Tag Archives: france

Worldwide Weed

I’m fortunate enough to regularly travel the world researching the latest trends in cannabis use and cultivation. This lets me keep up with the latest research and trends so I can better assist New Zealand courts.

In 2013 I visited California and Colorado to witness the development of regulations for the world’s first legal cannabis market, tour grow gardens and dispensaries as part of the World Cannabis Week tour, sit a cannabis cultivation course approved by the state Department of Education, attend the first Cannabis Cup on US soil, and in the process I became the world’s first legal pot tourist.

In 2010 I traveled to Spain, Germany, Morocco and India.

In 2008 I attended the Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam and traveled through Asia:

I visited the Mardi Grass in Nimbin, Australia, and was a guest judge in their cannabis cup in 2006.

In 2002 I toured the cannabis law reform hot-spots of the world, a result of being busted for a tiny spec of weed. In June of 2001 I had been searched unlawfully by a group of police officers who claimed to smell cannabis. I was arrested and charged with possession of 0.7 grams of cannabis, but I contested the charge in court. In dismissing the charge, Judge Gittos set a precedent that will protect other people from being searched in similar circumstances. The Dominion, arguably at the time the most anti-cannabis newspaper in the country, wrongly published that I had been jailed. I settled for enough money to take me around the world to research alternatives to cannabis prohibition. Ironic, huh. My first stop would be the NORML conference in San Francisco.

Largest study on cannabis and driving finds only a low increased risk

BY CHRIS FOWLIE

  • Several other recent studies find no increased risk
  • burdon is on officials to justify roadside testing

The largest study of its kind has found drivers under the influence of cannabis are far less likely to be culpable in traffic accidents than drunk drivers, while several other recent studies have found no increased risk at all.

In an epidemiological study of approximately 8,000 accidents published in the British Medical Journal, researchers at the French National Institute for Research on Transportation and Safety found that alcohol intoxication and speeding were nearly ten times more likely to be an attributing factor in traffic fatalities than the use of cannabis.

Overall, researchers estimated that psychomotor impairment caused by cannabis was similar to that exhibited by drivers with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) ranging from 0.02 to 0.05 per
cent. The legal limit in New Zealand for a driver over 20 is a BAC of 0.08

The relative risk for causing a fatal accident (where 1 = no increased risk) was 1.8-2.2 for cannabis. The risk factor was ten times that – about 20 – for alcohol above a BAC of 0.05, and also for speeding.

The study results have been provoking embarrassment among French government officials as they always claimed drugs are responsible for more deaths than speeding.

A recent study in Sweden found that the introduction of zero-concentration limits for THC and other drugs in the blood of drivers did not result in a reduction of driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Researchers also noted that “the spectrum of drugs identified in blood samples from DUID suspects has not changed much since the zero-limit law was introduced” in 1999.

In another recent study, by researchers at the University of Maryland, the use of cannabis was not associated with the risk to cause a traffic accident. Researchers looked at the presence of
alcohol and illegal drugs in 6,581 drivers who were hospitalized at a shock trauma center from 1997 to 2001. Crash culpability was strongly associated with alcohol use. In contrast, this study did not find an association between crash culpability and cannabis use. Since only urine tests on cannabinoids were performed, it is not known whether drivers were actually under the influence of
cannabis – and since cannabis lingers long after use this makes the association even weaker.

In another recent study, researchers of the University of Victoria (Canada) investigated whether clients in treatment for problems related to the use of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, or various combinations of these substances, had a higher risk to drive while impaired compared to a control group. 445 drivers under treatment were included. In the 8 years before treatment, every drug group except the “cannabis only” group had significantly more convictions for driving while impaired than controls.

UK Police use computer games to test impairment

Last year UK Police introduced traditional coordination tests to check for drivers impairment by drugs. Now the Home Office has turned to computer games. The traditional test included such tasks as instructing drivers to walk in a straight line, stand on one leg or touch their nose with their index finger. The Home Office believes the tests are too subjective, so has loaded a laptop with  several “games” designed to assess the reactions of a motorist.

Drivers would be tested not only on their speed and dexterity but also the accuracy with which they performed the task. This is because while cannabis can slow reaction time, amphetamines quicken it – but also make individuals more prone to error.

Both these sorts of tests – traditional and computer – are more accurate than urine or saliva screens, as they measure actual impairment rather than past exposure to drugs.

A urine test may pick up cannabis residues that are several weeks old, while doing nothing to  detect drivers impaired by fatigue or prescription drugs. Coordination- or computer-based tests are also less invasive, cheaper and quicker to operate.

Sources:
Libération, 3 October 2005;
Jones AW. Traffic Inj Prev 2005;6(4):317-22;
Soderstrom CA, et al. Annu Proc Assoc Adv Automot Med 2005;49:315-30;
Macdonald S, et al. Traffic Inj Prev
2005;6(3):207-11.

(NORML News Summer 2006)

France and Spain

By Chris Fowlie, President, NORML New Zealand, 2002

Leaving the land of the free

After the Amsterdam parade, I travelled through France to Spain, and noticed an instant and dramatic drop in quality. As the law changed from tolerant to intolerant, the hash went from soft and fudgey to hard and black. This cannot be good for the health of millions of cannabis consumers in these countries.

France is often thought of as one of the most prohibitionist countries in Europe, but under recent governments they have in fact been quietly moving toward a more tolerant policy over the past few years. That said, it’s still a real come-down after the Netherlands and about the only highlight for a pot smoking tour of Paris – aside from the opportunity to smoke a joint at Jim Morrison’s grave or up the Eiffel tower, as I did – is the Musee du Fumeur or Smoking Museum. They have a great selection of books (if you can read French) and several live plants in a grow room.

Musee de fumar, Paris Musee de fumar growroom

What got me excited however, was a new French cannabis-orientated CD compilation called Cannabissimo. The beginning of track 7 features a reefer madness quote sampled from John Banks of all people, recorded at the ALCP’s Smoke-out the Beehive parliamentary session that kicked off our 1996 campaign. It was such a bizarre synchronicity I had to buy the CD.

Chris toking in spain I headed to Barcelona in Spain where the sun shines and cannabis is effectively decriminalised. Like many countries, the law still says marijuana is illegal but personal amounts and up to 5 plants are tolerated. The scene is a lot more relaxed and few people are paranoid about smoking or growing. Cannabis seeds are legal and so all the grow stores sell them. The cannabis-related industry in Spain does seem very big, with nationwide chains of grow and pipe stores. There is also helpful graffiti on many walls; black squares warn where police cameras are operating and weed leafs adorn dealing areas.

Moroccan hash in SpainA huge amount of hash comes through Spain but most is not good enough to be sold in the Dutch coffeeshops so it is turned into “soap bars”, which are notorious for being made with anything from engine oil to sand, and then sent to other countries that don’t have coffeeshops.

I bought some nice soft hash from a traditional Maroccan tea shop and went to a place called the Down Beat Reggae Club. The Nyahbingi Sound System played with an ensemble of brass and MCs and it was very irie indeed. On my way back I walked past a cop searching someone and it reminded me of what had happened to me on K Rd exactly a year ago and had eventually brought me here now. “Is this xocolát?” asked the cop, pointing to a small lump in his hand (they call hash chocolate). I didn’t linger to find out what happened, but it reminded me that a tolerance policy is only as good as the individual police who choose to enforce the law or not.

I crossed back over the channel and away from the Spanish sun to visit the Dutch Experience, the UK’s first genuine coffeeshop located in Stockport, near Manchester.