” Hebrew University
President Asher Cohen said in a statement. “He paved the way for
groundbreaking studies and initiated scientific cooperation between researchers
around the world. Mechoulam was a sharp-minded and charismatic pioneer.”
In 2022, the YIVO Institute for Jewish
Research in New York City mounted its exhibition on Jewish contributions to the
history of cannabis and highlighted the work of Mechoulam. “He’s worked on
cannabis his entire life, and in the 1990s he and his colleagues discovered the
endocannabinoid system, which regulates homeostasis — a significant discovery
on how the human body deals with cannabinoids,” Eddy Portnoy, who curated the
exhibit, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency at the time. “I read an interview
with him where he says that because he was in a small country, he would have to
find a niche that other people weren’t working in.”
Prof. Mechoulam leaves behind his wife
Dalia, son Roy and daughters Dafna and Hadas. His funeral was held on Sunday,
March 12, in Jerusalem.
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