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Complete Legalisation and Regulation of Cannabis

13. april, 2017 (nazadnje posodobljeno: 1. maj, 2018)
Članek se posveča naslednjim programskim točkam:  Politika drogZdravjeGospodarstvo
Objavljeno v kategoriji: Konoplja, Legalizacija, Zakonodaja, Zdravstvo

Celotno besedilo je v slovenščini na voljo tukaj.

Prohibition Causes More Harm than Good

Due to its repressive nature, the current legislation on cannabis production and use has significantly more negative than positive effects both on an individual and society as a whole. Furthermore, economic opportunities that this autochthonous species presents remain completely untapped. The Slovenian Pirate Party therefore presents its proposal on this subject, based on the model for complete legalisation and regulation of cannabis.

The current legislation adopted in March 2017 categorises cannabis under plants and substances that have a severely hazardous effect on human health and can only be used for medical purposes. The legislation allows only cannabis use, but not production and processing for medical purposes; this means that controlled treatment is possible only using imported pharmaceutical cannabis-based products. The current legislation has made the country dependant on foreign pharmaceutical corporations and prevented any domestic profits.

Recreational cannabis use also remains uncontrolled and unregulated. Individuals are left to use products of questionable quality, which are often treated with other harmful substances (such as hard drugs or pesticides). The availability of cannabis for recreational users thus remains limited to the black market, which benefits criminal groups, oftentimes leaving users as victims of scams, violence, and other forms of crime.

The Slovenian Pirate Party therefore argues that the cannabis legislation should be restrictive only inasmuch as it prevents an individual to harm others in any shape or form. Any additional restrictions represent an unjustified encroachment on one’s personal autonomy.

Let Us Take Advantage of Cannabis Legalisation

The main goal of the complete cannabis legislation and regulation model is to allow free and safe use of cannabis products for medical, industrial, and recreational purposes. Below we present the most important arguments for cannabis legalisation and regulation in the Republic of Slovenia.

Increased Economic Growth and New Jobs

The 2016 Report on the illicit drug situation by the National Institute of Public Health (hereinafter: NIPH) finds that Slovenia remains self-sufficient with cannabis. By establishing a regulated cannabis market, we would continue to promote self-sufficiency, as it would give residents an opportunity to legally produce, process, or sell cannabis. Complete legalisation and regulation of cannabis products would therefore create new jobs, provide additional entrepreneurial opportunities, and strengthen exports. Cannabis legalisation in the US State of Colorado created over 18,000 jobs in only one year.

Increased National Budget

The taxes, excise duties, and contributions from salaries would also increase the national budget significantly. A study of the illegal cannabis market in Slovenia has shown that a sales tax on cannabis-based products for recreational use – modelled after the taxation of tobacco products – would contribute at least an additional €15 million to the national budget. The calculation is based on sales of dried cannabis buds and hashish, which are just two of the many cannabis-based products intended for recreational use. The black-market cash flow, with a conservative assessment of consumption at 3,000 kg of dried buds per year, amounts to €21,673,931.

Reducing the Negative Impact of Recreational Use

The NIPH Report also indicates a rising number of cases of THC poisoning in the last few years. Tests have shown that hash confiscated in 2015 on the black market had a THC content from 0.3% to 19.4%2. Such a wide range is accompanied by extremely poor user awareness of cannabis-based products and their safe use. Controlled production, processing, and sales would raise awareness and ensure quality products, without harmful additives.

Increased Popularity with Tourists

Cannabis provides numerous opportunities for tourism development as well. However, Slovenia can count on this significant advantage only if it is the first European country to decide to completely legalise cannabis and cannabis-based products.

Reducing the Load on Courts and the Police

According to the data in the NIPH Report, over 70% of all offences under the Production of and Trade in Illicit Drugs Act in Slovenia between 2013 and 2015 were related to cannabis2. Legalisation and regulation would eliminate the need for prosecution of recreational users (which is financed by taxpayers). Unburdened Slovenian courts and police could therefore devote their time and effort to more serious social problems.

Crime Decrease

With legalisation of cannabis, every adult citizen or patient with a valid prescription could legally obtain cannabis-based products with THC content above the statutory limit. This would eliminate the need for a black market, thus significantly reducing the inextricably linked crime rate.

Responsible Approach to Cannabis

Abuse of drugs – not only cannabis – is the result of wider social problems that the current system fails to properly recognise or address, thus preventing any hope of a solution. Particularly the young often face hopelessness and meaninglessness, which often lead them to reach for drugs. Even though there are numerous drug abuse prevention measures and programmes, they are – according to experts – incomplete, ineffective, or do not reach individuals truly in need. The Slovenian Pirate Party believes that the reasons for this situation lie in the lack of financial resources for responsible institutions and their unsuitable approaches.

Our goal is to apply modern and quality measures to eliminate the underlying social problems that push individuals towards drug abuse, and to more effectively remedy the consequences arising from such problems. The funds obtained from excise duties would therefore be used for the development of programmes for the prevention and resolution of drug-abuse problems, based on a comprehensive approach:

  • Development of youth centres

We consider youth centres, which would provide the space for quality free-time activities and conduct various social integration programmes, as the main opportunity to turn around the trend of drug use. Funds would be used for the development of new and existing youth centres throughout Slovenia.

  • Raising awareness, information, and education

A portion of the funds would be used for the promotion of a healthy lifestyle among the young and the general public, and providing information on the harmful effects of various psychoactive substances.

  • Drug research

We are aware that there are many unknowns regarding the effects of cannabis and other drugs, and would therefore dedicate a share of the newly acquired funds for institutions conducting scientific studies in this field.

Legislative Solution

The main new feature of this model is the deletion of the cannabis plant from the Production of and Trade in Illicit Drugs Act and from the list of illicit drugs in the Decree on the classification of illicit drugs. With the proposed model, we wish to present a method of categorisation of the cannabis plant in the current regulative framework. Scientific studies have shown that cannabis is significantly less harmful to health than alcohol or tobacco, ; after all, there have been no recorded fatalities due to an overdose of cannabis6, . We have therefore modelled our cannabis regulation model on the Slovenian legislation on alcohol and tobacco use.

1. Definitions

For the purposes of the proposed regulative model, we include two definitions that categorise cannabis-based products according to the content of the psychoactive substance, i.e. THC:

  • low THC content products – all products with psychoactive substance content (THC) below the statutory limit
  • high THC content products – all products with psychoactive substance content (THC) above the statutory limit

2. Increasing THC Content Limit for Industrial Purposes

Both Slovenian and European legislation set the limit for cannabis production for industrial purposes at 0.2% THC content. The Slovenian Pirate Party is proposing that this limit be raised to 0.9%, since THC under this limit causes no noteworthy psychoactive effects. Research studies also state that any effect of smoking cannabis with under 0.9% THC content is identical to a placebo effect.

Raising the limit from 0.2% to 0.9% would allow a more effective exploitation of the economic potential of industrial cannabis-based products, since producers could select from a wider range of seeds, which would include Slovenian autochthonous seeds. Most producers currently import foreign (mainly French) certified seeds, are not also not allowed to be self-sufficient but must purchase new seeds every year.

3. Object of Regulation

The regulative framework of the model addresses only the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and not the full plant of cannabis (Cannabis Sativa L.). Such an approach is modelled after the existing regulation on other psychoactive substances, where the object of regulation is the substance and products that contain it (e.g. alcohol beverages, cigarettes), but not their plant source (vine, tobacco plant).

Under this model, limits and regulations discussed below would apply only to the psychoactive substance THC present in high THC content products. This means a withdrawal of all regulation regarding THC content for low THC content products. Such products would not be subject to additional statutory limitations regarding their production, processing, and use, except for existing regulation in other fields (e.g. hygiene standards on food, traceability of food products, and similar). Similar to standard on foods for normal consumption, we propose that low THC content products intended for consumption are monitored for cannabinoids in addition to regular substances, to provide additional product safety by listing the recommended daily dose.

4. Personal Use

Personal use includes production, processing, and possession of high THC content products, but does not include sales. Under the new regulation, unlicensed sales would still be subject to appropriate criminal sanctions. The proposed model would legalise personal use of high THC products for all natural persons of 18 years or older.

A person’s own use of cannabis with THC content above the statutory limit would be recognised for an adult natural person who produces and also consumes the produced cannabis – by themselves or together with other adult household members. A quantity limit on cannabis production (e.g. allowed number of seedlings, allowed size of production surface area, and similar) would be defined in a manner that, on one hand, does not limit an individual’s activities for personal use and, on the other, prevents various occurrences of grey economy and flow of high THC products to the black market.

Age and quantity limits would not apply to persons who are treating their medical condition using cannabis-based products in accordance with physician’s instructions. An underage patient could in accordance with physician’s instructions use cannabis-based medication, for which a physician would issue a green prescription. A patient could receive their medication in any pharmacy, while their price would be covered by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia. If so recommended by a physician, a patient could also use other precisely specified high THC content products, which could be purchased from licensed sellers.

A person complying with the conditions for the recognition of own use of cannabis would not be subject to any other limitations regarding production, processing, or possession of high THC content products. However, exceeding the quantity limit would represent business activities of cannabis production and addressed in accordance with the regulation on small cannabis producers.

6. Small Cannabis Producer

The proposed model, based on the regulation of alcohol beverages in the current Excise Duty Act, presupposes the implementation of a new excise duty subject: small cannabis producer. A small cannabis producer is a person who has produced over the defined quantity limit for personal use, but has not produced as much as large corporations. A small cannabis producer would be entitled to a reduced excise duty, which would be defined by the Excise Duty Act. A small cannabis producer would be obligated to submit an excise duty declaration and pay the excise duty for the entire produced quantity of cannabis in the calendar year, except for the quantity recognised for personal use.

With the implementation of this excise duty subject, the Slovenian Pirate Party aims to promote the small-business industry and enable small cannabis producers to more easily enter foreign markets, since the right to reduced excise duty could be claimed in other EU member states with similar regulation.

A person with the small cannabis producer status could produce cannabis for personal use or for commercial purposes. In the event of commercial use, a small cannabis producer would have to comply with the conditions presented below.

7. Commercial Use

Commercial use is use by legal persons and includes sales to legal and natural persons. Considering their intended use, sales of high THC content products would only be allowed within the following regulative framework:

Any product sold to end consumers for non-medical purposes must comply with the following conditions:

  • Excise duty and value added tax return

Every high THC content product shall be subject to excise duty and value added tax. The decision on appropriate taxation (e.g. similar to tobacco taxation) would be adopted in collaboration with the expert public, since it affects the product price paid by the consumer and as such play the key role in reducing the black market.

  • Ensured seed-to-sale traceability

Traceability of high THC content products shall be provided from production, through processing to sales, using a system of licences presented below.

  • Product quality and safety testing

Every high THC content product shall have to pass a required quality test measuring contents of cannabinoids and other relevant substances and a required safety test measuring contents of fertilisers, pesticides, and moulds.

  • Statutory labelling on product package

The label on the product must provide consumers with all the required information on the product they intend to consume. The label shall present quality and safety test reports and recommendations on safe use (recommended daily dose).

  • Appropriately designed and closed packaging

The packaging must be designed and closed in a way that preserves the quality of the product, does not promote use of the product, and prevents children from accidentally consuming the product without knowing that it contains THC.

The following criteria shall apply to high THC content products intended for medical use:

  • no excise duty
  • their price is covered by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia
  • no additional legislative provisions, except for those that already apply to pharmaceutical products

8. Licencing System

Traceability and control of commercial high THC content products used for non-medical purposes would be provided by the licencing system.

The licencing system would define the rights and obligations related to production, processing, and sales of high THC content products for non-medical purposes for legal and natural persons. All licences would be free of charge and valid for five years, with an extension option. The licences would be mutually non-exclusive, meaning that a single person could hold all licences.

A production licences could be granted to any legal person or head of the holding that wishes to produce cannabis with THC content above the statutory limit for commercial purposes. Licence applications would be considered by the Ministry of Agriculture. A licence holder would be entitled to produce cannabis only on agricultural land or in special-purpose spaces registered with the Ministry of Agriculture, and sell or hand it over for processing to a cannabis processing licence holder The producer would undertake to use their best efforts to protect the cannabis against theft and to cultivate it in good faith for sale to a cannabis processor.

A processing licence could be granted to any legal person or holder of supplementary activities for processing of agricultural produce that wishes to process cannabis with THC content above the statutory limit for commercial purposes. Licence applications would be considered by the Ministry of Agriculture. A licenced holder would be entitled to process cannabis and sell or hand it over for sale to a cannabis sales licence holder.

A processor could only purchase cannabis from a cannabis production licence holder or cannabis processing licence holder. A cannabis processor that wants to sell cannabis to a seller would be obligated to check individual cannabinoid contents and contents of various harmful substances (e.g. pesticides) using prescribed tests, which could only be performed by licenced laboratories (state or private). Before a sale to a seller, the products would have to be appropriately labelled (sort, cannabinoid content, pesticide content, date of testing, and similar). Without the tests and appropriate labelling, a processor could sell their cannabis only to another processor.

A sales licences could be granted to any legal person or holder of supplementary activities for sale of agricultural produce or farm products that wishes to sell high THC content products. Licence applications would be considered by the Ministry of Health. A licence holder would be entitled to sell high THC content products directly to natural or legal persons. A sales licence holder could only purchase such products from a processing licence holder.

9. Sales and Advertising Restrictions

Like with alcohol, this model would strictly prohibit sales and supply of high THC content products to persons below 18 years of age or to persons that are justifiably expected to give such products to persons below 18 years of age. An exception is made for underage persons that have a valid medical prescription or certificate for use of specific high THC content products. High THC content products should also not be sold by persons under the age of 18. Production of candy, snack, toys, or other objects in the form of cannabis or cannabis-based products for persons under the age of 18 would also be prohibited.

The same legal provisions that govern tobacco products advertising would be applied to cannabis-based products. This means that any form of advertising, promotion, or sponsoring of high THC content products would be prohibited.

Challenges of Regulation and Proposed Solutions

Greater accessibility of cannabis can lead to increased recreational use among the population, primarily among the youth.

Legalisation in Colorado in the US (2014) did not contribute to an increase of cannabis use among teenagers after two full years. Scientific studies have in fact established that taxes more effectively reduce demand for drugs than prohibition. Nevertheless, we are aware of the potential risk, and therefore wish to reduce the likelihood of such problems as much as possible with preventive approaches.

Thus, we propose that part of the tax revenue created by legalisation is used for the development of youth centres across Slovenia, thus addressing the underlying problem that pushes the young towards drugs. Part of the funds would be used for education and raising awareness among the youth and general public about the dangerous effects of cannabis and other drug use. We would also prohibit any advertising of high THC content products. The police, unburdened by having to police recreational use of high THC products by adults if our proposal is adopted, would be able to direct their efforts and focus on those that illegally sell such products to underage persons.

Cannabis legalisation could to an increase of the number of cases of driving under the influence of psychoactive substance THC, resulting in more traffic accidents.

Similar rules as for driving under the influence of alcohol would apply for driving under the influence of psychoactive substance THC. Based on experts’ recommendations and modelled after other countries that have already legalised cannabis for recreational use (e.g. State of Colorado in the US), a suitable limit for blood THC concentration would be defined, above which motor vehicle use would we disallowed. Since THC can be detected in the blood even two weeks after consumption, the limit concentration would have to be set at a level at which THC no longer affects the psycho-physical capabilities of a driver (in the State of Colorado, this limit is set at 5 nanograms of THC in their blood). We would also preventively increase the penalties for offences related to blood THC content over the legal limit while driving.

If legal sellers offered high THC content products at excessive prices, the black market would persist.

Prices of high THC content products would depend on the taxation. Taxes would be determined on the basis of experts’ opinion and with consideration of two extreme situations: prices cannot be too low, since this could lead to increased demand; on the other hand, prices cannot be too high, since this could lead to continued operation of the black market.

How Would This Affect Me?

“I am a young entrepreneur and would like to try my hand at producing cannabis with THC content above the statutory limit for commercial purposes. What do I need to do to start my business?”

To produce cannabis for commercial purposes under our proposal, you would be required to ensure complete traceability of the products. If you only want to produce cannabis, but don’t want to process or sell it to natural persons, you would require only a production licence, which you could obtain free of charge by submitting an application to the Ministry of Agriculture. You could thus produce cannabis in accordance with the criteria listed in your licence application, and could hand over or sell your produce to a holder of a valid processing licence. If you want to process and sell cannabis directly to natural persons, you would require two additional licences – a processing licence and a sales licence.

“I am an adult and suffering from multiple sclerosis. Under your proposal, how could I get the appropriate cannabis-based medications? Could I grow cannabis for medical purposes by myself?”

Our proposal provides that cannabis used for medical purposes is on equal footing with all other pharmaceutical products. If a physician assesses that your medical condition should be treated with cannabis, they would write a prescription and provide all required information for treatment with cannabis. Any nearby pharmacy should be able to provide the prescribed quantity of cannabis, the price of which would be covered by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia. In accordance with your physician’s instructions, you could also use other products with a higher THC content or grow cannabis for medical purposes by yourself.

“I am an underage cancer patient. Would your proposal allow me to be treated with cannabis?”

Of course. Under our proposal, you could be treated with cannabis-based medications or other specified high THC content products prescribed by your physician.

“I am an adult and, after reading up on the subject thoroughly, I have decided to try cannabis with THC content above the statutory limit. If your proposal is adopted, where could I buy it?”

If our model is implemented, cannabis and cannabis-based products with THC content above the statutory limit for recreational purposes would be available in all stores licensed for sale of high THC content products. To purchase such products, you would need an ID document to prove you are of legal age.

“I am an employed adult woman. In my home garden, I would like to plant a few cannabis plants, purely for my own use. If your proposal is implemented, would I require any permit? How many cannabis seedlings could I plan?”

If our proposal is implemented, you will not require any permit, since our model would completely legalise production of cannabis for personal use. Quantity limits for personal use would be set in a way that would not limit you in your personal use. If you still exceeded the specified limit, you would have to pay an excise duty defined by the Excise Duty Act.

“I am an owner of a farm, where I conduct supplementary activities of processing and sale of agricultural produce. If your proposal is adopted, I would like to sell high THC content products as well. Would I need licences for processing and sales in addition to a production licence?”

Yes. Any processing and sales of high THC content products would require, regardless of the provisions of the Decree on supplementary activities in agriculture, additional licences for processing and sales of high THC content products.

“I am a restaurant owner and would like to offer my customers high THC content products if cannabis is legalised. Under your proposal, where could I acquire a sales licence and where could I purchase high THC content products intended for sale?”

Store, restaurant, or café owners could acquire a sales licence free of charge by submitting an application to the Ministry of Health. A licence would allow an owner to sell high THC content products. They could only purchase such products from a holder of a valid processing licence.

“I am a commercial producer of cannabis for industrial use. Legislation dictates that I can only sow purchased certified seeds, which are guaranteed not to produce cannabis plants with over 0.2% THC content. I would like to sow seeds with 0.4% THC content. Would this be possible under your proposal?”

Yes. Our proposal plans for an increase of the allowed THC limit for cannabis used for industrial purposes to 0.9% THC content. Producers could therefore choose their seeds from a wider selection and could also use seeds they produce themselves. Certified seeds would no longer be required for cannabis production. If you wanted to sell cannabis-based products for consumption, you would have to monitor cannabinoid contents in addition to ensuring compliance with existing rules governing food products, as well as specify the recommended daily dose on the product for safety purposes.

“I am an adult and I want to produce cannabis oil and fibres for personal use from cannabis plants with THC below the statutory limit. Would there be any restrictions under your proposal?”

No. Our proposal includes withdrawal of all restrictions related to products with THC content below the statutory limit. This means that, in theory, you could plant as many cannabis seedlings as you wanted, as long as the plants wouldn’t exceed the statutory limit of THC content.

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