News from abroad and the armed forces


Italy: Now has the highest heroin addiction rate in Europe and attributes 70% of all AIDS cases to IV drug users. Italy decriminalised possession of heroin in 1975. Within the European Parliament the Italian Radical Party has been one of the leading promoters of drug law relaxation; the Radicals former leader Marco Tarradash has moved on into the media empire of Berlusconi.

Amsterdam: Where marijuana was decriminalised and sold or distributed under city auspices, citizens in April 1995 successfully pressured authorities to close many coffeehouses (where drugs were openly sold), and reduce the amount of cannabis allowed on premise. Subsequently permitted individual possession was reduced from 30 grams to 5 grams.

Alaska: In 1972, with financial and legal support from NORML (the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), a young lawyer, Raven appealed to the Alaskan Supreme Court following arrest for possession of marijuana; he declared his arrest violated his private rights.  In 1975 the Supreme Court ruled by five to one in favour of Raven.  Raven and his supporters had declared that decriminalisation would not result in greater use, the use of other drugs would not be affected since there is no such thing as a ‘Gateway Drug’ and there would be no increase in problem use.  The police force supported the appeal – having been persuaded that there would be no increase in crime.

By 1990 there had been a major increase in the use of marijuana – to twice the national average, similarly a huge increase in problem drug use, heavy increase in health and social costs, use of all other drugs had increased, crime overall went up.  The law was later rescinded with the support of the police who had changed their minds in the face of this unequivocal evidence.

Armed forces: Compulsory drug tests introduced in December 1993 for Army personnel in the UK and Germany showed 0.5% tested positive for illegal drugs.  (3,619 men tested between January and May 1995.)

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