VIENNA, Austria -- Some European Union countries are "undermining
international law" by relaxing rules against cannabis, the United Nations
International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said today.

INCB officials rapped Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain for
decriminalising the cultivation and possession of cannabis for personal
use, in the board's annual report published in Vienna today.

And it slammed the Netherlands, where cannabis is on sale for recreational
use in coffee-shops, as well as draft Swiss legislation, which it sees as a
move towards legalising cannabis, for breaching UN conventions.

The trend towards a more liberal attitude to cannabis and its legislation
"undermines international law", INCB President Hamid Ghodse told a press
conference.

Ghodse listed the health risks cannabis causes, which include madness,
cancer, and damage to a number of organs in the body.

"The world community is spending a lot of money in the health service and
social rehabilitation for smoking and alcohol, which are seen as legal
substances. The board believes that no other substance should be added to
that category," he said.

Cannabis was the most widely and frequently-abused illicit drug in the
world, according to the UN.

"While developing countries struggle to eradicate cannabis and fight
illicit trafficking of the substance, certain developed countries have
chosen to tolerate the cultivation, trade and abuse of cannabis on their
territory," the INCB report said.

"How can we require Morocco to prevent cannabis coming to European markets
if, on the other hand, demand is tolerated, decriminalised or even de facto
legalised?" asked INCB Secretary Herbert Schaepe.

The board rapped the countries, many of which had signed international
conventions on drug prevention, for breaching the conventions themselves.

"All efforts to control the world drug problem will fail unless there is
universal commitment and true implementation of the provisions of the
treaties," the report said.

To change the convention the countries would have to offer the World Health
Organisation evidence that cannabis was not harmful so that it would be
removed from its list of controlled drugs, officials explained.


Newshawk: puff_tuff
Pubdate: Wed, 27 Feb 2002
Source: Age, The (Australia)
Copyright: 2002 The Age Company Ltd
Contact: letters@theage.fairfax.com.au
Website: http://www.theage.com.au/