As we reported here last week, lawmakers in the Caribbean nation of Jamaica, citing progressive new pot laws in states like Colorado and Washington here in the U.S., will begin to move forward with talks regarding the decriminalization of marijuana on the irie isle.
The potentially good news out of Jamaica came hot on the heels of an announcement out of Switzerland, where as of October 1st, adults over the age of 18 who have been accused of small-scale possession will face a misdemeanor and a fine of 110 Swiss Francs - or about $100 U.S. - rather than the standard court appearance and possible ding on their criminal record.
Growing weed, and blazing it in public, will still remain illegal under the new Swiss pot laws, but now any sack weighing 10 grams or less will earn those caught carrying it a metaphorical slap on the wrist, and the wallet.
It is the financial impact of the new legislation that drove the new law through a drawn-out debate on the issue in the Swiss Parliament, but it's not the fines that have fiscally conservative lawmakers smacking their lips. See, in Switzerland, they have figured out what we here in America are painstakingly trying to implement state-by-state - that the sheer costs and workload associated with cracking down on every dimebag is not only a money pit, it's a surefire way to lose a drug war.
Swiss authorities realized that low-level, victimless drug crimes were accounting for roughly 30,000 court cases under the previous set of guidelines, and that decriminalizing cannabis could significantly impact that number.
Here in the U.S., NORML estimates that we have 60,000 inmates behind bars for marijuana-related offenses, which saddles the American taxpayers with a $1.2-billion bill each year to house them. But that is just a drop in the proverbial bucket compared to the $10-billion plus that we spend annually to chase them down in the first place. Police in America make more pot-related arrests each year than those for murder, rape, battery and aggravated assault...combined.
Though the move in Switzerland was anything but hasty, it still came as a surprise for many residents who have seen their government refuse to consider legalization measures for decades, and shitcan decriminalization talks as recently as the mid-2000's.
Switzerland joins Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Holland, and Spain as the ever-growing coalition of European nations who have decriminalized cannabis for their people. Portugal went all-in in 2001, becoming the first nation on the planet to completely decriminalize all drugs.
In South America, Uruguay has followed Colorado and Washington's lead and has legalized the recreational use of marijuana for adults, and heads of state President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala and President Santos of Colombia made impassioned pleas to the United Nations General Assembly earlier this month to consider major reforms to drug policy worldwide.
Last month, down South in Mexico, a coalition of prominent Mexican businessmen, artists, religious leaders, and even a Nobel-prize winning scientist urged their government to further decriminalize marijuana, in an effort to curb gang and cartel violence that has claimed over 80,000 lives since 2007.
In an advertisement published in the country's major newspapers, the group states, "Mexico has paid a high cost for applying the punitive policy of prohibition". So, they seem to get it.
Hell, even the tight-knicker'd Brits are considering legalizing ganja in the UK, despite a hometown newspaper that somehow keeps a straight face when it claims that 30,000 people die annually from cannabis use.
Experts versed in the language of a legalization proposal being presented by the Liberal Democrat Party expect that if passed, the new law will heavily regulate the potency of legal weed in the UK to around 10% THC, in an attempt to curb what fear-mongering prohibitionists have warned to be a growing number in the cases of skunkweed-induced "psychosis".
In the UK, much like here in the U.S., public support for marijuana law reform is quite high, showing that 55% of Brits support the decriminalization of marijuana.
With an estimated two million pot smokers in Great Britain, and the topic of nationwide legalization on the Parliamentary table, cannabis reform is inevitable across the pond.
Ahh the irony, if centuries later, Americans began packing up in record numbers and heading back to Britain to escape persecution here at home...